Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues


(I did, and therein hangs a tale in Massachusetts. Read on what was said to my fellow citizens. You may wish to do the same where you live).

          There’s a sad, sorry history of our coming to these shores. Some strive to face and correct the injustices covered by such truth; others may care not a fig.

          In that rough-and-tumble of what is a proud narrative to us, forgotten are the indigenous people who occupied what is now “our” territory by dint of force. We are among the guilty of the world for taking what we did because we could: either we outnumbered or out-gunned those already occupying what was their homeland.

          A bloody conquest it was and we know it if we’ve taken the time or someone wisely brought us to knowledge of it as good teachers and mentors. Others, not so much: despite the relics of this grand theft being before our very eyes, they give it not a thought; the more enlightened need to stand for the forgotten people, and for the promised land of history’s redemption.

          The Massachusetts flag and seal bear all the marks of what we need to know and do. As this was written, local citizens were before the Newburyport City Council with a Resolution to make the true, moral, and necessary changes to our state flag and seal as a formal step toward righting the wrongs those images bear.

          The first seal, dated a mere nine years after our intrusion, shows a half-nude native calling for someone to “Come over and help us”—a notion that fit the invaders’ smug excuse for a takeover. Two years before the 20th century a new flag and seal must have been created by Dr. Frankenstein himself—a hodge-podge representation of the vanquished people, molded into one figure, with facial features of a Chippewa chief from far away Montana; parts of a native skeleton dug up in Winthrop; and a bow nabbed from a native killed in Sudbury–but lacking a quiver to let the observer know the pieced-together man has been “pacified.” His belt was patterned after that of Metacomet’s, leader in the first Native war and known to us as King Philip, whose head had been impaled upon a spike for all to see in Plymouth for over 20 years, a rewarding sight for our gentle forebears who were all too glad to be rid of his kind.

          The Resolution calls on our fair city to adopt it in support of a Special Commission of the Commonwealth, in hopes of creating a new flag and seal. Hopefully it will end in the hands of state Sen. Collins and Rep. Cabral, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on State Administration and to legislators overall, that the necessary changes may be made.

          In Washington, D.C. one can walk in the very steps of Lincoln—something that sends tingles up the spine. Here we walk where once trod the Abenaki, Pennacook and Massachusett, et al, and their present descendants–a reminder from the Resolution that we share a rich history with them. We should also know much more of earlier ones and those still among us.

          The 400th anniversary of the settlers’ landing was three years ago. If we’ve managed some reflection of that, the work is not done. We still appropriate their symbols for school, athletic and other self-interests that came at a cost, not to us, but to them.

          No one likes to hear the particulars of bloody history so I’ll spare you that, but as the Resolution winds its way through our local government and comes to a vote next month, you may wish to be there on behalf of those who live, sadly, in the recesses of our minds as if from a galaxy faraway.

          We all stand on someone’s shoulders in our private lives: forebears, mentors and sometimes angels unaware. But other shoulders were there as well and they count too. What a world it would be if we honored them to the fullest, that their legacy never die nor recede into our social amnesia.

          Some of you were there not long ago when we rescued another twist of history to its deserved name of Indigenous Peoples Day. I’ll say now what I said then: be there or be square as we take another step to right grievous wrongs.



          Hello, Valentines. Each February, storefronts are sick with every color of red and within are the obligatory flaming crimson cards and all the candy that’s bad for us. It’s also Black History month and, aye, there’s the rub.

          Love for people on the basis of their common humanity takes a back seat to the romantic kind. We don’t like people generally. At Christmas the prophet Isaiah is invoked for his vision of universal peace, something impossible without a sense that we are all in this together. Isaiah was Hebrew so it’s curious that he’s our poster boy for peace when he and his people are victims of the oldest hatred in the world. 

          Then there is our lack of love in the systemization of police brutality that led to Tyre Nichols beaten to death by five cops of his own race in the selfsame city where Martin Luther King, Jr. died over half a century ago fighting for the rights and equality of black people.

