29 June 2020

My Favorite Documentaries

From Hearts and Minds
Regular readers of this blog (the Gimbel Goldbergs of Montauk, New York) are familiar with the list of my favorite all time films that features on this blog. They may also note that said list does not include a single documentary, just as my annual top ten lists and favorites of a decade etc. do not. This does not reflect any lack of love on my part of documentaries, a genre of cinema that I have long appreciated and drawn inspiration from. I simply categorize documentaries as different than fictional films. In any event it's high time I got around to featuring my all-time favorites in said category.

The list is led by Hearts and Minds a film I've revered for over forty years and consider the gold standard of documentaries. It is about American involvement in Vietnam, the history, the lies, the costs, the stories, the dissent. It is also about the U.S. in that most volatile of decades, the sixties. People on the right consider it an unbalanced polemic and they are not totally wrong. But I submit that there lies its strengths. One does not try to give a balanced view of the Holocaust, one exposes it for what it was. This H&M does brilliantly. There's no better example than the scene of a reception in the White House for former Vietnam POWS. Nixon speaks to the gathering and applauds his own decision to launch the Christmas bombing of 1972 that dropped 20,000 tons of bombs on the country and killed over 1,000 people, destroying a hospital in the bargain. His self-laudatory remarks are met with a standing ovation. Cut to scenes of the devastation in North Vietnam, focusing finally on a man whose two small children have been killed in the bombing raids. He notes that his eight-year-old daughter was feeding their pigs when the bombs arrived. She died, the pigs survived, he points out. The man holds his daughter's shirt saying that she will never wear it again and asks that the American film crew take it back to America and throw it in Nixon's face. Later there is a scene of much weeping and wailing as Vietnamese are being buried. Survivors are grief-stricken. Cut to American General Westmoreland saying that life is cheap in the "Orient" and that "Orientals" don't value life as we do. Hardly subtle, but then why would you want it to be?

So while H&M remains unparalleled for me, there are many great documentaries on this list and needless to say, I recommend them all most heartily.

1. Hearts and Minds (1974) Davis
2. Monterey Pop (1968) Pennebaker
3. The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) Ophuls
From Studio 54

27 June 2020

Falling While White, A Weird and Interrupted Blog Post

I'm trying to write a blog post while suffering from a blinding depression. Not sure how it will go and have serious doubts that I can write more than a paragraph or two but sitting and staring at the floor was getting old so I had to try something.

I hope you don't suffer from depression and if you do I hope you're able to get help. Reach out to friends and relatives and of course seek help from health care professionals. Remember that you're not alone.

Last week someone tweeted the following: "So, teenage girls are 'young women' and teenage black boys are 'threats'? White men: what was it like to have a full childhood?" I responded: "I'm an abuse survivor so I couldn't tell you." There's a lot going on with the original tweet and my response to it (I suppose in modern parlance one would say that "there's a lot to unpack.") First, I readily acknowledge that my being an abuse survivor is irrelevant to the issue. What the tweeter was talking about was white, male, heterosexual privilege, which I, of course, have benefitted from. Females, people of color and LBGTQ children can also be abuse survivors to go along with the vagaries of growing up "different." But I also have a point in that my "normal" status was negated by the abuse I suffered at the hands of my paranoid schizophrenic mother. My childhood wasn't "full" it was torn asunder and caused me a life full of emotional issues.

It is part of the binary thinking that permeates so much discussion of social issues. There is little allowance for nuance, for exceptions, for explanation, for details. A world in black and white is much easier to navigate. It is also easier to deal with people if they are easily classified and when these classifications lead to commonly held assumptions. There are indeed certain....

Blogging was interrupted by me going up some stairs to retrieve something for my darling wife -- tomorrow's our 33rd wedding anniversary -- in the course of which I took a nasty spill coming down some stairs and injured my right ankle. It's not broken but hurts and is swollen. I haven't done a lot of falling in my life as I've always been nimble on my feet. It's a helpless feeling in mid fall when you don't have control over where and how you're going to land. When I hit the ground I feared a break -- I think it's natural to always fear the worst in such instances.

