Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Without meaning to downplay the origins of what this holiday symbolizes, which I won't go into here, I would just like to say that we should strive to be thankful, in these rough times, for what we have in our lives. Our families(dysfunctional, though they may be), our friends(dysfunctional, though they may be). The fact that we have a new president who already has changed the landscape of this country just by who he is. Thankful that there are still things in this world that can divert our attention away from the troubles of our world, if only for a moment--things like art and music, literature(anyone for poetry?!), movies and theater. Thankful that there are things that we can do to help alleviate the troubles of our world, like helping to feed the hungry or donating toys to needy children or even putting a dollar in the Salvation Army till at your local store( I use to man those things every Christmas,when I was in high school, in the cold winters of Chicago, so I try to make it a point to return the favor).

I'm also thankful for this blog and that I have its means to express myself any way I choose, whether its through my poetry, thoughts, found videos, etc. And I'm thankful for those of you who choose to read it(you are out there, right? Please! Anybody?!)

In any event, I wish you all a safe and sane(as much as possible) holiday with whomever you choose to spend it with, just as long as you are thankful for them.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another Bukowski Poem

Friends Within The Darkness

I can remember starving in a
small room in a strange city
shades pulled down, listening to
classical music
I was young I was so young it hurt like a knife
because there was no alternative except to hide as long
as possible--
not in self-pity but with dismay at my limited chance:
trying to connect.

the old composers -- Mozart, Bach, Beethoven,
Brahms were the only ones who spoke to me and
they were dead.

finally, starved and beaten, I had to go into
the streets to be interviewed for low-paying and
by strange men behind desks
men without eyes men without faces
who would take away my hours
break them
piss on them.

now I work for the editors the readers the

but still hang around and drink with
Mozart, Bach, Brahms and the
some buddies
some men
sometimes all we need to be able to continue alone
are the dead
rattling the walls
that close us in.

from You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense - pg. 139 - 1986

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Something To Consider--Obama and Lincoln

My brother emailed me this a few days ago, taken from an aricle by a staff writer in the Washington Post.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

He was a boy with a distant father, raised in a family of modest means. He had a curious intellect, devouring history and memorizing passages from Shakespeare. He became a lawyer and settled in Illinois, where he was elected to the state legislature. With relatively little political experience, he decided to run for president. Few believed he stood a chance of winning a primary campaign against the
party's heir apparent, a senator from New York. But the gangly, bookish Illinoisan galvanized millions across a country in crisis with his soaring rhetoric, speaking in
big strokes about transcending partisan politics and creating America as it ought
to be. He rose from obscurity to clinch his party's nomination and the presidency. The New York senator returned home deeply disappointed and bitter, having fallen to a shrewd political tactician.

Sound familiar?

The year was 1860, and Abraham Lincoln had narrowly defeated Sen. William H. Seward to become the Republican presidential nominee. After winning the presidency, Lincoln disregarded personal animosity and took the unprecedented move of tapping Seward to be his Secretary of State. He appointed two other political adversaries as well:

Salmon P. Chase, a handsome widower and Ohio's governor, who resented losing to
a man he considered inferior, as secretary of the Treasury; and Edwin
M. Stanton, a long-bearded Democratic lawyer contemptuous of Lincoln, whom Lincoln inherited as his attorney general but later appointed as secretary of war. Lincoln chose another foe, Missouri's distinguished elder statesman, Edward Bates, to succeed Stanton as attorney general. Bates had considered Lincoln incompetent but eventually concluded that the president was "very near being a perfect man,"
historian Doris Kearns Goodwin writes in her 2005 book "Team of Rivals." As the United States splintered toward civil war, the 16th president assembled the most
unusual administration in history, bringing together his disgruntled opponents and displaying what Goodwin calls a profound self-awareness and political genius.

