Sunday, December 28, 2014

the robin hood bandit of walton's mountain

This is one of my favorite Christmas movie moments: the scene in which the audience discovers that Charlie Snead, friend to the impoverished Walton clan, is the Robin Hood bandit the local sheriff seeks. I remember quite distinctly watching The Homecoming on TV in 1971, the first year it was shown and before all the 70s hoopla about The Waltons, and freezing the image of Charlie, singing "She'll be Comin Round the Mountain," driving one of the few cars on the mountain through the snow, and looking behind him into the back seat to admire the number of stolen turkeys resting there. It was, for me, a humbling moment that was difficult to process: stealing and putting oneself at risk only to give the stolen item to someone else, maybe even a stranger. I can't find a video of that moment but I have located a promo that includes Charlie thumping one of his revolution turkeys on the Walton' s table. For me it's a lovely reminder of the moment a concept became important to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

two reasons i don't weep for this generation

There are actually many reasons, among them increased involvement in protest politics and recognition of the impact climatic change will have on their future, that I have faith in the millennial brood, but these are two that are personal to me.

1) The kids I work with are ages 12-18, with an average of 14 or 15. One evening at the girls' facility one of them made a comment about what she expected her future college career to look like, one-on-one interaction with her instructors, heavy and cultured class-participation, small classes-essentially her experience with groups at the facility. I disabused of that notion. She said, Thanks for shitting on my fantasy, and I flippantly responded, That's why they pay me the big bucks. And the same girl said, No, you get paid to tell us the truth.

2) Last night I was talking with a.couple of the boys about musicians they like and one was running off a list. Ozzy, AC/DC, Guns n Roses, JJ Cale. I did a double take. I said, How do you know JJ Cale? He said, My stepdad plays him all the time. He's really good. I've got a bunch of his music on my IPod. We spent a couple minutes talking about blues artists and their morphing into rock. He told me some Cale tunes I hadn't heard.

Monday, December 15, 2014

the chapel of the Holy Wheel

I'm a Unitarian Universalist, and I suppose it's a sop to my Puritan ancestors that the church I've been attending lately runs to six hour services. As I've mentioned in the past, we are in the process of moving from the rim to a hub on the other side of Wisconsin, and my wife and animals are already living there. As a result, my Sundays are spent driving back to the hub to minister to the kids I work with. I think of it as attending at The Chapel of The Holy Wheel.

I have my elements. My liturgy is made up of the BBC news and political shows I listen to, my hymns the music, some sacred some profane, mostly blues, I scroll through. I attend mass, partaking of the Eucharist with the crackers and grape juice I keep in the car for communion at the girls' facility (the boys are much less interested in any kind of religious services, while some of the girls want me to do almost nothing else). There is a calm that comes over me in my rolling tabernacle. I have always loved to drive, and combining the acts of reverence and of moving strikes me as a kind of mega variation on moving meditation. As if my body, ensconced in the safety of my vehicle while it hurtles down the road, mimics my body hurtling through space on the larger vehicle that I don't, can't drive. My prayers, such as they are, are for the people surrounding me. That they arrive relaxedly, like me, wherever they're going. If I succumb to grandiosity t's in seeing in myself some of the Holy Fool Neal Cassidy exhibited in his best moments.

Monday, December 1, 2014

no one should still be protesting this shit

Guys I knew in high school have posted links on Facebook, from notes of solidarity with soon-to-be-former Officer Darren Wilson to strenuous denunciations of the Ferguson black community and Michael Brown and his family. I've responded to many of them, sometimes letting my frustration and anger show. I would love to simply sit back and let their remarks flow over me like it is water and I am a duck' s ass. But as I pointed out, that is the definition of privilege. And I am prodded by the words of Desmond Tutu, that if we try to be neutral in the face of oppression then we have joined the side of the oppressors.

What galls me, not only in relation to the arguments they've put forward, but about similar arguments that regressives as a group have parroted, is the idea, as if it has never occurred to them, that what they accuse Michael Brown-and it is severely fucked up that anyone would use that term, willfully blind to the notion a killed black kid should be accused of participating in his own death-of doing is exactly the same as many of them have themselves done in the past, or have known people who have done similar things. No one deserves to be shot for having stolen from a store. No one who is unarmed deserves to be shot for charging a cop who is hundreds of feet away. (And despite the claims of Fox News, neither question is settled.)

If there is a people in America who should least have to protest against still having to protest this shit, it should be black people. Yet we are here, over two centuries after a revolution declared all Americans free, a century and a half after the last slave-bearing ship entered an American port, after a destructive Civil War, nearly five decades after passage of acts devoted to reconciling civil rights, and nearly a decade after a majority of Americans elected and then reelected a half black man with a funny name, still, still, protesting this shit. I like to think the sons and daughters of these guys with whom I've been arguing will not have to hold a similar sign or have similar arguments, but I am learning that hope, in addition to being feathered, may also be vain.