August Recess

I received an email ripe with despair from an activist mentor the other day, her festering rage deflated by exhaustion and lost hope. Instead of rallying her to carry on, I took a different tack. Told her to take a break, relax, and reboot. There will be another day to sally forth, stronger.

The Awkward Poser, like most of us these days, is completely over sequestering and social distancing, hand washing and face masking—though he still does them all. He’s sweaty from a record hot summer—though it will likely seem cool compared to summer’s ahead. He’s fatigued from delving ever deeper into our nation’s systematic abuse of people of color, and frustrated by how difficult it is to change. And he’s totally over a country whose leaders teeter on autocracy while our morals plummet so far from mutual respect and caring, they dangle from a mere dollar sign.

If you share my exhaustion and that of my friend, take a break. Kick back and enjoy the joys of summer that come to all, regardless of virus-status or political inclination. Breath in all the good that nature provides. Sit in awe at an impressionistic full moon. Marvel at the sweet breeze. Appreciate the abundant daisies, warbling birds and howling coyotes. The earth is still a wondrous place, and humans are still its most wondrous creatures.

I wish everyone leisurely moments to bask in summer’s glory.

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Let Equality Evolve into Equity

Equality is the foundation of a just society. In theory and in statute, everyone is equal in the eyes of the law even as, in practice, we often fall short. However, even if fully applied, strict equality will not deliver the optimal society.

Why? Because even though we may be equal under the law, no two of us are alike. What each of us can best offer—and what we most need—varies. Every person makes different economic, intellectual, and cultural contributions; each requires different benefits. Which is why, when I envision the world I’m working towards, I more often speak of equity. Equity is the foundation of a fair society: one in which everyone has the resources to become his or her best self.

The value of striving beyond equality—to equity—became clear to me while observing the most fair-minded humans I know: kindergarteners.

My two children are a rare breed; they actually grew up Cambridge. The city renowned for over 20,000 college students nurtures very few youngsters. Which is unfortunate, because I found their public-school experience excellent.

When my children were in grade school, I walked around the corner and picked them up from school three afternoons a week. Note the privilege of time, safety, and flexibility nested in that single sentence. Every time I entered the Haggerty School I was struck by the genial buzz of incipient chaos. The place bore no resemblance to the ordered silence of St. Joseph’s School, which I attended as a boy. I dismissed my incomprehension quick as it registered. I don’t pretend to know anything about progressive educational methods. What I did know was that my children seemed happy, curious, thriving. That seemed enough.

A quick chat with their teacher, greeting other parents, stopping at the mom-and-pop across the street for a snack. Collecting another child or two for afternoon play, or perhaps farming out mine own. Even at the time, our urban neighborhood seemed idyllic. In retrospect, it assumes the aura of dream.

It takes a lot of rules, discussion, and general gnashing of minds for a place like Cambridge to retain its progressive liberal chops. That’s particularly true in the public schools, which are integrated by race and socio-economic status. Every public grade school includes the same percentage of children of color and those who qualify for free lunch. This objective has led to a complicated system of magnet schools, neighborhood schools, and immersion schools. Before our eldest began kindergarten, we learned how the system worked, yet chose the simplest path: our neighborhood school.

The Haggerty School had a particular niche within the Cambridge system: a focus on mainstreaming that resulted in a high percentage of inclusion students. In the 1990’s, about quarter of Haggerty students had IEP’s (Individual Education Plans). From the start, my children’s classmates included autistic boys and Downs syndrome girls, as well as kids distributed by skin shade and household income. The great thing about this mélange of four- and five-year-old’s is that Kindergartener’s acute sense of fairness can figure out how to all get along much better than us jaded old folks.

Apropos of its inclusionary focus, the motto of the Haggerty School is: ‘Everyone is different. Everyone belongs.’ A simple statement that conveys that equity is more complex than equality. Even for kindergarteners, equity can be a tough sell. Everyone getting the same thing is clearly fair. Everyone getting what they need is fair in theory, but results in children getting different amounts: of attention, of latitude, of snack. Why Josie was allowed to behave in class differently than my son took a lot of explaining, on the part of his teacher, and me.

Which gets to the crux of why equity is so much more difficult to achieve than equality. If everyone’s inputs and outputs are not the same, who decides that they should be? If everyone’s needs are different, who decides who gets what?

This is the point where my ideology soars beyond the practical; where I transcend the history of human experience to reach beyond selfishness, avarice, insecurity, and fear. I believe that each person should be able to determine what they will contribute, as well as what they need. Rubbish? You say. Anarchy? Complete societal breakdown?

Possibly. Probably, in the short run. But consider this. If people truly believed there was enough to go around (which there clearly is) and that it would be distributed fairly (which it clearly is not), then we wouldn’t feel compelled to save and hoard. If we actually trusted that we’d take care of one another, we could stop reacting to each other in wary suspicion. If we could participate meaningfully in our society, we’d realize it’s healthier to be engaged than to be a passive consumer.

This is a distant dream. One that requires more than a complete overhaul of society as currently structured. It requires evolutionary rewiring to stop eyeballing each other in fear and instead abet each other in sympathy. It won’t happen in my lifetime, or in any of yours. But I’d rather strive toward a positive direction than capitulate to the divisive posturing of our current so-called leaders.

We live in a society that provides equality in theory, if too often in name only. Let’s work to lock that equality in and make it real for all. Then, let’s move beyond equality, and work towards equity.

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The Long Blue Line

“It shall not be lawful for any negroe or other slave to carry or arme himself with any club, staffe, gunn, sword or any other weapon of defense or offence, nor to goe or depart from his masters ground without a certificate from his master, mistris or overseer, and such permission not to be granted but upon perticuler and necessary occasions; and every negroe or slave soe offending not having a certificate as aforesaid shalbe sent to the next constable, who is hereby enjoyned and required to give the said negroe twenty lashes on his bare back well layd on, and soe sent home to his said master, mistris or overseer…that if any negroe or other slave shall absent himself from his masters service and lye hid and lurking in obscure places, committing injuries to the inhabitants, and shall resist any person or persons that shalby any lawfull authority be imployed to apprehend and take the said negroe, that then in case of such resistance, it shalbe lawfull for such person or persons to kill the said negroe or slave soe lying out and resisting.”

  • Virginia Slave Code, 1680

For over a hundred years now, the United States has fancied itself the standard bearer of freedom throughout the world, even as it maintained that illusion through military force.

At home, the land of the free—for some—was the built upon the oppression—of others.

The dichotomy between our ideals and how they’re practiced is at the core of historian Jill Lepore’s excellent article, “The Long Blue Line: Inventing the Police.” (The New Yorker, July 20, 2020).

The police’s stated objective is to protect and serve. Yet, how often they pursue that objective through violence against people—too often Black—who reside outside the dominant culture—defined by Whites.

It’s doubtful whether in protecting an elite subset of our population by inflicting violence on others, the police best serve any of us. Ms. Lepore’s article is necessary reading for anyone seeking to learn from, rather than repeat history. Because right now, events in 2020 too closely mirror Virginia’s Slave Code from 340 years ago.

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STOP Trusting Polls

Independence Day is in the rear-view mirror. Labor Day looms, and with it, the final laps of this Presidential marathon.

Biden leads nationally by eight percentage points. Biden and Trump are tied in Wisconsin. Biden widens gap in crucial Pennsylvania. Biden ten points up in Texas. Every day the pollsters report more and more support for Biden. Do not believe a word of it.

Four years ago, as I bicycled the byroads of America, every poll indicated that Hillary Clinton would be elected our President. Right up until she wasn’t. The day after the election, Trump signs bloomed like dandelions on previously apolitical lawns.

What went wrong? The basic assumptions of American electoral politics, that’s all.

Consider the representative Trump supporter, circa 2016. All in for the guy who was going to Lock Her Up and Drain the Swamp. What do you tell a pollster who calls you on the phone, or pops up on your Internet feed? The most disruptive response you can conjure: “Hillary Clinton.” There was no upside in revealing the election booth truth, that you will pull the Donald’s lever. Much more effective to feed the media’s story line that Trump is a barely credible candidate, even as the media’s fixation on the man made him credible by dominantly covering him.