As he has been for many of the nation's presidents, including the one now holding the office, Lincoln is a source of inspiration for Barack Obama, who will be
inaugurated Jan. 20. On a chilly morning 21 months ago, Obama launched his long-shot bid for the presidency from the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. -- the same place where a century and a half earlier, Lincoln delivered his historic
"House Divided" speech. And now, Obama is contemplating Lincoln's particular model of
presidential leadership as he moves toward assembling his own team of advisers and Cabinet officials. His overtures to his former foes have suggested he may be mulling his own team of rivals, perhaps led by a certain senator from New York as secretary of state. Obama met with Hillary Rodham Clinton in Chicago last week.

Since winning the election two weeks ago, he has been reading Lincoln's writings again, Obama said Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes." "There is a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful." Offers Goodwin: "You can't find a better mentor than Abraham Lincoln."

"Lincoln said, 'The country's in peril. These are the strongest and most able people in the country and I need them by my side,' " she said in an interview. "At first, people wondered whether or not Lincoln would be overshadowed by Seward. But in the end, Seward ended up becoming his closest friend. . . . He went on in history in a more profound way than he ever would have had he stayed just a senator from New York."

If Lincoln is the president against whom all others are measured, it is in no small measure because he was the greatest politician to occupy the White House, said presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. "Lincoln is a crossroads of character and political shrewdness," said Smith, a scholar-in-residence at George Mason University. By appointing his former rivals, he "displayed a remarkable generosity of spirit. On the other hand, it's a very shrewd attempt to co-opt your potential enemies."

Obama may let it drop that his proverbial desert-island book is Goodwin's 916-page tome, and Garry Trudeau may decree Obama is "The Second Coming of Lincoln" in his
"Doonesbury" comic strip, and the president-elect may grace this week's Newsweek
cover standing in Abe's long shadow.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thoughts On President-Elect Barack Obama

Hell has officially frozen over. A blast of fresh air is about to blow into the White House. The dream that was proclaimed 45 years ago has reached its culmination. The 21st century has officially begun. That sound you just heard--was the collective cry of the men and women who died in the bottom of slave ships; in shackles and chains in cotton fields on Southern plantations; who hung from poplar trees after being beaten and maimed; who died from an explosion in a Sunday school and driving to help those who were never allowed to vote gain the opportunity and exercise the right to vote. So that this day could happen. A black man, son of an African man and a young white woman from Kansas, who rose up to become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review to a Chicago(say it with me) COMMUNITY ORGANIZER to a state Senator from Illinois to a United States Senator representing that same state to now, the first of his kind to be president of these United States. This is the equivalent of when the late Harold Washington became the first black mayor of the city of Chicago(I can't help but think that that may have partial inspiration for Mr. Obama); it's also the equivalent of Nelson Mandela becoming the first black president of South Africa.

Along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Oprah and the scores of men and women we saw on TV from across the nation, I wept openly after the announcement was made that Barack Obama was named President-Elect Tuesday night after an overwhelming landslide in the electoral vote. I wept for those men and women who hadn't even dared to dream that this day would happen. For those who thought it would never happen in their lifetimes, including myself. Who had shed blood and tears and sweat just so we could, at the very least, be invited to the table, if not given the seat at the head of it. I wept for Madelyn Dunham, Obama's grandmother, who died just one day before getting to see her grandson make history. I wept as a proud black man that I got to see a nation that has finally figured it out and is finally growing up, just a little bit. I also wept for the young black men and women, particularly of grade school age, who got to witness this moment, and who can, and without any hesitation, now say that when they grow up, they want to be president. And the young Hispanic and Latino men and women. And the young Asian men and women. And the young Native American men and women. The door has officially been opened. We are now allowed to sit at the head of the table.

I was glad that I was able to call my 76-year old mother, who after witnessing all that she has seen in her lifetime, including a World War and the debacle in Vietnam; Jim Crow and segregation; race riots and the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, among many others; I'm glad she got to see this moment and that I was able to share in that moment with her briefly over the phone.

