TLDR Tuesday-Race in America

Until yesterday afternoon, I didn’t know what that four-letter acronym meant. I do now.

It’s amazing that I didn’t know about it. TLDR perfectly sums up my life as a writer/blogger. Most of what I write is too long, or too liberal, or too __________ fill-in an “L-word” here.

While urban dictionary has a host of great descriptions (I liked #1 and #4) in defining the acronym, I also think it could also mean, “Too Lazy Didn’t Read.”

I get it—most people don’t read. That’s not a judgment—it’s a fact! While there are many studies out that detailing American readership, I’ll just go with this one, as they’re all pretty dire to me, a voluminous reader. Well, actually, 12 books a year seemed a bit high (are they counting comic books?), but then again, I’ll read more than 60 for the year.

Joel R. Feagin's "Racist America."

Joel R. Feagin’s “Racist America.”

It’s fitting that my reading here at the end of 2014 has taken me down the path to race in America. Last night, I was sitting in my living room, watching events unfold in Ferguson, and what I’ve been reading from Joe R. Feagin’s Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations was playing out on my television screen.

Both Feagin’s book and Todd Beer’s excellent blog, SOCIOLOGYtoolbox, have been helpful in framing my own “big picture” about Ferguson and race in in America. Feagin serves up a buffet-like spread, in volume and depth of topic. Beer provides the context, and the sociological understanding (the lens through which I view most topics) necessary for distance and perspective.

While the media was doing its darned-well-best to frame Ferguson as an island, systematic racism isn’t limited to Ferguson.

What is systematic racism? Feagin frames and defines it early in his introduction.

(quoting Feagin)
In the United States racism is structured into the rhythms of everyday life. It is lived, concrete, advantageous for whites, and painful for those who are not white. Each major part of a black or white person’s life is shaped by racism. Even a person’s birth and parents are shaped by racism, since mate selection is limited by racist pressures against interracial marriage. Where one lives is often determined by the racist practices of landlords, bankers, and others in the real estate profession. (Feagin ticks of a longer list of things determined by racism in America, but I’ve excluded them, due to length.)

Protestors in Ferguson attempt to overturn police car (David Goldman/AP photo)

Protestors in Ferguson attempt to overturn police car (David Goldman/AP photo)

Feagin goes on from there. This snippet, however, is the key and what I was thinking about last night, as the militarized police moved on angry blacks, who were reacting to yet another failure of the system to punish those who randomly kill black men in America.

(again, quoting Feagin)
One of the great tragedies today is the inability or unwillingness of most white Americans to see and understand racist reality. Among whites, including white elites, there is a commonplace denial of personal, family, and group histories of racism. Most do not see themselves or their families as seriously implicated in white-on-black oppression, either in the distant past or in the present. Referring to themselves, most whites will say fervently, “I am not a racist.” Referring to their ancestors, many will say something like, “my family never benefited from owning slaves,” or “my family never benefited from segregation.” Assuming racial discrimination to be mostly a thing of the past, many whites will assert that African Americans are “paranoid” about racism and will often give them firm advice: Forget the past and move on, because “slavery happened hundreds of years ago.”

The election of Barack Obama as president was supposedly an indication that America was now a “post-racial nation.”

Issues like race and what’s happening in Ferguson (and elsewhere) require sociological imagination—the ability to see the relationship between one’s individual life and the effects of larger social forces.

Beer’s “Racism and the Police: The Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson” post is an example of the deployment of sociological imagination to see the bigger picture of race and the other social forces behind what’s happening on the ground. The media rarely do a good job in this area.

So, not only is this likely too long, it’s also too layered, and leans too far left for most.

This Is Not a Blog About Paul LePage

As tempting as it is to keep writing about issues and politics, I just don’t feel like taking on immigration this morning. I know the president gave a speech about it last night. I’m sure that half the country is aflame with hate and spewing vitriol this AM, but I just don’t have the heart or the energy to do the usual binary shuffle this early in the day. Although……

Speaking of vitriol, me and the newly re-elected governor rarely see eye-to-eye on any issue—that being said, three of my best five days for blog stats in 2014 involved posts centered on good ole’ Paul LePage—like this one on NASCAR and economic boondoggling. The next four years should be good ones for anyone buying stock in the LePage Blogging Industrial Complex. Continue reading

Luck Makes the Man

His story isn’t new. However, it’s one that’s been embellished. Sometimes it’s important to shine a little truth around, to at least temper some of the misinformation.

I find it telling that Governor Paul LePage, the recipient of largesse from benefactors when he was in his teens, continues to further his own twisted ideology and war on the poor, this time on the backs of 19 and 20-year-olds. In essence that’s what he attempted to do, except that a federal appeals court ruled that it was illegal, on Monday. Continue reading

Elimination

We all have a finite period of time here on planet earth. No one knows if there’s an encore, or not. I’m betting there isn’t.

Given that our days, breaths, and narrative arc runs up against “the end” at some point, why do we piss away so much of our productivity and creativity? That’s the kind of existential question that warrants a much longer treatise than I’m going to give it today.