          In another life I was clergy in the American South. I had the naïve notion that if people merely heard the truth they would change. Silly me. I was rather popular till I found some parishioners were ex-KKK and proceeded to enlighten them. Their least favorite was my pulpit remark that some people would never accept blacks until they turned white.

          Then I invited a black minister to exchange pulpits, at which there were threats to torch the church and the kindly old deacons who had first approved the exchange reversed course for fear of losing that historic structure. I ventured to say that if such occurred we could wear it like a badge of honor and when anyone said there was no racism in those parts, we need only point to the ashes of the church.

          It was one that prided itself on freedom of the pulpit so the next Sunday I resigned saying that they were denying the preaching and presence of someone whose religion was closer to theirs than mine was. They urged me not to leave, just to stop the nonsense about civil rights—for me, a non-starter and in two weeks I was gone. But I would have thought that by 2023 we of all colors would have kissed, made up and got along.

          Then came the corollary to our dislike of Jews and Blacks, which is, “We Don’t Like Gays Either” when I served a church up north that didn’t like such persons. So my foot was in it again and the faithful fled my pronouncements. Call it out of the frying pan and into the fire. It didn’t help that I opposed the Vietnam war either, so I was off to a great start in my chosen profession.

          In time one could be disliked for a lot less than that, at which point I realized that many folks didn’t have enough to worry about but the wrong things. Sure enough along came the iconic heated town hall meetings around the U.S., the ultimate politicizing of any and everything, the blatant hypocrisy of American religion, and here we are. Hence it’s hard to be a big fan of those who say one thing and do the opposite.

          I know that all too soon this planet will be unfit for habitation, human or otherwise, and we’ll live in cities in the sky while plotting how to get to, and ruin, other planets—the way we grabbed territory here, forcing its natives to be the first to defend the homeland.

          An old B.C. cartoon depicted an ant orating atop a pillar before an immense number of other ants. When he predicted that humanity would destroy itself by war and hatred, and that ants would come to rule the world, a voice came from the crowd: “Red or Black?” Copy that.

          We’re not lovers. We’re haters. Our beliefs are not what we are, they’re what we think we want to be. If it’s Valentine’s Day, what’s love got to do with it? And if I’m wrong, prove it.


          Our winter holidays are a mishmash of many religions and historical events and thought of in general as celebrations of peace and love. Fancy that, given it’s often a time of anything but.

          Start with love—as in Barbara Love, a young denizen of Greenwich Village who morphed into a lifelong advocate for lesbians to have a place in the American Dream. She and they could have used more love then they got, and most often they suffered hostility and violence.

          In my headier journalistic days in Atlanta I never encountered her. I did catch up with feminist leaders of the time for interviews—including Gloria Steinem and Love’s bestie, Kate Millett. Love’s nemesis though was Betty Friedan with whom I made the mistake of asking the big question too early in the interview, about her opposition to lesbians in the feminist movement. Upon which she abruptly walked out on me—a signature move, as she was already on record for not wanting them around lest it damage the image of the larger movement. The “Lavender Menace” Friedan called them. So Love got little love from every direction but she moved mountains too. She died last month at the age of 85. She would have cheered that Brittney Griner got some big love due to a blockbuster deal that brought her home from Siberia.

          Then there is holiday heat, of which there seems to be more than light at this or any season. It’s best to call a spade a spade but when anyone points out that too much hatred is spewed at minorities, the perps always resent the accusation. What then shall we call it when people don’t want to serve same-sex couples and are willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court about it? A “difference of opinion,” a “spat,” “a mild contrast”?

          No, when you want to push or keep people at the margins of society to the point you interrupt all else you’re doing to make a stink about it, you’ve got some very strong feelings, for which hate is hardly a misnomer. Making laws against others is a way of hurting them and, if unsuccessful, what comes next? Well, book and Cross burnings, along with lynching are old school but now that a good many haters are fully armed, such is now a more favored method of choice. And that’s exactly what’s happening in many places.

