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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”

@realDonaldTrump

I actually chuckled! Could it be that Mr T has actually got a sense of humor? A favorite reporter of mine retweeted his latest Twittering. We’ve just returned from a trip to Whole Foods, masks and groceries on faces and in hands, to hear that the SCOTUS has knocked another decision out of the park.

The current administration, made famous by keeping children in cages, will not be allowed to send Dreamers, the undocumented adults who came to this country as children, back to their countries of origin. Amen Chief Justice Roberts!

I just finished reading a book about a child, a little girl who was abandoned at the age of 3 by her parents, who had to flee Nazi Romania and the invading Iron Guard death squads during WWII. They thought their child’s best hope of survival was to dress her in her finest clothes, and leave her in a stairwell of a fancy apartment building. They thought she might be kept alive by one of the wealthy families, instead she was found by the concierge who took her to an orphanage:

The Girl They Left Behind, (by Roxanne Veletzos) in this way, tackles not only the tension of life in the face of numerous bombings and political escapades, but also tries to encompass the emotional drama of adoption and how adopted parents and children alike struggle to adjust to becoming a family. This picturesque exploration compounds the ticking clock of war that Veletzos leaves in the story’s background, leaving Natalia and her adopted parents, Anton and Despina, to make their decisions in the face of bombings, communist rule, and a desire to stay alive and together. https://medium.com/the-coil/book-review-roxanne-veletzos-the-girl-they-left-behind-celia-daniels-89d645eb1168

The parallels in the rise of Fascism in 1940s Bucharest to today are compelling. Based on a true story, Veletzos’ tale is similar to her great grandmother’s experience as an orphan during the war. Though we had not visited Bucharest on our Viking trip, I remembered the shoes on the shore of the Danube in Budapest. And in particular, the small shoes of Jewish children who were massacred there. This book is a page-turner. It will keep you up reading until 3 in the morning.

I thought of our newly discovered niece, Tamara. Adopted at birth, she thought she was part Italian. Raised in North Carolina, she said, “I’m the first Jew I ever met!” We all laughed.

Talia didn’t know she was Jewish. I didn’t know that after WWI, Soviet Romania sold people back to their families, mostly to Israel, for large sums of money. At one time, 35,000 Jews lived in a typical city in Romania, now there are a few hundred. If your Jewish family members survived the concentration camps and Death Squads, you could have them officially smuggled out of Romania for cash, paying off loans, or oil-drilling equipment. How much is a life worth, George Floyd’s brother asked Congress.

I remember once my foster mother, Nell, told me that the Flapper never gave them any money for me. She said this proudly, even though Daddy Jim’s job barely paid the bills. Of course my biological mother was widowed with young children and didn’t have much money anyway. I was never officially adopted, I was just waiting. But I guess the Flapper did get a stipend from the government for each child under a certain age; it was called The Aid to Dependent Children Program passed in 1935.

It provided $18 per month, and $12  for a second child. So I guess she got $42 dollars a month for my two brothers and me, thank you FDR! But she did pay for summer camp at St Joe’s and ballet school. The young girl who used to sneak out of her window in Scranton to dance to Tommy Dorsey’s band, wanted her daughter to know her way around a dance floor.

Congratulations Dreamers! And welcome to your new home, Uncle Joe will seal this deal next year.

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Calls for racial justice and defunding of the police are a constant across our country. Old, arthritic knees of legislators knelt on marble floors in our Capitol for nearly nine minutes yesterday. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the exact amount of time Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd. If only restructuring and dismantling militarized police departments could fix hundreds of years of racism – in real estate, in schools, in medicine, in the very fabric of our existence.

No, it can’t, But it’s a start, and we’ve got to start somewhere. Read “Just Mercy; a Story of Justice and Redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson.  https://justmercy.eji.org/  And maybe watch the film, with Jamie Fox. It’s streaming free this month https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/stream-just-mercy-free-june-180975044/

I first met Stevenson back in Charlottesville, VA in 2016. His lecture introduced the idea of taking down a Robert E Lee statue near the courthouse – the same supposed reason a bunch of neo-Nazi, “Unite the Right” zealots decided to march on Cville the following year.  A mostly White audience wasn’t buying it; in fact, that statue is still standing. He warned us, “We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.”  https://mountainmornings.net/2016/03/20/being-brave/

This is what Stevenson had to say in a recent interview about police brutality:

“Now, the police are an extension of our larger society, and, when we try to disconnect them from the justice system and the lawmakers and the policymakers, we don’t accurately get at it. The history of this country, when it comes to racial justice and social justice, unlike what we do in other areas, is, like, O.K., it’s 1865, we won’t enslave you and traffic you anymore, and they were forced to make that agreement. And then, after a half century of mob lynching, it’s, like, O.K., we won’t allow the mobs to pull you out of the jail and lynch you anymore. And that came after pressure. And then it was, O.K., we won’t legally block you from voting, and legally prevent you from going into restaurants and public accommodations.

But at no point was there an acknowledgement that we were wrong and we are sorry. It was always compelled, by the Union Army, by international pressure, by the federal courts, and that dynamic has meant that there is no more remorse or regret or consciousness of wrongdoing. The police don’t think they did anything wrong over the past fifty or sixty years. And so, in that respect, we have created a culture that allows our police departments to see themselves as agents of control, and that culture has to shift. And this goes beyond the dynamics of race. We have created a culture where police officers think of themselves as warriors, not guardians.”    https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/bryan-stevenson-on-the-frustration-behind-the-george-floyd-protests

IF we can transform a police culture from warrior mode into guardian mode, what else could we do? Can we spend the same amount of money on a student’s education, no matter where they live? Some towns see nearly half their budgets go toward policing, and they argue over school budgets. This is truly a function of what we value as a society. Do we want every child in America to reach their full potential, or only the rich and well connected? Should every town have a tank and a SWAT team?

I feel like we are in the midst of a great constellation of events. 2020 went like:

  • I wanted to work to elect gun sense politicians, and evict Mr T from the White House. But we got slammed by a tornado, our neighborhood was torn apart.
  • Then we came under the spell of a deadly virus, a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen. We became hermits. Bob started baking bread, we both started making masks.
  • And now George Floyd and his killer cop have changed the narrative, having an almost nine minute video of a murder in broad daylight brought racial injustice home. People of all shades of color did not, could not turn away.

Yes our gun culture intersects with racism. Both are real public health emergencies, capable of killing so many Americans, just like a virus. A virus, as it turns out, will seize the opportunity to infect more poor people. More African Americans, more Latinos. People without the means to stay isolated, people who must work delivering box upon box to the rich people.

A virus likes nothing better than a population that can forget, people with short-term memory loss. It can easily spread its tentacles, just like gun violence, killing without remorse. Imagine voting down a gun sense bill, an assault weapon ban, after 20 children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook.

We cannot defeat a virus or change our gun culture without addressing racism. And our racist president would like us to think it’s all about “law and order.” But it’s about our history. Our tortured history of Jim Crow and Reconstruction, it’s about red-lining voting districts and voter suppression laws, and so much more.

Racism would like us to forget our history, but in fact, we must confront it.

This is our chance, this intersection of public health emergencies, to create a more just and peaceful society. What will you do, which side of history will you be on? Don’t turn away.

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Last evening in America’s Capitol, peaceful protesters were tear gassed so that our toddler-in-chief could take a photo-op in front of a church, holding a Bible. Was Mr T concerned about police brutality, the seeds of systemic racism or the death of George Floyd? No, he is obsessed with his numbers, specifically his Evangelical numbers. Just like MAGA loves “the Blacks,” Mr T loves his Christians.

This morning, as I scrolled through page after page of Instagram black screens for #BlackoutTuesday, I came across a quote by Elie Wiesel: “When human lives are endangered, When human dignity is in jeopardy, Wherever men or woman are persecuted, Because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become

The Center of the Universe.  

This morning I saw a picture of Hitler holding a book, surrounded by adoring crowds. It was probably his book, but still, it was juxtaposed next to Mr T’s bible/holding/church picture… standing all alone. Ts weekends of golf have been interrupted; he’s been scolding governors over the phone and threatening to release the Army to do his bidding. Like a coward, he hides in the White House bunker and turns out the White House lights.

This morning the sun is out and birds are still singing. Summer heat is about to descend on Nashville. My phone began buzzing, alerting me – tonight will be another 8pm curfew per Mayor Cooper. Nashville PD has arrested a suspected white supremacist, 25 year old Wesley Somers, for setting fires in our historic courthouse. I had heard that something was fishy about the rioting and looting, but I didn’t know what or who to believe. Our country has seen seven days of protests; this is the 12th week of quarantine for our family.