Anyway I've lost momentum on what I originally set out to write which is no great loss. Curiously the fall seems to have knocked the depression out. This I can't explain. Logically I should be feeling even worse having a physical malady to go along with the blues. Maybe it's the writing that has kicked me out of my funk. It's hard to tell with my moods. They rise and fall capriciously. Now that I mention I chatted for a bit with youngest daughter who lives in Brooklyn. Talking to my baby girl always helps.

Now I'm faced with the question of what I should do next. My ankle hurts, I'm stuck in a chair with my foot elevated (the right one, I also have a left foot giving me a total of two, I have a similar number of arms, however I only boast the one head although on it there are pairs of eyes and ears, thus having all my parts is part of the privilege I was born with). So perhaps it's time to wrap it up. I can share more thoughts on binary thinking, institutionalized racism and other topics at a more opportune time.

Geez, now I can't think of how to end this post. Maybe just by stopping

22 June 2020

I Really Watched Four Films in One Day, All Were Short, All Were Good

From God's County by Louis Malle

Assuming you noted the title of this blog post you know what’s coming. Yes indeed I did watch four movies yesterday which at the very least ties a personal record. (What, you think I keep track of these things?). Two of the films were just over an hour long and of the other two, one was just a tad over an hour and half and the other a tad under. So I totaled about five and a quarter hours of movie viewing. That’s not outrageous when you consider I watched neither any sports nor TV shows all day. I also managed to read the Sunday Times, start a book I was given as a Father’s Day gift, eat two hearty meals, snack and washes the dishes — twice.

All four films I watched were courtesy of the Criterion Channel which is one of the greatest innovations in human history ranking just behind the wheel, electricity and donuts. For most of the time the channel has existed (fourteen and a half months) I’ve had a long list of movies on it to watch. Perhaps this is reflective of my mental state (a state almost as poorly off as Mississippi) but having all these films waiting to be watched had started feeling like a burden. So a few weeks ago I decided to focus on winnowing down the list to a manageable number and to accomplish this before more films were added at the beginning of July when they put up their latest releases. Knocking off four in one day was a huge step towards that, plus all the films were ones I’ve been dying to watch. The Criterion Channel has to compete for my time with the two DVDs I get each week from Netflix, the movies I record from Turner Classic Movies and my own extensive DVD collection of nearly 250 titles.

Obviously you are by now dying to know what I watched yesterday. Since I’m going to list them I’ll also offer a brief review. Here goes.

First up was Luis Bunel’s L'Age d’Or (1930). This completed my tour of the great Spanish director’s films which I began a few months ago. I have either liked or loved every one of his movies that I’ve seen. So I can say it was my least favorite of his films and at the same time aver that I thoroughly enjoyed it. L'Age d’Or has the surrealism that so typed Bunuel’s work, though at times it felt a bit overdone and less a way of telling the story and more a way of showing off. That said it is a splendid film and an enjoyable way to begin my movie marathon. I'd give a capsulize summary but it's not a film that lends itself to one. Suffice to say that if you like Salvador Dali (who was involved in pre-production of the film) and Bunuel, this is a film for you.

Next up was a Louis Malle documentary called God’s Country (1985) which was my favorite offering of the day. In 1979 Malle went to the small Minnesota town of Glencoe and interviewed some of its residents. What a wonderful slice of Americana he created out of it. We meet farmers, an octogenarian with a large garden, the assistant police chief, a banker, a lawyer whose son was a draft resister, a very young couple on their wedding day (she was seventeen) and a surprisingly liberated and open woman (for the time and place) of twenty-six. The interview with her was the highlight of the film for me. God’s Country is not at all surprising yet it is revelatory and fascinating. It is a small town America that us citified folks often get limited exposure to. We tend to mock such people and their values which is a poor reflection on us. There is an honesty and earnestness in many small town folks that is admirable. But at the same time it’s sad to hear one resident talk about how Blacks aren’t well-liked by many residents and another state that gays are stuck in the closet this community. God's Country is the type of movies that I wanted much, much more of.

From Claude Berri's The Two of Us
Film number three was the only of the day I’d seen before, The Two of Us (1967) directed by Claude Berri.  In Nazi-occupied France a young Jewish boy is sent to live in the country with an older couple neither of whom know the lad’s a Jew. The grandfather is an anti-semite but he loves his new boarder and they get along famously and have a series of adventures. The Three of Us is touching without being cloying. It is sentimental but with edges. Mostly its a delight highlighted as it is by a bravura performance by Michel Simon as the old man.