          My gift of light this time of year came years ago from a family of German Jews who gave me the treat of a lifetime: the lighting of their Holiday Tree adorned with candles, which necessarily lit for but the briefest moment was a glorious sight. I’ve seen many dramatic Trees but that glimpse is the only one I recall vividly.

It was also emotional because they told me how they came to America: Many Jews early in the Nazi regime first got postcards urging their presence somewhere—after which they simply disappeared. My new friends decided, with various others, to ignore such summonses and quietly leave Germany, which they were allowed to do as what turned out to be, at the time, a simpler, pre-Dachau solution for the government. How symbolic the light of their Tree after the heat of hatred had chased them from their native land.

          So a thought for this time of year: Let’s just love people and try to understand them. Let there be no port for hate here. We lose too many angels unaware as it is, and how many might we miss, unless we get to know them.


          Thanksgiving nears, an iconic time for family and all such traditions supposedly held dear. It was the occasion of another Big Lie many years ago which manifested three quarters of a century later as a demon of our generation—the demon of tobacco, which any thinking person at that time knew to be a killer. But thinking people being ever in short supply, and the ones who did think being also short of power, the capitalist profiteers of the day made the bed in which millions would die painful and untimely deaths. My family so suffered and so did yours in all likelihood.

          The power of big tobacco was so great that many thought it would be the last of tyrannies to fall, if ever. So who was behind the real killer-weed? Its name is Legion, as the Good Book says, because it is many. Best to laser in on one of those many so we can see how times have changed.

          It was when Henry Luce bought the venerable Life Magazine and launched his maiden issue in November of 1936 in which Food Editor Dorothy Malone showed how best to purvey Thanksgiving dinner for both family and friends.

          She spoke of the classic turkey and all the fixin’s of said meal. But each was given rather short shrift, save for one constant: Camel Cigarettes. With an array of pictures Malone showed how to offer them the moment guests darkened the door, after the first course, between the expected first and second helpings of the Bird, following the Waldorf Salad, and as top-off to dessert and coffee for an end to a perfect day.

          And she had good reasons: cigarettes, she said, were aids to digestion, to clear the palate, increase alkalinity and add good cheer to the occasion. Said Malone, “It’s smart to have Camels on the table (for) a sense of digestive well-being.” Sadly, she never used the words “cancer-sticks,” but that’s what they were. It would take decades before leaked documents told the truth, including how Joe Camel became the go-to symbol for a new generation that was to embrace a deadly practice that evolved, thanks to the down-played ingredients, into their social habit, along with an older generation that should have known better.

          Thus the Turkey Day of that earlier time was a raw deal and not the kind of impression from Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover that said, sans words, that God was in his heaven and all was right with our blessings–aside from the hidden horrors of a certain aromatic weed.

          I use the word “weed” because it most often refers to marijuana, the thing that hundreds of thousands went to jail for selling, using or even being around and was thereby a threat to–you guessed it–Big Tobacco. Along with more potent substances, it was deemed a “drug,” while alcohol, also a drug, escaped notoriety—though its cost to society is more than all other drugs put together; hence the misleading phrase of the time, “alcohol ‘and’ drugs.” Among the heroes of all such consumption were rock stars, who were aware that their millions of adorers knew and modeled their drug-infused life-styles. They too are overlooked when assigning shame and blame for that tragic toll; but, hey, they’re musicians!—and idols!

          So what’s on and around your table this Thanksgiving? Betwixt spoonfuls, you may be treated to the wisdom of Trump Nation guests, willing to ruin everyone’s good time, not to mention digestion, with tales of a prior stolen election and the paybacks to be visited on both friend and foe.

          Be advised that your turkey may be another raw deal for the occasion.