This morning, the Bride called on her way to the hospital. I had ordered her a long cowl that can be used to cover her hair under her PPE. She said it works great, it even keeps her N95 mask from slipping. The number of Covid deaths is going down in Nashville, but I still dream about too many people gathering together. I feel sick when I think about George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” Is that why Mr T and most of his followers refuse to wear masks, because they can’t breathe? Or is it that they care less about other people and more about their vanity?

This morning I found Somers’ sister’s Facebook page. She’s starting a GoFundMe account for her brother who, she says, used to be into hard drugs, but turned his life around. He just got in with the “wrong crowd.” Only 25 years old with multiple arrests, including one for domestic abuse. Our city has been ravaged by a tornado, a virus, and now this, peaceful protests turning violent.

This morning I’m wondering if our democracy will hold, I’m worrying about the center of the universe. I’m thinking about the sculpture garden documenting the history of racial terror lynchings in Montgomery, Alabama at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. We were just there before the country closed down. Educate yourselves, and go there if you are White, to the Black experience. What if your son, or grandson was Black when the police stopped him for a broken tail pipe?  Read, listen and organize if you can – https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

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I started off in 1966 at a college in Beacon Hill. Our children were born in the Berkshires. We spent every Spring on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve always loved the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I remember fondly strolling around the Boston Commons watching the gorgeous swan boats in the pond. So I was a tad surprised when Bob mentioned, “the tragedy of the commons” while we were listening to President Cuomo. Our lives in New England were the opposite of tragic!

Turns out this is the perfect term to describe where we find ourselves today – starting to reopen the country amid a cultural war over masks.

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual has an incentive to consume a resource at the expense of every other individual with no way to exclude anyone from consuming. It results in overconsumption, under investment, and ultimately depletion of the resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits. Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.”  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tragedy-of-the-commons.asp

Bob usually has no luck trying to interest me in economics, but this was different, it’s behavioral economics. The tragedy (sometimes called “paradox”) of the commons refers to selfish individuals going after a “common” resource, like toilet paper, only to undermine its infrastructure causing the total collapse of the resource. And supposedly its origin is from the Old English – 18th Century settlers who would let their animals out to graze in the park at the center of town, the commons. This would result in very little park left for the people, or the animals for that matter.

Remember, in Europe only the wealthiest landowners had beautiful parks and gardens behind high, closed walls to enjoy. Designing parks in the center of our colonial cities represented America’s wish to avoid another class/caste system. And so we had a paradox. Over time, the “tragedy of the commons” came to represent not just landscape destruction, but road and bridge decay as well. It became a metaphor for power and authority trampling over the common good.

Whenever the ME became more important than the WE.

Last night I tuned into Netflix to watch The Great Hack. It is a stunning documentary that helps to explain how we actually got here in the first place! I’ve become accustomed to seeing ads for something I was looking up on one site appear on another, but I had no idea how incredibly my data, and yours, have been harvested, tracked and targeted – in particular by governments and political parties. The film delves into Cambridge Analytica, and how they weaponized our data to influence our 2016 election.

Maybe you’re not one to watch horror movies during a pandemic, but this shows you how, without a drop of blood, Mr T the first ME president, was elected by 0.23% in Michigan!

“…this data trail is being leveraged against us, every day: to sell us things, get us to vote or to stay home from the polls, to divide or unite us according to the whims of whoever has paid enough to take our digital threads and weave them into a web of their own desires….

It uses the scandal as a framework to illustrate the data mining structures and algorithms that are undermining individual liberty and democratic society, one Facebook like and meme at a time.”  https://www.wired.com/story/the-great-hack-documentary/

It’s strange isn’t it? The Boston Tea Party of 1773 kicked off our liberation from colonialism, and Mark Zuckerberg turned a dating site for Harvard’s elite students into a data capturing monolith. From his dorm room, long after I was walking through the Commons to Filene’s Basement. Could it be that this great technological connection we are all needing more and more, isn’t at all about the WE?

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Like the phases of the moon, our country has slowly moved from embracing conservative, anti- (big)-government ideology toward a more socialist democracy, and back again. In the 18th Century, we threw off the mantle of a king, and instituted checks and balances with our elected leaders in Congress. It was working pretty well for awhile and our political ship was trending toward starboard.

Then in 1994, Newt Gingrich happened.

Wanting to bring back orphanages was actually not a part of Newt’s “Contract with America,” he was just “thinking aloud.” Wanting to build more prisons and give tax breaks to millionaires was! He started complaining about “big media,” and comparing Democrats to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sound familiar?

