Tag Archives: race

The task of the writer: be bold and daring

The Last man is a big novel in a small package. As a reader told me recently, it begins introspectively, inside the Last Man’s head and then “it punches you right in the face.” This was the novel I was meant to write. It challenged me as no other novel I have written, assailing unexplored frontiers and realities, not just within my heart but those beyond my normal experience.

A couple of weeks ago I went to see  a theater piece by friends and former cast members of my play “Occupy My Heart” For the play my director cast a black woman, Donier (pronounced: Donyay) Tyler, in the role of  a ditsy girl, but in this new piece I recall watching her come to several parts with this amazing strength and confidence. The realization was instant and powerful; The Last Man could be, or should be a woman!

The whole point of the book, and the stage adaptation is to besiege paradigms on systems of power. I’d written the main character as a black man on trial for his life. Casting Donier in a dramatic reading for the stage and Youtube later this month revealed a whole new dimension to the story, one I exalt in realizing and lament for not realizing earlier.

And so, this past weekend I sat down to read the piece aloud with Donier. The piece is from the trial, in which the Last Man is arguing for his very life. Alone, with the court and odds stacked plainly against him, he remains defiant, if for no other reason that to show pride and disdain for his accusers and would-be executioners. She paused a moment, pulling herself into the part. Slapping her hand hard to the table she began, with all that strength and passion I’d glimpsed earlier. Her voice rose in the still of the livingroom. She was the Last Man.

“Kill that dog!” Her hand fell loudly against the table.  “If a man uses a dog to keep you from what is yours, kill that dog! Violence is the last domain of the downtrodden. Power concedes nothing without demand, said Frederick Douglas. There is an implicit power behind any demand, or it has no value. The only true power of the powerless is violence. Or the potential for violence. It must be a possibility when power is unbalanced. You must understand, that when your power overcomes reason and justice and mercy, that I may rise against you, and that our very existence becomes part of the negotiation…”

Against those who hold and abuse power, the words of the writer are violence, and are thus met with their ultimate rage. It is the reason that oppressive regimes and rulers single out the writer and artist first for destruction. and whether under benevolent or oppressive government, the writer has a responsibility to be bold, to dare to tell the truth that resides within the human heart, and which ultimately guides or rampages in human society. In that way, The Last Man might well be applied to the responsibility and the danger of writing and writing the truth.

“…I must justify my existence,” Donier continued. “Men must tolerate men by right of agreement. You must know that my rights are inviolable, and that no man may ‘give’ another man rights, for if you can give those rights then you may take them away.  No one gives me rights. They are mine, and if taken away then they are stolen, and that is the difference. Hence the words of Malcolm X; Kill that dog! I have done nothing. This right to exist is mine by virtue that I am, and if you remove that from me then it is you have committed the real crime!”


Universal language: Our planet’s common culture

I’ve been mulling this over for some time, a way of quantifying the rudimentary universal communication, unspoken understandings, subtle negotiations, and at time overt mercies that cross the lines between species. It points to the common connection all living creatures share on this planet, and perhaps something more profound: the idea that the Earth may be more than a planet teeming with autonomous creatures, each rushing headlong towards their individual fates. Instead the world may very well be and behave as a single organism!

It is an incredible and fantastic thought, but what would compel animals to adopt and nurture animals from another species, as in the case-certainly not the only one-of the Lion and orphaned Antelope? ( BBC News,Lioness adopts third baby antelope, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1905363.stmOr that animals would act in any way inconsistent with instinctual imperatives, such as same-sex pair bonding? (BBC News, Homosexual zebra finches form long-term bond,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14479670)

But what I am looking for is a basis which connects all things to one another, to find and define that common language that transcends species. Some might call that God, or Gaia, the Great Spirit, or an energy which exists in all things. I believe that it is much deeper and much quieter and far more profound,a common and eminently simple global language that transcends any Human religion.

Fundamental to an interspecies language is life itself. There exists in every organism the imperative to simply exist. That imperative is, from a communication perspective, a statement-perhaps the ultimate statement between species. It is a statement fundamental to all living things, from the most rudimentary to the most complex. It is, from this simple statement, I believe, the cornerstone of that planetary language. From that statement more of that basic language begins to come into focus. Second to the statement of existence are assertions of pain.

Pain is hardly as simple a definition as it may seem. Pain is struggle. Pain is threat and distress, but pain can also be truth. Pain, in the absence of any direct form of communication becomes a basis for negotiation, because each individual creature’s pain is entirely its own, and therefore an absolute fact. The communication comes, between individuals, in the level of acknowledgment of each other’s pain and in the negotiation with one another’s pain.

We are surprised and awed by the Lioness that adopts a helpless antelope, by the way animals recognize human pain and illness, by the cat mothering ducklings or the dog nursing kittens. We are stunned and amazed when animals portray social and mental acuity beyond what we would expect of simple creatures possessed fully by their base instincts.

We expect our pets to respond to us, to come when we call, to fetch and heel, to shake, stay and rollover. I began last year repeating the word “love” while grooming or petting our cat, Oliver. I have no illusions that he holds a concept of “love,” so to speak. But I am quite sure that he finds pleasure in the word, for now if I say it from across the room his ears go up and his tail wags in a way it doesn’t with other words. In Oliver’s simple way, in a mental language all his own,the physical sound of the word evokes pleasurable recollections of being scratched or brushed. In a Rudimentary sense, Oliver has formed a concept-his concept- of love.

Perhaps our amazement over displays of “humanity” by animals awakens our own desires for hope and peace in the face of animosities over such terribly superficial things like religion, nationality and race among members of the very same species. In some ways it is likewise of an indictment of mercies and tenderness we so often fail to extend to one another.

 

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An Apology for Donald Trump

I would like to apologize for the blatantly racist tactics of Donald Trump, the birthers and those who are pandering to this foolishness. How many white politicians have been asked to prove their legitimacy? Washington had a British accent. Indeed, all the founding fathers were born citizens and subjects of a foreign country.

I will reference Trump’s Press conference, in which a Black journalist rose to ask a question. Trumps reply was that he was an obvious Obama supporter. To which the journalist replied, “Why would you assume that?’

Why would he assume that? Because the guy was black like Obama? What other criteria would automatically provoke Trump’s response? Later Trump remarked that Blacks support Obama to an “alarming degree.”

Trump got his way, much to the enjoyment of the racists in this country, who are still there, just slicker about their message. Once upon a time we use to call people like that smart asses, but I digress. The proverbial white guy got the colored boy to dance and look the fool, or so he believes. It is his, and others like him, it is his racism, couched and polished and veiled as it is that has been dragged out into the light of day, precisely where cockroaches loathe to be.

Thing is, they dirty and defame all white people who eschew such filth, even as we fight against endemic racial attitudes filtering through the culture and humanity constantly.

I have long-held that racism is a part of every soul, like greed and revenge and gluttony. But these things the balanced and contrite soul struggles to put away into those darker parts of each of us which we understand are antithetical to proper human relations and decent well-mannered society.

Trump, FOX and the birthers, unleashed and cultivated for years in the American media, have allowed and lost themselves in their basest urges and ignorances. They have deepened divisions between people, defining white and black and brown America as an us and them concept., and for this, on behalf of all decent white folks, I deeply and remorsefully apologize.


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