This is indeed a new day. But yet, with the celebration of this monumental occasion, comes always, the cold water of reality. This most likely will not change the state of race relations in this country. At least, not overnight, or even during the course of Obama's first term in office. Neither will the problems that have beset us and which now he is being challenged to deal with after he is inaugurated on January 20th of next year. I honestly think that, given the nature of who he is, he will probably be under much more scrutiny than any president ever has been. And consequently, his safety and the safety of his family will be an ongoing concern--much more so now than it ever has been before. Now the real work begins. And not work that is merely on his shoulders. We elected him to be president of these United States. Our United States. As such, we need to stand by him, support him, long after the fanfare of this election and the upcoming inauguration has died down. We need to fight with him for those who don't have a voice or the ability to fight for themselves. To fight for better jobs and a stronger economy. To bring an end to an unjust and unnecessary war and bring our troops home to their longsuffering families and friends. To bring about universal health care for the millions who have gone without it for far too long. To save a disastrous educational policy that is doing nothing for our kids. To help those who can't help themselves, up out of poverty and hunger and illness and illiteracy.

I really hope that with the inevitable scrutiny, will also come, a willingness to let this man govern, as he sees fit, and be allowed to make mistakes, which is granted every human, and has certainly been granted to the previous 43 presidents of this country. I believe that he has surrounded, and will surround, himself with very capable people who will seek to move this nation forward and hopefully salvage the sullied reputation of this country, both here and abroad. But as I said, he will need the help of all of us. We cannot just sit back and take an idle approach to how things are run in this country. We must speak up and speak out and often. And we must pray--for him, for his family, for his advisors, and for his cabinet. For their safety and security. That they don't succumb to the pressures of this job. And that they'll be able to help lead this nation on the road to recovery that it so desperately needs.

President-Elect Barack Obama, you have been blessed. And you are a blessing to us, by God, to help lead a still very young nation onto bigger and better things. And to be a blessing to others, both near and far. I wish you Godspeed, health and prosperity, safety, wisdom and strength. And Peace!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Daring To Dream Of A Black President

This was a post from the Independent and since it includes thoughts from some of my favorite people, I felt compelled to share with you all. Here's hoping that after today, it becomes more than a dream.

The Independent. Posted November 4, 2008.

Some of America's leading black voices, including Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Spike Lee and Tiger Woods share what it means to them.

With Obama on the brink of victory, America's leading black voices share what it means to them.

Maya Angelou, novelist: 'If he wins, it means my country has agreed to grow up'

I never thought I'd see a black president in the White House in my lifetime. I didn't even dare dream it. I feel like a child approaching Christmas, you can't believe election day is finally here. It's been so long since we've had people -- Asian and black, white and Spanish-speaking -- come together and say YES. Some did during the civil rights struggle but not as many as today. What it means if Mr Obama is voted in, is that my country has agreed to grow up, and move beyond the childish idea that human beings are different.

I'm talking to friends in the UK, in Italy, in China who can't vote, who cannot press anything other than the point home, so I know the world is watching. We have lain so long in the undergrowth of ignorance. Can we really be saved from the rage of consumerism where we identify ourselves by our spending: 'I'm a shopper'. What kind of stupidness is that? Buying things we cannot afford and do not need.

I'm no prophet, I'm no seer, I'm a beseecher -- so I have been out to thump the drum for Mr Obama. I started out in Senator Hillary Clinton's camp and I thumped the drum for her.

When it was proven that the majority of people wanted Senator Obama, she stepped out of the race and began to thump the drum for him, and so did I.

I think he has simply proven to everybody that he is very intelligent -- and by that I'm referring to what used to be called common sense, which is terribly uncommon these days. You can see him thinking before he speaks, which should be a presidential prerequisite but rarely is. Most of the candidates all the way back, save for two or three, seem to just punch a button. There's a question and they punch number seven and out comes an answer, which had been stored up.

Senator Obama has proven that he knows how to be a president to all the people, not just the rich and mighty, not just to whites, not just to blacks, but all the people. I'm so excited, the excitement can hardly be contained. How will I be spending election night? On my knees. Maybe getting off them to have a very nice Scotch and then getting back down on my knees again.

Toni Morrison, novelist: 'Things are different now. A lot of white people are different'

This election is critical, vital to more than just people in the United States. It's going to make a big, big difference which way it goes. The worst thing is not Senator Obama losing, it's who wins. I am encouraged by the polls and by him but I have lived long enough to know that elections have been systematically stolen. Luckily, I think everybody knows that and is sending about 5,000 lawyers to the polls.