Hillary Clinton is not in prison, and unlikely to be there anytime soon. The swamp is still murky, even as the Trump International Hotel soaks in nefarious influence and greed. I don’t know what claims Donald Trump will make during his second Presidential campaign, though I suspect the man will do or say anything to succeed.

What I do know is, there’s still no reason for a Trump supporter would tell a pollster the truth about his or her vote. General disruption is better served in professing support for Biden.


Recent media stories describe how the ‘shy Trump’ effect was inaccurate, and that it does not apply this election cycle. As if, after misleading pollsters, Trump voters have any incentive to be more forthcoming to the social scientists who follow in their wake. More consistent stories report that soft-supporters of Hilary Clinton sat on their hands election day because her victory seemed a foregone conclusion. Thanks, in large part, to polls.

It’s time we ascribed polls to their quaint place in history. To a time when people accurately revealed their opinions and action. When speaking the truth was the default thing to do.

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Painting Our Pandemic

““E pluribus unum,” a magnificent ideal, thuds on “unum” every day throughout the land.”

That sentence, in Peter Schjeldahl’s magnificent review of Edward Hopper: A Fresh Look at Landscape (The New Yorker, June 8&15 2020), stopped me short. Not just because it’s such a political statement for an art review. Also because it’s so true.

The review unfolds in a hop-scotch of art description and real-world bizarreness. Like when Mr. Schjeldahl confesses that he has not actually seen the exhibition he’s reviewing (due to COVID-19 lockdown). His review is based on the exhibit’s catalogue, and his memory of Hopper’s viewed past. “Once you’ve seen a Hopper, it stays seen, lodged in your mind’s eye.”

Of course, he’s correct. A photograph of a Jackson Pollack just conveys mess, while the tactile spread of actual, in person, paint unnervingly sucks you in. A reproduction of a Vermeer cannot convey the glistening quality of the real thing, hanging in the Rijksmuseum. But Hopper, flat and surrealistically accurate, maintains its power through the filter of page or screen.

Often, Hopper paints us looking in on someone unaware of our intrusion. A person alone, so alone. A person made isolate by the fact of being so fully rendered. A person for whom the relative comforts of mid-twentieth-century American life leaves him or her exposed rather than comforted. Women liberated from their kitchens, ill at ease in broader habitats. Men equally awkward away from toil. Electric light so harsh, city structures so solid yet so constraining.

Even during the Depression, Hopper understood that solitude was the essential attribute of America life; an attribute that came into full flower only later in the twentieth century, when our unparalleled affluence made solitude available to so many. Stirred to autonomy and independence (in no small part by the corporate urgings of a consumer society) without regard for their consequence, we neglected to heed the aloneness inherent in Hopper’s paintings. We created the loneliest human society ever known.

“We are alone—together” is one of the many signs of hope we see taped to the inside of windows during this pandemic. I don’t buy it. If our uncoordinated, individualistic response to COVID-19 illustrates anything, it’s that we are not together. We are simply alone. With Edward Hopper, via catalogue, to illustrate that the mere comfort of shelter cannot salve the trauma of isolation

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White Like Me

In 1993, at age 38, I came out to myself as a gay man. I know, I know, a long time coming. From then, things moved pretty quick. Within weeks I came out to my wife. After a month of raw hurt and private decisions, I began coming out to others. Once you’ve told your heterosexual spouse that you’re gay, all subsequent divulges are a cakewalk. However, I learned important lessons during my season of disclosure. Lessons pertinent to this period in which white people scour our relationships to people of color, our police, and our history. As we strive to be anti-racist.

The first thing I learned about coming out to anyone was: the coming out discussion was about them, not me. I had done the hard work, ripped out the screws in the floorboard of the particular closet I’d inhabited and figured out who I was. A few people were unsurprised, which made me wonder how convincing I’d ever been as a straight man. Some folks were accepting, which made me hopeful this redirection would not jeopardize our friendship. Others were immediately uncomfortable, and I knew I’d never see them again. Regardless the response, I was delivering a different picture of myself, one that skewed their perspective. I needed to be available to them.