“The states’ main fear is that if the federal government could not legally run a deficit, it would simply pass on safety, environmental, health, and other obligations to the states, without giving them the money to pay for new programs. Congress’s habit of enacting “unfunded mandates” has been the major strain on state budgets in the last decade. A federal balanced-budget amendment would likely make it worse.”

His nightmare scenario has come true, Mr T passes on everything, including his responsibility, in this public health emergency to the states. When I watched Gov Andrew Cuomo in his  daily presser, complain about having to get in a bidding war with other states just to acquire life-saving PPE and ventilators, I thought we were deranged… and when he said FEMA would jump in and UP the price even more, I knew we were deranged and possibly doomed.

I remembered reporting on Rumson Borough Council meetings in the 90s, how this Republican group of mostly old, white men waxed on about unfunded federal mandates. They choked at the idea. And just the other day, Mitch McConnell (a modern day Newt) told states to declare bankruptcy??

This morning I found this article about a billionaire enlightening in a creepy way. How does American capitalism work, how should business work; for the greater good, or for their investors’ greater bank accounts?  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/business/coronavirus-marc-benioff-salesforce.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

In a nutshell, The Chancellor of the University of California San Francisco could see the writing on the wall in early March. Cases of Covid were starting to skyrocket and he knew his medical center’s supply of PPE was low. So he called his buddy, the billionaire and “hyper-connected” donor, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.

“…that phone call set off a frenzied effort by Mr. Benioff and his team that drew in major companies like FedEx, Walmart, Uber and Alibaba. In a matter of weeks, Mr. Benioff’s team spent more than $25 million to procure more than 50 million pieces of protective equipment. Fifteen million units have already been delivered to hospitals, medical facilities and states, and more are on the way.

The relative ease with which Salesforce acquired so much protective gear stands in sharp contrast to the often chaotic government efforts. While states have had to compete against each other for scarce supplies and the strategic national stockpile of protective gear is depleted, Mr. Benioff and his team simply called up their business partners in China and started writing checks.”

 

Some might call Mr Benioff a saint, but while I found his actions altruistic, I was concerned that our country had to depend on his beneficence. Do we live in a democracy with a small “d” or is this an oligarchy, or a kleptocracy?

I sent a box of Lysol wipes and Formula 409 out to the Rocker and Aunt Kiki in LA last week, and somebody stole most of the contents en route. We are making masks in our kitchen and we can’t find disinfectant wipes, but Benioff can find a warehouse full of N95 masks from China in LA? To make matters worse, Republicans are still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/03/republicans-could-kill-obamacare-in-the-middle-of-coronavirus-recovery

As our quarantine wanes piecemeal, state by state, we must remember this time in history when governors had to beg to save peoples’ lives.

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“Green deck for landing, conditions CAVU.”

John McCain’s son Jack tweeted a tribute to his Dad this morning – conditions are great, “Ceiling and visibility unlimited!” Jack is a Navy lieutenant, a helicopter pilot who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2009. The military is in their blood, and flying into danger was part of their family legacy. Now that the great Senator from Arizona is being laid to rest, his service to our country stands in stark contrast to the current occupant of a gold (whoops, “golf”) course in Bedminster, NJ.

As many of you know, Bob is a private pilot. Although he’s never landed a fighter jet on the prow of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean, I like to think I could trust him to land a passenger plane if needed. He likes to follow our flights around the globe on his iPad. I may be reading my Kindle all scrunched up in coach while he happily points out our descent and predicts what runway our Southwest pilot will land on, depending on the wind of course.

Flying around in his old four-seater Piper Arrow, I would breathe a sigh of relief when I saw those three green lights on the console light up, meaning the wheels were down – a very important part of the approach pattern. Kind of like having a green deck for landing!

Yesterday I asked Bob where he was on July 20, 1969 when the Eagle landed on the Moon. We had broken up in college, and he was planning a trip to Woodstock. I was living in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA with a roomie named Alicia. His parents were away on a trip, and there were lots of friends crashing at Great Grandma Ada’s house on a hill. I asked him if he remembers calling me then, during the moon landing. It’s strange the memories our brains choose to store and those that fall away.