I don't believe in the Bradley Effect -- there were a lot of reasons he lost. And this time is different. First of all the country is different. Secondly he's different. And thirdly a lot of white people are different. Several weeks ago I read about the Reverse Bradley Effect, where whites down in the south say they are voting Republican because of their neighbours!

I think the situation is dire, I cannot think of a large issue where things are going right, and Senator Obama will have an extremely difficult time. But there are two things that one should remember. The first is a cliché, but he himself has said it, 'It's not about me, it's about other people'. He cannot do it on his own, he needs the force of those who voted for him. The second thing -- and one of the reasons I really respect him -- is that he surrounds himself with really smart people, and not just smart people that say what he wants to hear. He likes the dialogue, the questioning, the one who tells him the truth as opposed to the one who strokes ego.

I think the promise with Senator Obama is that we return to an idea known as "the common good" and we have not had that in eight years. I mean, you can't get sick in America, you will be bankrupt. This administration has been very clear in its assumption that privatisation is best. There are jails where you have to pay room and board, you get into debt and when you get out you have to pay it back. And some people who do not have means to borrow go out and steal again. I know that the Democrats are more inclined to take the right position and not regard taxes on the extremely rich as some sort of insult to them.

What am I going to do on election night? I have three choices: I can go to some friends; I was invited to go on a TV show; but I think under the bed may yet prove the safest place to be.

Samuel L Jackson, Actor: 'There's been a warrior culture here. It's time that ended'

We have been through eight years of pretty much lunacy and madness. In America, we have tended to think that we are the greatest living things on the planet and our leadership has exemplified that. There's been a sort of warrior culture here, and it's time that ended. Obama is the president to take us to the next place. He's not part of the establishment, number one. He doesn't have that sense of entitlement that others have had. What he does have is a sense of empathy for people who are on the lower rung of society and he doesn't want to give the people with all the money all the breaks.

It's not just about what an Obama victory will mean to the African American community, it's for the nation in general. It means something for the little Asian kid, or the little Hispanic kid, for everybody of a different origin than Anglo-American. It actually means that the lie that they told us all these years -- that you can grow up to be anything you want to be in America, even the president -- might actually be true now. Until this election, it was just a fantasy -- you had to be white to be president. The closest we got to it was when Jimmy Smits was elected president on the West Wing or Morgan Freeman being president on screen.

I grew up in the segregated South, and there's probably still two generations who grew up next to "Whites Only" signs. We were part of that time in America when we were second-class citizens, so no, I didn't expect to see this in my lifetime. It's really wonderful and revelatory in terms of how far we have come so fast. And hopefully it will signify a major change in how we are perceived in the world community. Obama represents what we hope America can be.

But I will not be comfortable until 5 November. I was in the UK for the 2000 election. When I went to bed in Liverpool that night, Bush had lost, when I woke up the next morning Bush had won. Until I go to Obama's inauguration in January, I won't really believe it. And I'm definitely going, I've made hotel reservations already.

Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader: 'I just wish Martin Luther King was here to share the joy'

It will be the sixth time I've voted for Barack Obama. When he ran for the State Senate I voted for him in the primary and the general; when he ran for the US Senate I voted for him in the primary and the general; and in his run for the presidency I voted for him in the primary and will be voting for him in the general. I will spend election day on the phone, encouraging people to go out and vote. I will not be letting up until the polls close.

Our struggle in America for civil rights started out with the right to vote and now Mr Obama is on the doorstep of the White House. We got the right to vote in 1965, that's 43 years ago, and we have kept evolving over those years. America is a country that continues to grow, it's maturing. This election says to Europe, Africa and Asia that democracy is real and that we must rise above limitations of race and gender to achieve our purpose.

The people of America are ready for a black president now. Senator Obama's race is self-evident, he didn't make an issue out of it. He's reached out to people across the divide and had universal appeal by focussing on the real issues.

There's a great sense of joy. I just wish Dr [Martin Luther] King were here to share it. He would be overjoyed. But he would also know that we have challenges beyond the election. He would be proud of where we are but he would remind us that we are not all the way there yet, until we wipe out poverty and illiteracy and end these unnecessary wars.