Rounding out the day’s programming was Cynara (1932) directed by King Vidor (King was his first name, he was not a monarch — but you knew that). Vidor was better known for two silent classics, The Big Parade (1925) and The Crowd (1928), two of the greatest films of the 1920s. Cynara is very much a pre-code film centering as it does around an extra marital affair and it’s consequences. The husband is played by Ronald Coleman. He is his usual debonair self, the quintessence of charm and sophistication. But he “makes a mistake” and falls for a younger woman while his wife is out of the country. Disaster ensues. Kay Francis is the missus and she gives a her usual solid if unspectacular performance. I’m always glad to see Ms. Francis in a film though I don’t think she had terribly great range (not that Colman did). The two are serviceable in their roles as is the young woman in question ably played by Phyillis Barry, an actress who never attained stardom. That Cynara succeeds is a credit to its screenwriter Francis Marion, one of the few female writers working in Hollywood at the time — or for that matter anytime. There are certain destinations that you know the film is going to get to but you’re never sure how.  Cynara was very much a film that relied on how it ended and Marion's screenplay did not disappoint. I liked and believed in the ending and in the movie as a whole. Vidor, so successful with "big stories" proved more than capable of telling a more intimate one.

So there you have it, I was four-for-four making for a most rewarding and enjoyable day and my queue on the Channel is down to a handful, thus easing my troubled mind. Of course now I’ve got a backlog of films I’ve recorded on TCM to get to and there are a number of films in my collection that are overdue for a viewing. A cinephile’s work is never done.

18 June 2020

A Conversation

”It’s all rather a mixed bag, isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“Life and dying. The sweet release of death will eliminate so many discomforts such as all the physical pain one endures and the mental anguish and the constant nuisances. Imagine never having to hear anyone chew their food loudly again. Bliss.”

“Yes that’s one side of it. But look at all you miss. Music for one. No more Bach. How sad. And playing with grandchildren and dining at good restaurants —”

“Ahh but ingestion. Especially when it keeps you up half the night. So many more foods cause so much more unpleasantness for me than they used to. Health in general has become so dicey as I age. I’m forever having to go to the doctor about one thing or another. Yesterday it was a rash. Last month I had  a painful bunion. Before that it was a twisted ankle. I’m not even counting the trips to the dentists.”

“My you have a bleak view of things. Aren’t you happy at all anymore? Surely you must be.”

“Oh I very much enjoy things like this, meeting a good friend for lunch. Sometimes a cup of tea at the right time makes it all seem perfect. Emma and I are happy together. So no, I’m not totally miserable. It’s just that I’m far less happy than when I was young.”

“I believe we all are. There’s no replacing the exuberance of youth, that feeling that you can and will do everything. But now we’ve got so much more wisdom, we have experience with the world and are infinitely more knowledgable.”

“I’d trade wisdom and knowledge to be twenty-one again, enjoying romances, playing sports, free of aches, pains and gripes.”

“Well the fact is, you can’t. That’s what we’ve all got to live with.”


"I’ve come to hate living with it.”

“That’s the route to misery, to rue what you don’t and can’t have. You’ve so much and so many people would envy you, but all you can do is wish for the impossible.”

“You’re absolutely right. Perhaps I should just top myself.”

“Don’t joke about things like that. I don’t find it funny at all.”

“Who’s joking? I’m merely weighing options.”

“If you consider suicide an option then you need psychiatric help.”

“I should think you’d know that I’m already getting it — for all the bloody good it does me. Fifty minutes a week of me nattering on and him nodding until he inevitably says, 'Im afraid that's all our time for today.' Anyway I’m not serious about offing myself. Haven’t the guts.”

“I don’t think that killing oneself is a mark of bravery. It’s an act of desperation for a mind that can find no options.”

“Anyway, I couldn’t do it to Emma. She still needs me and it would devastate the children and their children. I’m afraid the world is stuck with me and I with it.”

“I for one am glad. I worry about you being so despondent that you find it difficult to appreciate life.”

“Oh I appreciate life, all right. I’ve just come to recognize that shuffling off this mortal coil will have its advantages.”

“I suppose that since it’s inevitable that can be a somewhat healthy approach. Still one shouldn’t long for death.”

