Archive | Country Matters

She Made Our Mind: Toni Morrison, 1931-2019

I heard the news that our forever Nobel Laureate died today and stopped what I was doing and just cried. Not because I knew Toni Morrison or even loved her the way I have loved some authors in my life–as if they were my godparents, as if they were my hand-holding guides. But because she was our literary leader. Our temporal foremother.

Through her voice coursed reason and righteousness and great great rage and always a syncopated stylish rhythm. Also joy and the bluest birds. She was the most American writer the 20th century ever birthed: Starting with the ancients (all of them, not just the blue-eyed devils), she wrangled with every bard and bastard in her deep sea of a gaze (her dap see). Then she scanned our whole desperate diaspora and showed us how we could tell, who we could tell. Who we could tell on. This she did with the grave and greatly earned presumption that US history was hers for the raking.

Today as I weep the tears someone else may have wept when Kennedy was shot, I think of Jazz. Maybe some view it as her lesser work, if she had one. But it’s the one that most terribly and terrifically invades my innards. In it she wrote:

Pain. I seem to have an affection, a kind of sweet tooth for it. Bolts of lightning, little rivulets of thunder. And I the eye of the storm. What’s the world for you if you can’t make it up the way you want it?…. Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. I saw you and made up my mind. My mind.

Her mind is the one we still need in this desperate moment in America. But she has earned her rest so let her mind become all of ours. The timing of a great public figure’s death is never a coincidence—usually, it’s when we most need their light to shine through all of us. Throughout her career, Chloe Ardelia Wofford compelled us with lightning-and-thundering to reckon with the truest legacy of America—its rusty rusty bloodshed, its tarnished tarnished hope. More than that, she reminded us we always have a choice even if we don’t dig slim pickings. So let’s not just mourn her. Let’s make Her Mind.

Wish We Weren’t Here (Postcard from the Edge)

Up here in the country I thought I could escape news of our Country but the truth is I haven’t earned that right. None of us have, not this year. There are children in concentration camps. There is a militia rapidly forming on our fourth-reich ruler’s behest. There are shootings every day–shootings, I’m sorry, that you can’t pray away. And thanks to corporate colonization of this land we are rapidly cycling into an environment uninhabitable for humans and many other species of life. The earth will survive but not humans and certainly not America. So these first three days I’ve been upstate have been tumultuous—the animals are subject to unusual unrest, the woods seem wicked, even my car seems…possessed.

Because we all are. The land we perch on has been possessed since European settlers first manipulated the native tribes and then made a holiday out of it. Trump didn’t just happen to us, neither did the GOP. We participated in their inception every day we didn’t stop meadows from being paved over, sat still when we should have rose up, took what flat-out wasn’t ours. So, ya, this is my “vacation face.” It’s not so relaxed. “Radical self-care” be damned, I haven’t earned the right to relax. None of us have in this burning building called America.

Taxi Driven at 3 Am

I went to bed so early last night that I was up at 3am watching Taxi Driver, quel meta. One of my first memories is of passing through that ratchet Times Square with my parents; the littlest me fell for its underbelly the way you get hung up on a bad smell. Scorcese captures its neon reds and blues, blurred and bolting–its cheap calories and cheaper sex–with Cadillac cars and a Cadillac score. And then there’s De Niro’s ex-marine outsider wandering and wondering, blood-shot with an ignoramus’s bravado. Which is to say: terror, especially when it comes to his unamused muse Cybill Shepherd and her very fine, DVF-clad ass. So loosely adapted from Dostovesky’s Notes from the Underground, this Scorcese-Schrader collab doesn’t endorse the basest attitudes about race, women, sexuality so much as inventory them as evidence of Our General Decline. It’s a portrait of a dangerously white male that could be stripped from today’s headlines except the macro-aggression isn’t just garish. It’s gorgeous.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy