Monday, June 22, 2009


Francis Bacon- Second version of triptych 1944

New York City, June 2009 -

It has rained thirteen out of the last fourteen days. The weather has been cloying and humid, the streets have been dark, slick, reflective, and the people who have dared to endure the elements have been walking with heads down; quick, wet, irritable, and dejected.

The Metropolitan Museum is currently running a centenary exhibit of Francis Bacon. Last week I crossed the park twice to walk through the exhibit. It spoke to me so strongly that I was pulled back for a second visit just two drizzly days after the first. I slowly snaked my way through each gallery of twisted gnarled faces and bodies, shoes wet from my walk through the park I studied the affliction, sexual urgency, confinement, and grief expressed in Bacon’s triptychs and towering canvases.

Thursday evening I met with two dear friends and the three of us went to the New York Philharmonic to hear the second symphony of Jean Sibelius, the great Finnish composer. Composed in 1900, this popular work is thought to have been connected with Finland’s struggle for independence. It was written at the time of Russian sanctions on Finnish language and culture. Whether this was Sibelius’ intention or not is widely debated but the repeated motifs and the lush orchestrations churn and eddy to an emotional, gut-wrenching crescendo.

My inner emotional life is often greatly affected by my environment but now my external setting seems to be an extension of my internal condition. I have been grappling with some personal issues; my younger sister’s mastectomy and the family drama surrounding her pain and trauma, repeated alcoholic relapses of people I feel close to, as well as my own continued self-doubt and discontentedness.

Bacon’s twisted viscera and Sibelius’ whipped orchestrations lock-step with my inner condition and all this frustration and turmoil appears to have expressed itself as the heavens have been wringing out and washing over the city day after day after day. Not only a reflection of myself but also an extension of what I see happening across the globe in Iran, in the continued suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan, in rapidly rising unemployment and poverty here in the U.S., in a tumultuous national political climate, in escalating economic unrest, it rains and it rains.

More rain is expected today and though little has changed since I went to sleep last night right now the sun is shining. Clouds are quickly moving overhead but my perspective seems to have varied and even as my momentum can remain steady the trajectory of my destination can alter. I spoke with my sister earlier this morning and her spirits are lighter than would be expected - through it all I am reminded of my own powerlessness. Something greater than myself has allowed me to identify with the beauty in the torment of Bacon’s twisted vision, in the urgent discord of Sibelius’ strings. Something greater than me will care for the suffering across the globe and that same Great Something is allowing me to be present for those who need me.

Something has been lifted. Change is inevitable. All things pass.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

domestic terrorism

Earlier today, 88 year old James Von Brunn, an anti-Semite and white supremacist, walked into the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., less than one mile from the White House, and opened fire with a .22-caliber rifle killing security guard Stephen Tyrone Jones. Von Brunn was immediately shot by other guards on duty and he is now in critical condition with wounds to the head.

Von Brunn has had a long and well-documented history as a white supremacist and anti-Semite. As well as having his own despicable white supremacy website, he was arrested in 1981, and convicted in 1983, for attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board with a knife, revolver and sawed-off shotgun. He served six years in prison.

Today's reprehensible and politically motivated shooting takes place not even two weeks after the killing of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in his church in Wichita, Kansas. Threats of violence against abortion clinics have increased greatly since president Obama's inauguration this past January. The far-right, militant, pro-life tactics against abortion clinics, clinic workers, and their clients have escalated at a staggering rate and, still, local law enforcement officials continue not to treat these threats as serious. Every time any violence against clinic workers or abortion providers is carried out it represents a failure of law enforcement.

In April, the Department of Homeland Security released a report focusing on right-wing extremism. The report warned of exactly this type of terrorist act yet it was so heavily mocked and criticized by the far-right that Janet Nepolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Security, was made to apologize to veterans. The report singled out veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as susceptible to recruitment to far-right extremist groups.

People are being gunned down in churches and museums by politically motivated nut-jobs! Who are we worried about offending and why?

These recent acts of violence are terrorist acts. Plain and simple - there is no other word for it. Just because these unspeakable acts of violence have been carried out by good ol' boys who call themselves Christian doesn't make them any less terrorist than the Taliban. These depraved, immoral criminals believe they are involved in a Jihad for Jesus!

Imagine if Dr. Tiller's murderer or today's Holocaust museum shooter were named Mohamed or Akhmad rather than George or James. This country would be in a full-swing, code-red, lock-down tizzy. Network news reports of these recent murders aren't referring to these gunmen as terrorists, however, they're calling them pro-life activist and anti-Semite, respectively.

What more needs to happen before federal protection around women's health clinics becomes standard operating practice? What more needs to happen before the mainstream news media has the balls to call this burgeoning movement what it is?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

lunatic fringe

I'd like to write something reflective about the sprawling and colorful gardens in the park and how the city's turning green makes me feel renewed, or how the sound of the spring rain on my window lulls me into a peaceful sleep, but I'm far too agitated by things like doctors being gunned down in their churches, and their murderers being canonized by the ultra-right lunatic fringe to wax poetic about such niceties.

Aside from the Dr. Tiller atrocity I've been especially unsettled by a number of other things that have been happening in the news lately; former Vice-President Dick Cheney, a man who didn't speak much when he was in office, is continuing his torture talk tour. Now that Cheney is a non-office holding citizen he is speaking non-stop, while sitting atop a pile of lies, trying to revise history and convince the world that he was justified in his initiation and support of torture.

I also continue to be disheartened by the slow response of the Obama administration to tackle any of the LGBT issues that the President promised to address during his campaign when he admitted to being a "fierce supporter of gay rights". Also unsettling are the disgraceful discreditings by the usual suspect, suspects of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. These malicious and absurd accusations are beyond what anyone would consider educated or rational.

That the news media continues to take seriously the opinions of Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich or even Dick Cheney, none of whom hold an elected office, is contemptible. Limbaugh is a hate-mongering entertainer, Gingrich; an angry-old-white man, puffed up like an irritated turkey, is trying to elbow his way to the top of a struggling party, and Cheney, aside from being a loathsome revisionist, is attempting to protect himself from being tried as a war criminal. Why the mainstream media continues to take these self-inflated windbags seriously is baffling.

There are, however, a few silver linings in all this cloud coverage. Yesterday, New Hampshire became the sixth state in the union to legalize same sex marriage, Judge Sotomayor's nomination as the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court is in itself a hopeful sign, and this morning, President Obama's speech addressing the Nation of Islam from Cairo University is a huge milestone in foreign relations for the United States. Although his speech this morning is an opportunity for his opponents and the familiar, blathering, bobble-heads to take offense (already there are charges of un-Americanism, weakness and accusations of his being too apologetic). In his speech, Obama called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims and he encouraged Muslim nations to educate and respect women.

The world is a confusing place and continues moving at a dizzying pace. My response to national and global conditions is only heightened by the challenges in my personal life. Things don't always go as I think they should. That's probably a good thing. Without being challenged there is never growth, without struggle there is no progress. I do believe, however, that hypocrisy should have a light shown on it whenever possible. My immediate challenge is to keep the focus on myself, breathe and try to enjoy the blossoming flora that the season is offering me as a lovely distraction from these troubling difficulties.