The other thing I learned was, not to let others’ reaction sway you from known truth. It’s misleading to say I was in the closet. I was totally clueless about being gay. My good little Catholic boy blinders simply had never allowed me to consider it. Thus, the floorboard analogy to my closet. Still, when evangelically inclined family members suggested I attend conversion therapy, I did not follow their advice. Nor did I confront or condemn them. I chose to accept their advice as a gesture of love, however misguided, and let time tenderize their hearts toward me.

We are at a moment in this country where a good number of white people are inclined to hear, many for the first time, that we need to own our majority role in the oppression of people of color, and actively work to change the structure of the society oppression built. We need to listen to James Baldwin; we need to heed Ta-Nehisi Coates. We need to change our economic, education, judicial, and social systems to create equity. And we need to do it now.

It’s important—necessary—for people of color to be in our face. To confront and demand. To shock us out of our complacent illusion of control. Confrontation always attracts attention, but it may not always win hearts and minds. And so, once attention is paid, it can be prudent to discuss and persuade using messaging that aligns with the listener’s preferred receptors. Personally, I find James Baldwin’s arguments stirring, while Ta-Nehisi Coates more difficult to digest. Different styles resonate among different individuals. (Others might say, ‘different strokes for different folks,’ but that phrase is not authentically me.)

In this spirit, I recommend the documentary White Like Me to every white person who has begun to wonder if, just perhaps, the way we live and the benefits we enjoy are borne, even a little, on the back of people of color. The narrator, Tim Wise, is a white guy who analyzes how our society benefits white people, in a direct PBS-documentary style. There’s nothing confrontational about the program, almost no ranting. But the facts that it enumerates are clear and compelling.

Some may feel that it’s a cop-out to present the case against white dominance in a format that caters to whitebread sensibilities. I disagree. White Like Me does not illustrate the rage of Black experience. It possesses none of James Baldwin’s articulate anger. But it can be a starting point to shift white complacency into engagement.

The first book I read when I came out, Andrew Hollaran’s Dancer from the Dance, became my gay guide, my Gatsby, steeped in the excitement, possibility, and loneliness of gay experience. But it was not the book I recommended to friends and family who wanted to know more about being gay. To them, I recommended Robb Foreman Dew’s The Family Heart or perhaps Paul Monette’s Becoming a Man. Easier to digest, accessible, yet still accurate.

That’s how I view White Like Me. It is not the definitive answer. It does not convey the trauma of Black experience. But it is a bridge that leads in the right direction.


White Like Me is a production of the Media Education Foundation. It is available to stream for free via Kanopy, through your local public library. White Like Me is also available for rent at this Vimeo link and for free through this Vialogue link.

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The Pandemic We Deserve

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Hence, our complacent, morally bankrupt, money dazzled, education-scorning, science-doubting electorate selects Donald Trump as our President.

Over the past few months I have considered the potentiality of another universal truth: that we get the pandemic we deserve. Given the latest increase in coronavirus cases in a nation whose leaders—and citizenry—refuse to acknowledge the rudimentary action required to flatten the curve, the analogy is even more apt.

Consider the granddaddy of all plagues. The Black Plague is said to have killed over half the population of Europe in its first eruption (1346-1353). Then, it kept cropping up with various permutations for the next 400 years, killing 100,000 or so in London in 1665-1666, another 100,000 in Marseilles in 1720-1723. For those who survived, society was drastically altered: the reduced population led to the end of serfdom; the lack of cheap labor spurred the drive for technical innovation.

The American plagues of the sixteenth century were grotesquely effective. European explorers handily killed up to ninety percent of the indigenous people of Central and South America simply by showing up and spreading their germs. Fire breathing dragons could hardly have been more effective conquerors.

The last plague with statistically epic deaths was the Spanish Flu of 1918, which infected about five hundred million people, and killed a hundred million of us. Many more people died from Spanish Flu than in the Great War. The flu’s scope was truly global thanks to returning soldiers, who brought home an unwanted souvenir.