          There’s a saying: “Cheer up, things could be worse; so I cheered up and sure enough—things got worse.’ Bobby McFerrin’s decades-old ditty, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” won’t work now, if it ever did.

          There’s plenty of fright left over from Halloween–and in biblical proportions: war, famine, earthquake, pestilence, fires and either too much water or not enough–some called acts of God, i.e., God’s fault (funny that). The rest is our doing, like nuclear weapons and political sadism, like Putin–and our own abuse of all minorities that come to mind or deign to get in our way.

          All mischief was once the work of a very scary Devil, portrayed as such because real evil often appears harmless when it’s really much worse. Salem, MA comes alive (or dead?) this time of year and all in fun, though it was no joke to the targets of social hysteria in 1692. Victims weren’t really witches, but that hardly mattered. Authors ever since have teased readers’ imaginations with whether a real Devil was at work back then—as if that were a serious question.

Marion Starkey’s landmark book, “The Devil in Massachusetts,” set the record straight: it was but the meanness of a gaggle of pubescent girls who cornered a ton of social power and rid their town of anyone they didn’t like, later begging off with the excuse that they had no idea what had gotten into them. Whoever doubts that kind of sway over others need only look at how kids that age now have driven classmates to suicide with another vehicle of hysteria—the internet.

But the same has been used by adults to convince others of big and little lies—and a Big One that plagues our electorate today. Not only does nearly half the population believe any and every glaring deception they hear but, while not coming out and saying so, are willing to forgo democracy for dictatorship.

What knuckleheaded history are they reading? Some twisted fantasy of the Confederacy or a glamorized narrative of slave owners and the human capital they cornered, trapped and cruelly used as chattel? Politically, are Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln not to their liking? All that money spent for more than a century to build new schools and universities—what went wrong? Or is it just the bewitchment of a tone-deaf, ignorant crowd whom soulless politicians will jump in front of once when they see where the mob is going?

It’s a cult with cult leaders. Give us a bit more rope and we can party like ancient Rome where might made right and the most depraved and violent got to be leader of the band. We thought it couldn’t happen in America, but it’s at the door and not at all like the one in our history books. Not that it hasn’t been tried, and luckily failed: a looney-tuned priest, Fr. Charles Coughlin, once championed such nonsense from behind a pulpit in Detroit; it looks like a mere blip of the past now but had it not been for the political mastery of FDR, things would have taken a nasty turn back then.

But the well was poisoned and it’s a direct line from that to Lee Atwater and his “politics of personal destruction,” to the banal journalism of Murdoch and Fox News, to Donald Trump and the evil that now lurks. 

So enjoy your Brain-Eating Living Dead—whatever they are—at your next movie, but there’s worse ahead. The popularity of the old Disaster movies has been explained as our watching someone else’s horror with the perverse satisfaction that it wasn’t us. The next mash-up may well have us in it, and the next act of God be one of the Devil for sure.

Al Capp’s mouthpiece Mammy Yokum said that good is better than evil because it’s nicer. We can lose the next elections not because democracy is nicer but because the alternative is worse than we imagine.  

Cheer up if you will, but after Nov. 8 buckle up, it’s apt to get a lot worse.


          Not a big fan of royalty. I take no hankering to kings and queens on thrones or in decks of cards.

          Let’s admit that when we left the Empire we didn’t entirely: Hollywood is our re-creation of royalty, with its unending Red Carpets—as is the world of athletics. In all, we pay obeisance to a lot of people.

          But we also let them go easily, when the next pretty face or the next G.O.A.T. comes along which, by the way, is our saving grace. We’re good at “moving on,” as the saying goes. The Brit’s “grace” is not a saving one. He or she is the next thing to a figment of imaginations, emperors with no clothes–and no real power,as in the bad old days, but ones on which the great impressionable population can project its fantasies.