“I regret having introduced this morbid topic. I suppose it reflects my state of mind today. I’m sorry you didn’t catch me on one of my more cheerful days.”

“It’s quite all right, especially if our lunch together has made you feel the slightest bit better.”

“It has indeed. I always feel better when we’ve been together. My God, Charles it’s been 42 years since we met at university.”

“You’re wrong there, mate, 44.”

“Has it? My god you’re right.”

“That’s a long friendship.”

“It is and I’ve enjoyed it. How can one contemplate suicide with such a good friend.”

“Dear me, Gordon, you’re getting quite sentimental now.”

“You know, I'll  take that as a compliment.”

“Well then you’re welcome.”

“As are you.”



14 June 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 91, Entry 20, Unfortunately This is Mostly About the Action Around the Bird Feeder -- Still, Somewhat Amusing

Yes, it's another picture I took of a sparrow at the bird feeder.

Okay well I’ve written something today. Sure the first two words were: okay and well, but that doesn’t alter the facts that words have appeared on a computer screen as a consequence of my typing. Subsequent words have formed sentences and indeed an entire paragraph that ends right here.

I have a lot to say but no inclination to say it. I’ve stories to write, opinions to express, diatribes to launch into and summations to submit. Although right now I’m being distracted by a bird that is about ten feet away taking full advantage of our bird feeder. It’s a nervous looking bugger — they generally are, you know — who has to constantly scan the area. This is in part why the bird, like most, is such a sloppy eater. They spill about as much as they consume. As I completed the preceding sentence the bird departed and in his or her place a couple arrived and as I write this sentence they have been joined by two others therefore there are currently a record-tying four birds at the feeder. Must be family night out. They are all sparrows and one has significant red markings. Now they’ve all left. The birds never stay for long. A real dine and dash crowd these feathered friends. Thus the bird feeder is currently not in use. Just hanging there — never mind, a bird arrived — never mind it left again. That’s one thing that I like about the squirrels that come by. They hang around for a good bit. (Guess what, another bird has just arrived.) The missus and I have not noticed any squirrels climbing the bird feeder of late, indeed we’ve had little squirrel traffic these past two weeks. There were six or seven days in which neither of us saw any of our nut-loving friends. In fact, there used to be four or five different ones that came around and we’ve only had one juvenile about lately. Maybe there was a pogrom. Who knows? The most interesting animal appearance we’ve had recently was a gopher, of all things, who actually braved the outdoors when it was still daylight — although only just, the sun was fading from view. The odd thing — very, very odd — was that a noise spooked the gopher and it ran up some stairs. Why on Earth would a gopher go up stairs? Weird.

My life isn’t all birds, squirrels and gophers (nor moose, nor elk, nor catamounts nor badgers nor grizzlies nor bobcats nor wolverines nor Tasmanian devils) I continue to write, read, chat, watch films and take walks daily, usually in the company of my long-suffering spouse.

On said walks we have noted that — unfortunately — more and more people are eschewing masks. We live in Berkeley not Redneck City, Oklahoma, so this is especially disappointing. It seems a simple enough proposition to keep the masks on when near other human beings. I’ve read that if everyone wore masks we could put a serious dent in this pandemic and be out all the sooner enjoying something at least approaching a normal life. But people are wonderful, horrible, kind, thoughtless, brilliant, stupid, beautiful, nasty, creative, brain dead and utterly baffling. I here note that all of the preceding adjectives have applied to me over the course of my life in addition to many others, both on the positive and negative sides of the ledger. I ruminate constantly about the time I’ve spent on this planet and have found much to  wince at and much to be proud of and a lot to be baffled by. I would imagine that applies to a lot of people. Perhaps most.

The squirrels and birds that I see everyday don’t change much. I applaud them for their consistency and reliability but lament the fact that they can’t learn. You’d figure they’d know by now I wouldn’t harm them for anything so that if I get out my chair, go out the front door and pay my respects they needn’t scurry off.

I'm now as sick of writing about birds as you are of reading about them. You're welcome.

Ideas for future posts: The writing process; living part time in 1941 (as I’m doing in writing my novel); the vagaries of being a sports fan (it should be all fun and games — isn’t); proving that the Seventies was the best decade of film; my experiences as an ESL teacher; most underrated films by great directors; and the recent alien encounter I has and how it’s changed my relationship with the universe.