More recent epidemics: AIDS, Swine Flu, Ebola, Zika have distinctly different, boutique flavors. Although they each has the potential for catastrophic spread, their singular means of transmission or particular origins of outbreak, enable many of us to differentiate ourselves from those most infected—gay, African, poor, whatever. The Plague of the Middle Ages brought contagion and death to all. Whereas folks who fall outside the demographic ‘risk groups’ of AIDS or Ebola can feel immune. Worse, they can draw a dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and stand in judgement of the infected.

Our current pandemic, COVID-19, is a fascinating hybrid of plagues past and present, with a few unique twists. Like The Plague, coronavirus is easily spread through a universal body function: all humans must breathe. Like the Spanish Flu, it spread with global speed, thanks to our interconnected world of air travel. Ironically, the first wave beyond China hit mainly affluent people: those with the means to fly. However, within a short time the virus settled in primarily among the poor, the aged, the vulnerable, the imprisoned, and the lowest paid among us: euphemistically relabeled ‘essential workers.’ The more you suffer the Twenty-first century diseases of poverty: obesity, diabetes, asthma; the more risk you bear for COVID.

The peculiar aspect of COVID-19 that I find most compelling as the pandemic of our time is that, compared to the great epidemics of the past, this is not a major killer. Cambridge, MA, where I live, was the site of one of the first major outbreaks on the East Coast—a conference at Biogen where a dozen or so people became infected. Three months later, about one percent of our city’s citizens have tested positive, about 10 percent of them have died. A plague that kills one/tenth of one percent of the population hardly registers on the scale of the great plagues’ past, yet it represents a significant increase in mortality in a society where people’s expectations of living long, healthy lives are magnitudes greater than those of our medieval ancestors.

In addition, this coronavirus has a relatively long incubation period, and asymptomatic carriers may transmit the virus. These attributes lend a heightened anxiety to the disease. Statistically, any individual is unlikely to contract COVID-19. And if I do, I am unlikely to die from it. However, two million infected Americans is a heck of a lot of people, and being one of them renders statistics irrelevant.

Thus, the novel symptom that coronavirus inflicts upon us more than almost any previous plague: anxiety. It’s difficult to weigh the benefits of precautions required to avoid catching the virus against the deprivations those precautions impose. I’m not talking about me, an affluent retiree who can just stay at home; or people going to bars and restaurants, baiting fate in exchange for a few laughs; or the inconsiderate guys who run around Fresh Pond without a mask. In a country with a threadbare safety net, too many folks have to choose between work and safety. For the people who already have the meanest opportunities in our country, coronavirus presents a new level of ugly choices.

Misinformation, the hallmark of America’s divided society, fuels our coronavirus anxiety. If half of us were dying, as during the Black Death, even Republicans might be forced to take notice. If only a despised demographic caught the disease, President Trump would find a way to simply sidestep it, as President Reagan did throughout years of AIDS.

But COVID-19 is an awkward, middle-ground plague. The virus kills a high number of people across a disproportionately marginalized demographic, while it also spreads enough dread and death throughout the entire population to demand notice. A pandemic whose impact on our physical health is notable, whose impact on our mental health is huge, and whose ability to bridge the chasm our divided, self-involved nation is—apparently—nil.

Note: Photo images are from Cape Cod MA; Miami, Florida; Galveston, Texas; and Southern California, in that order.

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The Optics of Equity

First thought when I learned that Boston University is planning to reopen its campus this fall with an intensive COVID-19 testing policy that includes testing students as often as twice a week was: WOW! BU is handing one juicy plum to folks who thrive on needling the educated elite.

Is there any group, no matter how much direct COVID contact they have or how essential to our society they might be, that gets tested that often? I am hard pressed to consider college students in any essential or high-risk category, except maybe due to dangerous behaviors undergraduates have been known to inflict upon themselves.

Second thought was to check my reaction. Instead of projecting the reactionary spin BU’s effort could trigger, maybe I should actually learn about the plan. So, I did something atypical in our current media environment: I went to the source and read articles in BU Today that describe BU’s plan.

Boston University is trying to open its campus in the fall, which is a positive desire, if it can be done safely. To that end, they are creating a huge COVID-19 Center, where BUs 30,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff can be tested, contact traced, and quarantined as necessary. The plan seems well-thought out; it might even be effective. It certainly will be expensive. But a school whose tuition and fees are well north of $50,000 per year, and whose average student cost, after aid, is over $37,000, must be willing to spend money to keep that income flowing. And they must demonstrate their advanced state-of-the-art precautions will protect Jill or Johnny, or face the wrath of parents who folk over big change only to find their kid gets sick.