We were reminiscing because I’d played the first trailer of the Rocker’s new company, TOTEM. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/movies/first-man-trailer-ryan-gosling.html

Bob isn’t on social media so I have to keep him up to date with the millennials in our lives. Our son did the sound design and music for the trailer of the film “First Man,” with Ryan Gosling playing Neil Armstrong landing on the Sea of Tranquility, taking that first small step. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html

Flying into the unknown, into clouds or out of earth’s orbit, takes courage and training, knowing a thousand different variables could go wrong. Starting your own business today takes a leap of faith and a lot of talent. And while staying calm under pressure is a reasonable trope for men and women who choose aviation as a career, it could also be said for young entrepreneurs. An image of a Tesla in space comes to mind!

In fact, this morning astronauts on the International Space Station are having to deal with a leak probably caused by a tiny high-speed meteorite. How did they find it? By passing a finger along the wall. How did they fix it temporarily? Using a sealant and duct tape! https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45364155

So big congratulations to my son and his partners in TOTEM. Your parents are over the moon happy and proud of you! https://www.totemmx.com

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One of Nashville’s favorite Hockey players, Predator’s Viktor Arvidsson, was recently signed to a seven year contract for 29.75 MILLION dollars! All he’s got to do is show up and have fun. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/cover-story/article/20999248/viktor-victorious-an-interview-with-viktor-arvidsson

You don’t have to attend college to play hockey, you just have to be born with some natural talent and determination. And the juxtaposition of that almost 30 million contract next to the starting salary of 30 thousand a year for our teachers (the same educators some think we should train in firearms) says volumes.

In many states across the country, public school teachers are organizing for a living wage and better conditions for their students after years of funding cuts.

” For K-12 expenditures, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that in 29 states, total state funding per student was lower in the 2015 school year than in the 2008 school year in real terms. In Arizona, spending per student was down an astonishing 36.6 percent; in Oklahoma, it had dropped 15.6 percent; in Kentucky, 5.9 percent.”

Why is this union walk-out different? Because teachers aren’t just looking for a pay hike; they want well-maintained, not crumbling buildings, they want a smaller student-teacher ratio, they want every student to have up-to-date textbooks. This did not just happen overnight or after our 2008 “recession;” I recall outsourcing janitorial staff in the 90s to save money. Property taxes were funding everything from an increasing need for special education staff and transportation, to maintaining teachers’ rising pensions and medical benefits.

In TN, teachers can expect a starting salary of $36,402. Of course you don’t risk loosing your teeth due to pedagogy, and you don’t have quite as much down time as say a hockey player. But you are expected to furnish the ever-present supply of tissues and Purell, pencils and paper, and the patience of a saint. It’s no wonder there’s a teaching shortage – even when both partners are working, it’s nearly impossible to provide for a family of four on a teacher’s salary.

“Inherit the Wind” was playing down the road at the Nashville Repertory Theater, so Bob and I braved the cold and Lyfted over to see a play about a man who was trying to teach evolution to his high school science students. Based on the real “Scopes Monkey Trial” that took place in 1925 just east of here in Dayton, TN, the courtroom battle between science and religion ran in almost every newspaper in the country and around the world.

The ACLU was challenging passage of the Butler Act earlier that year; “The Butler Act forbid the teaching of any theory that denied the biblical story of Creationism. By teaching that man had descended from apes, the theory of evolution, Scopes was charged with breaking the law.”

The play was turned into a famous movie in the 50s in partial reaction to the McCarthy hearings. But the playwrights were more concerned with our “right to think,” rather than a battle between evangelicalism and facts. Still, this anti-intellectualism is alive and well today at a time when almost 40% of the American people still believe in Creationism.

On the brighter side, since the election there’s been a growing resistance to Trumpist ideology; red states are electing their first blue legislators in years, students are leading the country fighting gun violence and the NRA, and the #MeToo movement has ushered in a new wave of feminism.

The more Mr T chips away at fundamental human rights in the name of personal and corporate greed, the more WOKE our citizens are becoming; it would seem that critical-thinking skills are thankfully still being taught in our schools. My generation started a sea change in the fabric of American society, now it’s up to our children’s generation to repair some of this past year’s damage. And young voters are registering in record numbers!

After all, who doesn’t want to save the polar bear’s ice? Or is ice hockey more important than the Antarctic? Granted, the 24 year old “R-V” Predator seems like a great guy, and who doesn’t love a good hockey game? Are they both mutually exclusive?

Meanwhile, remember our cherry tree the Love Bug was climbing? It’s in full pink pom-pom bloom despite freezing temperatures.