Meanwhile I close with these words of wisdom from Robert Benchley: “there are two kinds of people in the world, people who think that there are two kinds of people in the world, and people who don’t.”


09 June 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 86, Entry 19, A Post in Two Parts Focusing First on the Quarantine Then on Protests

Photo by author of today's march.
I’m getting stir crazy. This is different than the normal garden variety of crazy that has been my constant companion, lo these many years. This is not about past trauma or a chemical imbalance, this stems from being stuck in the same place with the same routine for months. Consecutive months, at that.

Every morning I breakfast while catching up on the news. Then I write for three hours. I chat with the wife, meditate, exercise, eat lunch, go for a walk with the the missus, watch a movie, read, have dinner then maybe watch the telly with the missus or write some more or read some more or watch another movie. Then I go back to bed and get some sleep so I’ll be refreshed for the same routine the next day. Sundays I neither exercise nor write. 

Each day brings a sense of accomplishment, particularly if it’s been a good writing day, as most are. But each day is virtual carbon copy of the preceding one.

I want to go to a museum.

I want to dine in a restaurant.

I want to sit in a ballpark.

I want to browse in a bookstore.

I want to get a manicure.

I want to not have to dodge people as I’m out for a stroll.

But I also want to stop having to read about Trump and the latest nonsense he’s spewed whether it’s a racist remark, the spreading of a conspiracy theory, an easily refutable lie, a dangerous and divisive opinion or an act of brazen self-promotion.

For four years when I was  teaching middle school I had the worst imaginable boss and now for almost four years I’ve suffered along with millions through the worst imaginable president. I here predict that 200 years from now Trump will still be regarded as the worst president ever. If somehow there has been a worse one it’ll have meant the end of the republic — not that it we can be certain that it can survive the current leader.

I am encouraged by the protests that have taken place all over the country and the fact that they have such wide, mainstream support. It looks like many Americans have — finally — woken to the fact that racism is alive and well in the U.S. and that it is institutional and part and parcel to most police departments. I’m also gratified to learn that so many people support massive reform of our police forces, including defunding them. There is no better perspective on the current state of the police in this country and the need for change than was provided by John Oliver in the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight. If you haven't watched it yet, by all means do so. (But not until after you finish reading this masterpiece.)

One can also find encouragement in the presidential polls that show Joe Biden well ahead of Trump and further indicate that a Democratic takeover of the Senate is entirely possible. The United States has often come out of dark times by righting previous wrongs and putting in place fairer more equitable systems that have benefitted the poor and disadvantaged over the wealthy and powerful (these gains have never been led by, and indeed have had opposition in, conservatives). Note as examples the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement.

It’s always darkest before the dawn and my goodness but it is dark these days.

For those of you keeping score at home the first part was written this morning, this part is being written in the early evening.
I was nestling into a new book about ninety minutes ago when I heard what vaguely sounded like music in the distance. It had been quiet, which is perfect for reading, and so I was not pleased by the muffled sounds coming from I knew-not-where. The missus emerged from our bedroom and said that there had been a rally at a park a mile or so away and that the sound we were hearing was drummers among the group and that said group was marching toward downtown. It was one of the many blessed rallies/marches/demonstrations that have been gracing this country these past weeks. Berkeley and yours truly are no stranger to demonstrations, I was practically raised on them. I’ve been damn lazy about the most recent ones and aim to participate more in the coming days.

The march was coming up a large street just a block from where we live so I found my mask and headed over to, as the kids would say, check it out.

I arrived just as the march was approaching. There were drums, there were chants, there were signs but most of all there were people. An ecstatic feeling washed over me as they streamed by. I was in the presence of large numbers of my fellow human beings. Many were closer than the prescribed six feet but all were wearing masks — I don’t remember seeing a single sole without one on. I snapped photos aplenty and took a few videos and joined for a few blocks at the back of the group. It was wonderful to be among so many others and in such a great spirit for such a good reason.

Joyous. Happy. I returned to our abode and shared the photos with the spouse and shared my impressions.
Earlier in the day I’d been seized by a powerful depression and it had taken me several tries to be able to so much as read. Now I felt great. Elated. 