Unfortunately, learning more about BUs plan did not make me any more comfortable with its optics. Higher education is, by definition, elitist. Hence the adjective ‘higher’. So when a university decides to invest in a level of protection for its students and staff that is far beyond the (rather pathetic) norms of our society, it would do well to unveil the plan with at least a nod to equity.

First, BU needs to acknowledge the fact: what it is proposing is well beyond the norm. Then, BU could convince us that their program is valid for reasons beyond the unstated (that BU students and staff are somehow better…more worthy…than others). Perhaps BU could use this as a research project—a laboratory to understand the effectiveness of intense testing and scrutiny. Perhaps BU could announce it’s establishing similar testing and tracing endeavors to serve other segments of our society: meat packers; housekeepers; low-income communities of color. Perhaps it could do both: set up COVID centers to serve various communities, including BU, and compare/contrast the results.


If BU led with the idea that it’s going to use its capacity as a deep-pocket research institution to implement and analyze COVID investigation and testing strategies, (and, oh, by-the-way our own students will be included in the study), the optics of college students getting tested as often as twice a week in a society where some struggle to be tested at all might not sting quite so bad.

I realize that BU is not an isolated example, colleges and institutions all over are looking out for their own before others. But in a state where people with lower income, darker skin, and less education contract COVID-19 at three to five times the rate of affluent white people, it’s time to start calling out inequities wherever they occur.

In an ideal world, the resources and capacities of a place like Boston University would be available to all. Anyone who wanted a COVID-19 test could get one, and we’d do enough broad-based testing to infer useful attributes of the disease. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. For too long, universities have espoused the notion that as aspirational institutions they are apart, but not above, everyone else. But in this era of optical scrutiny, that perspective does not hold steady. BU needs to put forth a message that transcends protecting its own students (and income stream). It needs to find a way to spread what it does and what it learns across a broader spectrum of society. By taking such intensive care of its own—and only its own—BU justifies claims that higher education serves only the elite.


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November 1971. I’m a pudgy, pimply sixteen-year-old lying on the back sofabed of an off-brand Winnebago. My father’s driving, happy on the move. My mother’s uncharacteristically silent. My little brother rolls matchbox cars around the table. I should be in high school. But my parents sold everything they owned and yanked me out of junior year. We are rolling west from New Jersey. Too late to be pioneers, too old to be hippies, chasing that clichéd fantasy known as the West. I stare at Illinois’ aching tedium and ponder everything behind me. Gone. Unable envision what lies ahead. We don’t even have a forwarding address.

John Lennon’s “Imagine” comes on the radio. It floats across mid-America’s airwaves, more vapid than the pale, powder sky. No heaven, no hell, no countries, nothing. Immediately, I hate the song, even more than the flat expanse of I-70 west of Effingham.

Upon first listen, “Imagine” was a litany of nothingness enshrouded by silver strings, simultaneously aesthete and opulent. Lyrics that celebrate nothing cannot move a lonely teenager with little more than a pile of clothes, a sketch pad, and a bicycle hanging off the back of rolling tin.

Time passed. We settled—in Oklahoma. I grabbed at the instant adhesives of busyness and youth: new school, new friends, new job. I wasted no time contemplating my parent’s bizarre mid-life action, especially when the geographical cure didn’t assuage whatever ailed them. Nor did I consider whether I was happier or better off than in Jersey, though in retrospect both were true. I was an empty shell of a human at a formative point. I raised my hand in every class. I joined every group. I believed in heaven, and possessions, and the need to claim my own place in world. I focused on the future, trying to figure out what I thought would be worth killing and dying for.

In the intervening forty-nine years, “Imagine” has not changed. The You Tube video is the exact same recording I heard outside of Effingham. Therefore, the change must have occurred within me, because today I think “Imagine’ is an incredible song; the anthem to a time when we will no longer need anthems.