Richard Ford has a new book. It’s another meditation on the life of one Frank Bascombe. I haven’t devoted much time to Ford’s writing, but based upon Wednesday night’s intriguing interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, I’m likely to read the new novel. Continue reading

Culturally Clueless

We’ve just stumbled through yet another mid-term election. As if the weeks of candidate commercials and political advertorials weren’t enough—we’ve now had to endure a week’s worth of hand-wringing and Monday morning quarterbacking coming from the pundit class.

What happened?

What happened?

If you aren’t Republican (I am not), then waking up Wednesday morning left most of us lefties scratching our heads. Some were even depressed about the results, talking about moving somewhere else. While progressive issues like raising the minimum wage, legalizing pot, and rejecting the passage of personhood won out in many states, this was a minor palliative for non-conservatives, with the counterpoint being that a Republican wave washed across the national landscape. Is this a sign that voters still have some progressive inclination? Better, it might demonstrate the schizophrenic nature of those going out to vote. Continue reading

Hat Season

Back in 2009 when I lost nearly 60 pounds and went from being the typically overweight white guy approaching middle age, to a slimmer version of that guy, I’ve become “cold-blooded.” When I say, “cold-blooded,” I don’t mean in a Truman Capote, killer sort of way, either. I mean that when the weather turns cold—like it has in the last week—I’m always freezing.

I guess those 60 pounds of blubber helping me fend off the chill of winter in ways that being not quite svelte, but by no means a fatty, no provide me with that buffer. Last weekend’s falling back an hour and subsequent early snow was a premonition of what’s just around the bend. Thursday’s dampness and temperatures hovering all day in the low 40s forced me to face the inevitable—it’s time to break out the hat collection. For the next five months, I’ll be rocking a winter hat for most of my waking hours.

When I was a teenager and concerned about what the opposite sex thought of me, I didn’t like wearing hats. Mainly this was because it matted my dark locks. This, despite being told by old-timers that most of one’s body heat exits through the top of their head (this is not true, apparently, so go figure—I’d dispute the experts on this). Continue reading

If 6 Was 9

Most mornings, I’m up and at my laptop working at 5:00 am. Being a notoriously light sleeper, I find the best time to work for me, and when my energy is at its peak, is between then and around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. So, in order to leverage my strengths, that’s how I usually structure my days, at least when I don’t have outside responsibilities or appointments that prevent me from doing so. That’s how I roll as a free agent.

When I’m working, I enjoy listening to music, usually on headphones or through ear buds. It’s a habit I’ve developed so I don’t disturb Miss Mary when she’s down below, working in her office area, before she’s out and about making sales calls.

My music sources of choice are usually radio stations (rather than music services like Pandora, although I’m not averse to Pandora) that also stream their content. One of my favorites is WMBR, which is the MIT campus radio station. I think I’ve come to appreciate WMBR more than prior defaults like WFMU and KEXP, is that their early morning Breakfast of Champions and Late Risers Club slots during the weekday provide a mix of punk, post-punk, and current indie pop and rock that jives with my eclectic tastes and the desire to stay as current with the rock genre as I can now that I’m post-50 and no longer young.

The Jimi Hendrix-Hamburg, Germany, 1967.

The Jimi Hendrix-Hamburg, Germany, 1967.

Continue reading

Fear and Hatred

Thirty years ago, I thought I had all the answers. At 21, life seemed simple in some ways. Economically, things sucked—I was working at a job that paid 25 cents above minimum wage and I had a newborn son and wife to take care of. I was 1,500 miles from my family and support system in a post-industrial part of the country where the unemployment rate was hovering around 15 percent. But I was okay because I was in the center of God’s will.

It’s interesting when you believe that the answers to life’s questions are contained in a book that was written by men who lived 2,000 years ago. Whenever things didn’t go right for Mary and me, the solution offered by our spiritual leaders was to pray, give more money to Jack Hyles, and drag a few more converts down the aisle to get baptized at First Baptist Church of Hammond. Continue reading

Boston and Book Streaks

For six years now, I’ve traveled to Boston to spend an October Saturday in Copley Square. The occasion has always been centered on books, writers, and publishers. There’s also a “streak thing” going on, too.

Books galore in Copley Square (#BBF2014).

Books galore in Copley Square (#BBF2014).

I attended the inaugural Boston Book Festival in 2009, and each subsequent one. I always meet up with my son, Mark, and we spend the day listening to authors, perusing book tables, talking about writing (along with sports and politics), and scouting out the best offerings of the myriad of publishers who set up shop in one of the Boston’s celebrated public squares, a patch of real estate hearkening back to the city’s storied past. Continue reading

So What?

I’ve been thinking about this phrase since yesterday when I heard news that affected me and some of the things that I hold dear. If I were to voice my thoughts this morning—when everything seems a jumble and so uncertain—most readers (mainly the drive-by types) would just utter, “so what?”.

Most of the time, the  things that matter to me don’t seem to affect others. It’s that “out of the mainstream” orientation that I’ve held for most of my life. I’m not a fan of the status quo because in most cases, it rarely gets to the core of the matter. Continue reading