The euphoria has worn off now and I’m feeling normal -- a rare state for me. But I also feel determined to do my bit and be a full participant next time there's a nearby march. Power to the people!

06 June 2020

The Author Discuss His Hangover -- Which was not Caused by Alcohol

A visual approximation of the offending concoction.

I’ve got a hangover today. No, I haven’t started drinking again. The culprit was a milkshake. I’d been craving one for awhile so the missus included vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup in our latest grocery delivery. She warned me about having a shake in the evening as dessert, saying it was liable to cause me stomach troubles around bedtime. Why not have one tomorrow during the day, she suggested. The thing is that I knew she was right. The other thing is that I’m an addict. As a drinker I engaged in self-destructive behavior, often knowing the consequences that awaited after a night of debauchery. Nonetheless, I persisted (and not in the good Elizabeth Warren kind of way). Through the teeth, past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes.

The milkshake was delicious and I enjoyed every second of it. Hey, I feel fine, I thought after the last gulp had been swallowed. And I continued to feel fine — a tad bloated, but what’s that to worry about? — as the evening wore on. As a precaution I stayed up well past my bedtime to allow dinner and the milkshake (did I mention how tasty it was?) to digest. I settled into the sack confident that a comfortable night of sleep awaited me. I settled into the sack awaiting the inevitable rumblings in my abdominal regions. I was of two minds.

I put my book down, turned off the nightlight, laid on my back and within seconds there were rumblings down below. I sat back up for a bit, managed a good hearty belch and made a second effort to visit slumberland. That effort lasted but a minute or so before I was sitting up again. Then the recriminations started. I was I-told-you-soing myself. left and right. Meanwhile, my darling wife was sleeping soundly at my side.

It was perhaps twenty minutes after my first attempt that sleep overcame my intestinal discomfort. Not a terrible price to pay for so delicious a treat. However….

An hour later I awoke and sat up straight as an arrow. There was a terrific internal debate being waged in my belly. One side of the argument there raging posited that I should yield to the inevitable and regurgitate the contents of my stomach. This did not appeal to me nor did it seem the fait accompli that one portion of my intestinal tract was insisting it was. In any event sleep was not possible, at least in a prone position. I got out of bed and wandered into the living room unsure what course of action to take. I finally settled upon sitting upright in our recliner with a blanket draped over me. This I did while feeling terribly sorry for myself. Poor me, a victim of my own gluttony and addictive personality.

At last I found deep sleep, albeit in a sitting position. An hour later I awoke and returned to our sleeping chamber, my tummy feeling perfectly normal. Hurrah!

I am no longer capable of sleeping late so I awoke only thirty minutes later than usual, my head feeling like I’d been on a bender. My morning ablutions and breakfast helped, but now, nearly three hours after rising I feel the effects of a poor night’s sleep. But I shall carry on through the day — likely taking a nap at some point — doubtless to retire early and be full of piss and vinegar again tomorrow.

Have I learned my lesson? I answering with a resounding Yes! And with an equally resounding No! I've been sober for over 32 years and in that time I have learned many a lesson about over indulging, accepting one's limitations, changing behaviors and seeking wisdom. However last night's milkshake made clear that I have not reached a destination in my recovery but am sill on a journey. Ups and downs continue apace. Progress not perfection as we twelve-steppers say.

(By the way, did I mention how good that milkshake was?)

02 June 2020

Six Reasons Why People are Mad (Hint: They've Every Right to Be)

“Black people need some peace, white people need some peace, and we're gonna have to fight, we're gonna have to struggle, we're gonna have to struggle relentlessly to bring about some peace, because the people that we're asking for peace, they're a bunch of megalomaniac warmongers and they don't even understand what peace means.” -- Fred Hampton

Here’s why people are angry.
1. Black people in the United States are still being targeted, brutalized and killed by police officers. Only in recent years have we begun to grasp the full extent of the terror visited upon our African-American brothers and sisters thanks to the advent of smart phones and police body cams. For every shocking video we see there are doubtless dozens of other incidents that go unrecorded. Imagine if you will how many people of color were regularly abused by officers of the law in the time before video cameras were readily available. I suppose there’s a sense among many that, after each new outrage that surely this has to be the last of it. There has been too much exposure, there’s greater sensitivity among law enforcement, lessons have been learned. It is white people who think this way. Meanwhile the oppressed continue to face the same fears of police -- the very people charged with protecting citizens. I remember as a middle school teacher being initially surprised to hear some of my African-American students speak of their lack of faith in our police and was then shocked as they detailed very good reasons why.