Jay-Z, rapper

Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so that Obama could run. Obama's running so that we all can fly. I can't wait until 5 November and I'm going to say 'Hello, Brother President'. I can't tell you who to vote for. All I can do is tell you to vote."

Spike Lee, director

I say it's very simple, we have BB, "before Barack," and AB, "after Barack."

This coalition that he's got: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, gay, straight, whatever. It's come together and this has never been done before and I think this thing is preordained or whatever we want to call it. I'm not going to say it's God, but this is not a mistake, this is happening now. He's here when his country is at it's lowest in many many years.

Even though I live in Manhattan, I still vote out of Brooklyn, so 4 November I'm going to be the first in line in Brooklyn. Then I'm going to get a flight to Chicago and I'll be there all day.

Tiger Woods, Golfer

I've seen him speak. He's extremely articulate, very thoughtful, I'm just impressed at how well, basically all politicians really do, how well they think on their feet. Especially those debates. It's pretty phenomenal to see them get their point across. But I just think that he's really inspired a bunch of people in our country and we'll see what happens down the road.

Alonzo Mourning, basketball player

I need to be part of this because this is part of the history of our nation and I do have a voice in the community -- I have a presence and it's beautiful to be able to use it on behalf of something I believe in. Some athletes worry something like this might affect their sponsorship deals, but I'm not afraid. Obama has given real leadership. I'm not ashamed to say I'm with him all the way.

Stevie Wonder, musician

He's a combination of JFK and Martin Luther King. With that, he can't lose. I see a time when we will have a united people of the United States. And that is why I support Barack Obama.

James Blake, tennis player

I am proud. I am very proud of Barack Obama. I believe in him and I believe that he will do good things for this country. I hope the country gives him that opportunity.

GO OUT AND VOTE!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Barack Means Blessed--A New Poem

When Jesse said, "I am, Somebody",
He was talking about this one;
When JB said it loud...,
He was talking about this one;
The shining black prince, that was Malcolm,
And the gentle warrior, that was Martin--
Have come back to us
As this fortunate one,
This fortunate son;
The African diaspora and the American dream,
Clothed in this one man,
In this man,
Blessed by God,
For that is what Barack means.

This man,
Standing on the shoulders
Of those who came before,
Both great and small,
Black and white;
This man,
This human,
Michelle's, Malia's, and Sasha's man,
Our man
For these times,
These interesting times;
Yet humbled;
And beautiful;
A leader
And yet,
A servant.

This one,
This man,
Renaissance man,
Helping us to see
What it means,
To be reborn;
Helping us to see
What it means,
As a people,
As a nation,
As these United States of America,
To be blessed by God,
For that is what Barack means.

© 2008 Joseph Powell

R.I.P. Studs Terkel, 1912-2008

The city of Chicago and indeed, the nation, has long another one of its unique voices. An everyman for everyday people. A friend and defender of the underdog, who always managed to find a way to tell their stories as he heard them and as they needed to be told. A raconteur, a jazz man--whose instruments were his voice and his pen. He was the very definition of 'old school'--with his rumpled look and gangster-style voice, he was someone you wanted to have a beer with at the local bar and then have over for dinner to meet your family, because you knew he'd be interested and would be interesting. When one thinks of Chicago, if you truly know the city, you can't help but think of Studs. Like the Cubs and the Bears; like the river and the downtown skyline; like the Picasso in front of the Daley Building and the Art Institute, Studs was very much an indelible part of that city.

He's a reason why we can remember the Holocaust; a reason why we know the people who were affected by the Great Depression; a reason why the working man has been celebrated and his dignity has been esteemed; a reason why we can appreciate the people we meet; because he helped us to do that, through his long running radio show, broadcast from his adopted home in the Windy City; and also through his many books, including one of his most seminal, "Working".

He once said in an interview that he wanted his epitaph to say that "curiosity didn't kill this cat". Here's to one of the coolest and most curious of cats that ever lived. Take it easy, Studs, but take it.