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Yesterday was a good day, despite plunging temperatures. Bob and I packed up a bag-lunch and attended a lecture at the Bridge Building about mysterious ruins and tunnels in Nashville. The Cumberland River Compact sponsored the talk by Tony Gonzalez, a journalist who is now working on a podcast called “Curious Nashville” for our local NPR station. Listeners are asked to submit their questions to the podcast team about the city, and then vote on the most interesting idea.  http://nashvillepublicradio.org/programs/curious-nashville-podcast#stream/0

Some people wanted to know what happens if you put the wrong materials in the recycling bin. Other questions concerned “water-witching” and just what Jimi Hendrix was doing during his year of living on Jefferson Street – in our neighborhood! Gonzalez told us that when he teaches a journalism class, he always tells his students to, “…look to a river for story inspiration.” Rivers rarely disappoint. So he jumped at the chance to investigate this question from a record producer:

I’ve heard rumors of a mysterious tunnel system winding beneath downtown Nashville. Is this true?   

There were lots of rumors and theories of course: perhaps the Underground Railway utilized these tunnels; maybe bootleggers came up river to store their wares under Printer’s Alley during Prohibition? With a little urban spelunking mixed with some good, old-fashioned research on http://www.newspapers.com for original documents, Gonzalez led his audience through a twisted tale of 19th and 20th Century  development that saw creeks repurposed as sewage and water-run-off drain pipes.

Sometimes truth is just not as much fun as fiction. I loved living on the Shrewsbury River. Watching the Great Blue Heron fly over our garage for his morning meal. Reading in my car while waiting for a draw bridge to open and close. Hearing the skeet shooters across the tributary at the Rumson Country Club on Sundays. Cleaning Corgi paws of marshy black silt when the tide came in.

And we knew that bootleggers came ashore to deliver their goods to Murphy’s Tavern.

Of course, my question today is why Nashville hasn’t developed its riverfront? Think about New York’s “South Street Seaport,” where Fulton St meets the East River. Then there’s Baltimore, and Boston. By contrast, we have an abandoned slaughterhouse and empty warehouses littering the beautiful Cumberland River. If I had a few million to invest, you bet I’d start buying some of that land. They say a hundred people a day move to Nashville…

I know because every day I hear 2 or 3 explosions that rock the house and send Ms Bean scampering for cover. Right down the block they are building the new TN State Museum and the TN State Library and Archive, demolition has been going on for the past month. Because this part of town sits on a bed of limestone, the blasting reverberates for miles. It’s not unlike the earthquake I felt in VA! In fact, sometimes it feels like we’re living in a war zone.

Yesterday was a “very bad day” for our Mayor Megan Barry. A real-life Scandal has come to life since it was reported she’s been having an affair with her top security guard. In the midst of trying to get a multi-billion dollar mass transport deal through, she will now be investigated by her state prosecutor, who’s name is, I kid you not, District Attorney Glenn Funk! Let’s just hope the Mayor didn’t write off some extra-marital work trips or empty any mini-bars.

I’m not so curious about our Mayor’s love life. And I didn’t watch the SOTU address. Nor do I wish to masticate over what may or may not be in some random “memo” that “might” be released today. There’s flu running rampant in the Bride’s house so we’re keeping our distance because a trip to Great Grandma Ada is up next. I’ll be sure to download Curious Nashville for the plane.

This is a picture of the Lick Creek Tunnel becoming the Lick Branch Sewer in 1895.

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This morning the sun is out and the temperature should be going above freezing. Underneath our coating of snow, crocus are beginning to awaken and cardinals are singing. For the first time, in a long year, I’m feeling hopeful.

Last night Bob and I attended the first in a series of USN Evening Classes. All the proceeds from ticket sales help to sponsor their need-based scholarships. First night always features a celebrity lecture, and this year did not disappoint with a third grader’s dad on the ticket. I’ve heard Jon Meacham speak before at Monticello, so I was looking forward to his insight on the state of this so-called presidency.

“We’re still here!” Meacham exclaimed, to the room of muffled laughs.

This Pulitzer Prize winner and presidential biographer went on, without notes mind you,  to remind us of his love for Andrew Jackson, “I like genocidal maniacs with a heart of gold.” More tentative laughter… Meacham dismisses Mr T’s comparison to Jackson, a fabrication of Bannon’s doing, telling us he is a simple “real estate impresario.” However, we must not dismiss his followers.