2. Racism in the age of Trump is alive and well and has enjoyed something of a rebirth. Trump’s open bigotry has made it feel safe for the worst knuckle-draggers in our society to crawl out from under their rocks and spew their venom. But we’ve also seen how proliferate racism is among mainstream society. Witness the recent video by the African American birdwatcher in Central Park. Note also the many other instances (again we obviously only see those caught on camera) when whites call the police on Black people for everything from barbecuing to jogging to carrying out a building inspection. In the wake of some of the successes of the Civil Rights Movement and the subsequent election of African-Americans to higher profile elective offices in the Seventies, it seemed that we might be entering a post racial society. The language of bigotry was deemed inappropriate for public consumption. One notorious word could not even be spoken any longer by whites. Sadly all we had done was to drive the hateful language and the bigots underground. With the tacit approval of Trump, they have re-emerged unafraid to inflict their hateful, hurtful language.

3. People are goddamned sick and tired of Trump. Many have been sick of him since before he was even inaugurated and began defiling the office of the presidency. There seem to be new depredations, new insults, new outrages, new acts of wanton ignorance and unimaginable stupidity coming out of the White House every day. To call it failed leadership is like saying that the Titanic's last crossing was bumpy. There is no leadership at all; instead there is a drive backwards. Gains made recently in such areas as environmental laws and social justice are being reversed or snuffed out. Incompetence and impotence are rife in the executive branch. Morality has given way to greed. People can live with a leader they disagree with and wait to try to oust him in the next election, but living with a narcissistic, sociopath is beyond unsettling, it is deleterious to the emotional health of a nation. You cannot reason with a delusional paranoid.

4. People are also sick and tired of Republicans in Congress and particularly in the Senate and most particularly Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. We no longer have a loyal opposition. We have obstructionists whose sole raison d'etre is to further the aims of their party — the country be damned — and are unwilling to “reach across the aisle” for any reason but to give a metaphorical middle finger. They aid and abet Trump at every turn, being codependents to his megalomania. Meanwhile they comfort the rich and afflict the poor and ignore the will of the people on innumerable issues such as sensible gun control. They are a people without conscience and are every bit as responsible as Trump for the mess the country is in and the anger that has been percolating within it. They care a lot for guns and little for voting rights. They care a lot for corporations and wealthy donors and little for the disadvantaged. They look to revive the Gilded Age in America while promoting a laissez faire government that lives to feed its corporate overlords.

5. The coronavirus has brought death and illness to all parts of the country while at the same time depriving people of their inalienable right to pursue happiness. People cannot take vacations, cannot travel, cannot watch or attend sports events, go to restaurants, parks, theaters, beaches or shops. Millions are losing huge chunks of their income and their savings and small business have been devastated. Compounding matters are the idiots who deny the virulence of the disease and want to prematurely return to normal heedless of the consequent risk to human life. Thanks in large part to the Idiot-in-Chief the country lacks leadership (just as it lacked an effect response to the virus at the beginning when many lives could have been saved and much heartache averted). Some governors (Republicans again) are in denial about the dangers of the virus and are making matters worse by prematurely re-opening business and beaches. The mixed messages from what experts (a group of people that Trump and his ilk have no use for) say and what politicians allow is further confusing and confounding Americans. When government denies the empiricism of scientists and heeds only the needs of the wealthy, people justifiably  feel betrayed.

6. Americans are sick and tired of bad news. Some merely want normal. Others want normal and reforms. Others want normal and revolution. All of us seek something better. A cleansing of our government, of our police departments, of a culture that still gives license to our most bigoted and hateful voices. Some people are angry about what they perceive as rioting which is in fact demonstrating for justice, equality and an end to state-sponsored violence against people of color. It is amazing to me that anyone is surprised by or disappointed in the angry masses taking to the streets. It’s akin to complaining that someone who stubbed his toe has, in crying out in pain, disturbed you. What does one expect the aggrieved to do? Write a sternly worded letter to their congressman? Many Americans, particularly people of color, are in pain and crying out and I say it’s about damned time. Why are people angry? Who wouldn't be?