          Royals more or less do nothing but sit on a pile of money, rear the worst dysfunctional families, play and go to parties. They also know how to put on a show: lift a finger and it’s to the tune of long-horns, parades, men dressed in fine but funny costumes—and the sound of cannon to drown out all who dare complain.

          The past queen outdid them all except for her namesake, in whose time all the world went on the move: to Rome, Canterbury, Jerusalem, et al, to look for bones and relics of the dearly departed saints. By the end of our Liz’s time we’re on the move, all right–apparently to hell and back, amid national and world disunity while peering into the chasm of god-knows-what.

          With her passing, the best we can say is: here we go again. Any and everyone who dislikes monarchies gets another dose of pomp and circumstance and maybe a tinge of guilt about being rough on all the grieving family. Then we’ll go through it again with Charles’ coronation, and who knows how long he may or may not live, or when he may just give up. Then William and his pretty little bride will have the hopes of all to be another young Charles and Diana but without all the drama.

          Sadly, I’ve mentioned Charles in passing and that won’t do–a man we first knew as young and dashing, and now an old fuddy-duddy, along the way having messed up his marriage to the people’s ab-fab favorite and is now with his dearest darling from the beginning—she who has no business being anything royal. Don’t expect Camilla to go hugging AIDS patients, the world’s hungry or hopscotching land mines. But the Buckingham press is already doing all it can to make her look presentable while she dines at the table that’ll never be empty. What’s really going to hurt, though, is that William and Harry, for the time being, literally have to bow to Camilla, oh, excuse me—the Queen Consort—trying all along to forget that it should be Diana, their own mum, instead.

          Charles actually thought about changing his name, given the checkered past of the earlier ones: Chaz I brought on the English Civil War and lost his head for it; and son C-II had a scandal-ridden reign in which he fathered more than a dozen illegitimates and took up sympathy for the wrong religion. This makes us ask why, along with all the other mistakes of our most-recent royalty, did they name our Charles that in the first place? But after he and his brain-trust mulled it over, they stuck with the moniker; hence, two mistakes over the same matter. This is going to be a pip of a reign.

As for the cornucopia by which the Royals barely survive, we also learn that Charles will not pay inheritance tax on his mum’s private estate: such a dun might put a harmful dent in that $750 million property. Our Bonnie Prince Charlie had already built his own empire whilst fumbling his youth away, but money breeds money and his own estate’s now worth a billion in its own right. The article heading that revealed this fact was headed, “King Charles Inherits Untold Riches, and Passes Off His Own Empire.” At first I thought the word “Passes” was a misspelling, but an outcry was unheard; it seems adoring Brits will care more which shoes the first family’s ladies will wear to the funeral and following coronation.

What Charles is truly blessed with is luck. After having been anything but a poster child for a New Royal Order—and whom his mum had no wish that he long wear the crown—he gets a fresh start at the top of the heap. All he has to do is emulate her as a “constant” that smiles, waves, and otherwise does nothing.

Meantime, we’ll all be subject to the big show, and the next and the next. Liz will always be the Queen of Hearts for all who care for that nonsense, and for the rest of us, our mantra will ever be, until this silly monarchy runs its course: “Here We Go Again.”)


          Another violation of humanity, another sacrifice of our children. Aside from the usual suspects of our finger-pointing, we do well to take a look within. “Swords into plowshares” is but a dream; the reverse is more the truth.

          We love violence. Young and old, most of what we see is found primarily in TV and movies. So herewith a little self-test: Among our favorites for prime-time viewing, how many contain violence–characters brandishing firearms, knives, fists and other bludgeons; featuring angry, threatening situations, where others, including the young, are witnesses? How many, by title or teaser, hint of mayhem to the extent that we are literally choosing them over other options where necessary differences are given rational, reasonable and realistic chances of resolution?

          Damn few, to be honest with ourselves: all those Bond movies, crime and gangster flicks, eerie spine-tinglers, even the brain-eating living-dead to which we give a pass because they’re “not real;” but neither were “Jaws” and “The Exorcist.” So what’s the attraction?