Since I first traversed West I have become a more patient, more thoughtful, more considerate, more confident. Unfortunately, the country I inhabit has become less in all these qualities. Every one of our institutions is weaker than it was then: our churches, our government, our social clubs, our unions. Maybe not our corporations, but perhaps they ought to be. This institutional tearing down frightens those who need their support, and relies on them for answers, even as their answers are self-serving and regressive.

When we utter Machiavelli’s well-worn phrase, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, we usually ascribe it to men. But the phrase is equally valid for our institutions. In fact, it applies to all of our social systems.

Property zoning was a noble endeavor to provide light and air to places of dwelling and work. Zoning helped eliminate tenements. Then it got contorted by banker’s redlining. Now it’s become an instrument of property-owner control.

Dutch gilds were a wonderful way to promote craft; their descendent labor unions provide necessary employee protections, until, like police unions, they become part of the problem by protecting abhorrent behavior.

Which is not to say Machiavelli doesn’t still speak to the power of men. The ultimate perpetrator of personal corruption, Donald Trump, seeks more power than any American leader. Ever.


Which leads us back to “Imagine.” The world John Lennon envisions is a scary prospect for anyone who inhabits a world of fear, including sixteen-year-old boys clutching for anything to make sense. People in fear need institutions to prop up—and nuture—their fears. A world of us versus them, a world of externally delivered answers, is easier to navigate than one premised on amorphous harmony.

We have so much to strip away to get to the point of “living for today.” But we really have no choice. We must try. The alternative is an earlier John Lennon song. Not nearly as convincing. Revolution.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

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What the Heck Have I Been Doing?

There’s a point in Marc Maron’s Netflix Comedy Special, ‘End Times Fun,’ when Marc (middle-aged white guy, sorta tall, skinny, bearded, salt and pepper scruff; basically me with quicker retort time) iterates the troubles of our era and then bemoans, “So, what have I been doing? I’ve been working on my core.” Which pretty much describes me for the last year. Until the pandemic shuttered my gym. Now even my core resembles a spongey mushroom.


Since I signed off my blog, and allowed a summer hiatus to blossom into a year of silence, I wrote the first draft of a novel; a satisfying form of navel gazing (though the novel’s focus is actually a little lower on the torso). I became eligible for Medicare. I fiddled with my estate plan. I went to the gym—a lot. I interlocked many an online jigsaw puzzle. I became an expert strategist at Spider Solitaire.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do anything bad. No criminal behavior, hardly any white male rage against annoying people. I get that my problems aren’t significant, even if they’re real to me. They’re the only problems I’ve got. I did my volunteer gigs. I voted. I considered myself a solid citizen. But in reality, I was numbed into being a complacent one.

Through the pandemic I’ve told folks—at a social distance, of course—that my life’s changed less than anyone I know. I ratcheted up my volunteer time at the hospital and food bank to maintain a sense of purpose and provide direction for my 10,000 steps a day. True sequesterians consider that foolish, but I’ve assessed the risks and decided to pursue these legitimate excuses to be out and about. Besides, Mount Auburn Hospital and Food 4 Free both seem safer places than the aisles of my local super market.

What took longer to comprehend was that my life had changed less than others because I’d already pulled into myself well before coronavirus required we all hunker down. My curiosity meter had gone into sleep mode. An official senior citizen in a world gone batty, I was bummed that my generation failed so heinously, but content to leave repairs to the next.


Until the dichotomy of needing to stay indoors for personal safety crashed against the imperative to be out in the streets and shout against the bastards running this sorry excuse for a nation, and I finally woke up. I apologize, world, for having been asleep at the wheel. No use in thrashing myself about past drowsiness; time to just wake up stronger than a cold brew after a sweaty workout.

Good intentions be damned, us white guys are the almost always the last ones on board. I understand, since we live furthest from the inequities of the world. But that’s a lame excuse, because we also get navigate the world easier than anybody else.

I’m back. Well rested. Angry to my core. The Awkward Poser is not seeking so much balance as before. Ultimately, I believe balance it’s what we need to achieve mutual respect, mutual equity. But balance requires everyone to operate from a position of reason. And right now, the prevailing power structure is beyond reason.

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