          Psychologists were besieged for explanations for the “Disaster” movies and replied with the old “it’s not me” viewer excuse. Really? We need for someone else to get the worst imaginable so we can feel better about ourselves?

           We can understand the occasional cheap thrill of such entertainments, but the mayhem-themed become epidemics of attraction, not to mention block-buster successes. The Hollywood intelligentsia insist that this is the “real world,” but how many reminders of that do we need beside daily headlines and all else that happens “for real” in this life?

          And don’t look back: movies in the good ol’ days had their own bad start. “The Great Train Robbery” of 1903 featured gunfights and the beating of the train engineer—and we were off and running. Presently 91% of movies on tv contain violence or extreme violence. Ninety percent of high-grossing movies portray the main character, whom we usually adore, involved in such behavior. “No violence, no story,” is the motto of the same intelligentsia: hence fighting or murder often launch the plots or are the pretext for action that follows.

          When movies evolved into “talkies,” the Hays Code came about to check on such things. E.g., Howard Hawks’ “Scarface” was edited so that the prologue condemned violence in general and the bad guys either came to know and admit their wrongs—or were killed off as a teaching moment. After all, it was just entertainment.

          No longer. Since then we’re sufficiently “woke” to where we think we can, with sophistication, stand anything—and have, from the fun folks in “The Godfather” series to the uncensored rape scene in “Clockwork Orange.” And that’s but the tip of the iceberg: did you enjoy “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” and “Ozark”? Our tv fare typically depicts no consequences, not for atrocious crimes and psychological trauma to others, and with no judgments on the morality or lack thereof in the most heinous acts.

          Among crime dramas, including the one with the best writing and overall casting—Law & Order: SVU—so much violence is gratuitous, i.e., unnecessary and overreaching for the message of “special” victimization of innocent, trusting and vulnerable persons regardless of age, sex or lifestyle. And too many youth get a good start from video game mayhem where incitement to violence in young men is driven by the interactive nature of said games.

          Non-violent fare among our menu of amusements–you know, love and other silly emotions–are branded “chick flicks.” Best to ignore sophisticates who spout such nonsense and run, don’t walk, to our priceless local Screening Room.

Forgive me for no mention of the NRA and spineless politicians. They are a big part of the story. And we’re another part. Someday what we see on the order of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Uvalde will bring hardly a tsk-tsk from us whilst we turn the channel back to our fave crime drama.

          (John Burciaga is not available for duels should anyone take serious issue with his comments—unless it’s snowballs in August. But you may disagree peacefully with him at Ichabod142@gmail.com)


         In like a lion, out like a lamb; make way for April showers and the promise of spring. Such is the month of March, named after the Roman god Mars, successor to Ares of the Greeks who began as an agricultural deity but became quarrelsome, leading to fights, which led to wars. Good choice for a lion. So why is April called the “cruelest month”?  

After all, March has its Ides, which was a hell of day for Julius Caesar, stabbed as he was in the rotunda, which had to hurt.  Brutus was among the stabbers, which added insult to injury–the great general-cum-dictator had been his proud and doting mentor. Score one for the lions. Caesar was a brilliant warrior and a gifted writer—read his account of the Gallic War–he just wanted more than others wanted him to have, which was absolute power over their beloved Republic.

          Then there’s St. Pat’s Day; like next month’s Cinco de Mayo, it’s an excuse to party but no one outdoes the Irish in that regard, who are fabled as brawlers as well, true or not. I know something about that, married to an Irish lass half my size, and of whom I’m scared to death. She wins all our fights.

          March’s fabled winds add to its reputation but aids pollination, so there’s that. Still, down through history there’s as much boil and bubble in April as in other months. As the Good Book says, “We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward,” to which may be added another piece of its wisdom, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” So Lions 2, Lambs 0. But April has just begun to fight.

          Every year I remind readers that April is the month the world’s greatest metaphor hit an iceberg–the 14th day of 1912, to be exact, upon which passenger John Jacob Astor famously objected, “I rang for ice, but this is ridiculous.” And there was more to come, namely, World War I, inspiring T.S. Eliot to call it “the cruelest month of all” in his poem, “The Wasteland”—oddly, that conflict neither began nor ended in April but he had lost a dear friend who may or may not have died in one of the two conflicts that month in 1915–the second Battle of Ypres, or the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Or he was thinking of the U.S. declaring war on Germany, April 6, 1917.

          So this contest is tied at 2-2, though April has a much greater case to plead, like the first battle for our Independence at Lexington in 1775, Revere’s ride the day before, and Pickett’s Civil War defeat in 1865—much more than “tea parties” in any case.

Keep also in mind that the Beatles grabbed the first five slots on our singles chart in ’64 but, sadly for others, the guy I don’t think was Shakespeare fell from this mortal coil on an April day. And it promises showers to help the seeds that March has scattered with its breezes, however mild or tempestuous. Ancient Greeks must have welcomed that: the age-old prayer to Zeus was a plea to “Rain, rain, upon the fields of Athens,” signaling a seasonal problem in those parts.

          I would go on but I hear the snoring, so I close with delicate thoughts by Robert Browning who, when away at such time, longed to be back “in England, now that April’s here.” He was not alone: it was the best of all months for many a poet who welcomed a break in the weather.

          But take heed: there’s no clear dividing line twixt March and the month to follow. I took sabbatical here from Florida many a year ago, regrettably brought only spring clothes, and on a day in May saw huge flakes of snow cover lovely tulips already in bloom.

          Happily, the tulips survived. They wouldn’t have in my native Missouri. They’re not as hardy as your Yankee blooms. But if in truth April is cruel after all, good luck with your lambs this year.



          The pandemic began and I was sure of one thing, but no idea other things were coming. I knew the virus would be around longer than expected but not that our national response would be outright resistance to good sense and the best science–that the war we would wage would be against each other, not the deadly disease. Nor did any of us guess that as it waned, a tyrant long in the making would rise to shake the Western world.

          Amid retirement and for the first time in my adult life I had no organization or newsroom to shepherd through a crisis. I had learned already, from having worked once with an aging population, that when one lays down a career, it’s risky not to have a plan. One cannot drift, cannot say he or she will merely sleep late, idle days away or travel aimlessly.

           My plan was not as structured as in mid-career but there were precious spaces waiting for me and I was ready to defend them from those who imagined I had nothing to do but help them get what they wanted; I knew how to say that I was saving that time for something else, which sufficed to being left to what I wanted thereafter.

          Those precious spaces would be filled with the bibliography that had shaped me through college and graduate studies. I re-visited that curricula to recall not only what I had learned but what I had missed—and what was at stake when the authors wrote what they wrote and what their ideas and the events meant in real time.

          My studies were in the humanities: literature, history, philosophy, theology, poetry and language—things that carried Western civilization to greatness in the centuries preceding ours. I revisited Plato and Aristotle where I first deplored the former’s absurd notion of two worlds and that we aren’t living in the real one; that people who didn’t believe certain ways should be punished or put to death; that if we had followed Aristotle religion would be far different today, based on ethics instead of dogma.

 When I re-read Aeschylus and his literary kin I realized for the first time how far ahead they were of their own world and what was at stake for them to say what they said—as it came to be for Socrates himself. And early on I loved the pre-Socratics, who were irreverent to the max, questioned all they were told and had their own thoughts; that so many then and long after them suffered for their beautiful minds because Plato had taught dogma only too well, and how to use it to silence upstarts.

          But there were many geniuses in the mainstream too, people who pulled up the rest of humankind with their disciplined minds. Science has done us the greatest favors but today in the face of potential world-wide devastation from disease we dissed them, called them names and, in our blessed ignorance, thought we knew better. Frankly, we were lucky that enough people were careful, followed the science and helped ease the attack while strains of the pandemic ran their course. My guess is we’re still going to pay for our obstinance in ways we won’t fully know for perhaps another generation.

          We were at war with COVID and its variants but we chose to fight each other. How dumb was that? And now, convinced that we know better than geniuses what’s good for us, we’ve set ourselves up for future devastation. We laugh at old depictions of evil, thinking they were meant to terrify gratuitously but folks then, like people now, thought evil shows up in obvious costume and the scary depictions called attention to look below surfaces for its presence—as Augustine startled the faithful in his time that the antichrist was not outside, but within, the Church itself.

          Now there’s Putin. Donald Trump needs to look deep into that guy and see not a “genius” but the next great evil in our world. No one seems able to stop him; maybe Aristotle’s notion of tragedy will save the day—that Putin’s kind is that of the unstoppable jerk who, at last, brings down himself.

          So the answer may be in the past as much as the present, for as Santayanna said, those who know not history are doomed to its repetition.



          February, though short in duration, began with the sage forecasts of Punxsutawney Phil, and ended with Presidents Day, to either of which we give little credence or importance.

Between were days of racy, suggestive Valentines and of storefronts are sick with every shade of red. Time to love, because we say so.

          But I offer no love whatever to pro football or its plantation culture, now or any time until it passes muster with those who’ve brought it adoring crowds, insane wealth and the attention of America and the world.

          I speak of certain skin colors within the showy helmets and uniforms that, combined with all the bright hues of reds, whites, blues, oranges and purples, grace the equally bright green gridirons before our tv and stadia eyes. The names of such athletes adorn not only our Sundays and Super Bowls but MVP lists and Halls of Fame. Sadly, while otherwise allowed to touch, pass and kick the football, those of darker skin are not given the coaching reins because—what?

          Surely my dear readers know whereof I speak. Many players of color have bit their tongues whilst suffering loss of such honors, typically the next step up from years of performance under high physical and mental standards. Brian Flores however will no longer shut up, but his case will be a hard one to press forward because the NFL is led by heads as hard as Confederate generals of yore who today still deny equality and by so doing perpetuate modern-day inequality.

          This outrage deserves what the great American Emerson said of the Fugitive Slave Law of his time: “…it is a filthy law and by god I will not obey it.” Nor will Brian Flores put up with this longstanding practice but if there is no incriminating tape or other whistleblowers to step forward and confirm his charges he, like Colin Kaepernick, will be just another casualty.

Today this vestige of plantation-ism is not said out loud. Players’ helmets and uniforms are affixed with words and symbols touting the end of racism in their sport but the real “players” are owners and front offices where actual rules are made and no zebras are around to blow the pea and cost them touchdowns, and money.   

          And the spectacle that begins in late summer now expands into February, furthering embossing its cachet in the calendar. Not even the seasons of major holidays can compete with this lowliest of months that also has more r’s and oysters than any other.

          This year it opened with Flores’ complaint and egg should be on all faces, fans included, who could rise up and stay away for even one game to show owners that there is power elsewhere to shake their foundations.

          And here’s the irony: football is the most macho of sports but also the most cowardly. Many of these manly-men can’t take a needle, let alone have the nerve to confront a sport that needs to know spectators aren’t the only people to be afraid of. Are you listening, Tom Brady?—they can’t hurt you now: you’re the biggest dog in the stadium and even beer-guzzling, pizza-chomping lowbrows would close their tailgates and listen to you.

          When can any sport fall from grace? When the actors—whether owners or athletes—think they’re bigger than the game itself, and bigger than the nation that has given them such wealth and opportunity.

          By the time you read this, maybe the Houston Texans or others will have hired Brian Flores. But until one does, no love here for the NFL.