In May of 2016 he interviewed candidate Trump in his tower. Meacham arrived early and was standing alone in the huge gilded lobby on Fifth Avenue, when a family of four came through the door. They were tourists, all-middle-American folks. The young boy looked up at his dad and said, “Do you think he comes through this same door?” That beatific look of wonder, as if they were visiting a holy place, was the reason he was elected.

Mr T, like a carnival barker, managed to sell his “MAGA” movement to the forgotten middle class of the rust belt. For a family of four to live a normal middle class life in our country, they must earn at least $130,000 a year. Meacham told us that would allow them the minimum benefits of owning a home and a car and taking one vacation a year. However, the median middle class income for that same family today is around $55,000 – and the reason Mr T won lies in the difference.

Trump offered his followers the American Dream, the “Right to Rise,” as Lincoln said. Only his nationalism is a leftover from our post-WWII prosperity, with women in the kitchen and people of color knowing their “place,” and his tactics are closing our country’s borders figuratively and literally. That last part is my opinion, and part of the reason I’m marching with women on Saturday. Again.

The rest of Meacham’s speech was filled with enlightening, little-known anecdotes to illustrate his Four Characteristics of a Successful President:

  1. Curiosity – Jefferson’s insatiable intelligence
  2. Humility – JFK reaching out to Eisenhower during the Cuban missile crisis
  3. Candor – Churchill reported all the facts, he was a straight shooter
  4. Empathy – Poppy Bush, Gorbachev and the Berlin Wall

Meacham ended by reading a poignant letter that George HW Bush had sent to his mother about the loss of his three year old daughter, Robin, to leukemia. “If you want to know someone’s heart, you have to break it.”

I walked away last night wanting to read “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.”  My step, on the icy parking lot last night, wasn’t hesitant; it was as light as a feather, and my heart was full. The voter registration forms I left in our local coffee shop are almost gone.

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#OPRAH2020

I grew up on Phil Donohue, watching my foster mom, Nell, hang on every word that came out of his mouth. She was a first generation American, who never learned how to drive and didn’t work outside the home because her husband asked her not to, politely. I would come home from school, tear off my Catholic school uniform and put on “play clothes” to join her on the couch, before tearing off into the neighborhood on my bike.

Yes, I was a tomboy, and proud of it!

We had a linoleum kitchen floor in our four room (not bedroom mind you), four room house in Victory Gardens. There’s a black and white picture of toddler me in a droopy diaper hiding in a space between the stove and the refrigerator, presumably during hide ‘n seek. We came from humble roots, coal mining families on Daddy Jim’s side and Slovakian dissidents from Nell’s; I knew they passed money to the mailman to fund the IRA.

My kids grew up on Oprah! So when I listened to her speech at the Golden Globes the other night, I knew something was afoot. She started off with a memory – sitting on her linoleum floor… “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.”

This is known as the Hook, the catch phrase memory of “humble roots” for every stump speech of every candidate running for any political office in our great land. See, I’m just like you, even though they’ve amassed tons of wealth, they started out with nothing, less than nothing…

I was recently talking with my sister Kay and our brother Dr Jim on a conference call, and listened as Jim recounted how he would go out with our late brother Mike on Christmas Eve to pick the prettiest Christmas tree. Because they were almost giving them away for a nickle. Because the Flapper was so poor.

“Did you also have to dumpster dive for food?” I asked him.

They laughed and said no, we hadn’t been that poor. The Flapper made it through the Great Depression and taught us never to leave a light on in a room. And after four years in the darkness (if he lasts that long), with this semi-literate, entitled, bone-headed purported billionaire in the People’s House, I’m willing to bet the pendulum just might swing back – way back toward the sunshine. With enough luck and organizing, we “might could” nominate a black woman, one who shines from within, for the White House! Yes Oprah, preach Oprah PREACH!!

And in the midst of a sea of black designer gowns that nobody wanted to talk about, she said this:

“Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

Oprah brought this sad, compelling story about a gang rape of an innocent black woman in the Jim Crow South of 1944 to light. I felt my eyes filling with tears even as I registered that this sounds like a woman ready to run for office. She brought us the personal story, the anecdote about injustice, that made me remember why I was a Democrat in the first place. All the while we know that Oprah had been raped as a child, we know her story, and we know all those #MeToo stories that have been circulating about the abuse of power by powerful men.

And all I can think is that their Time is UP! They are fired! We have our very own reality TV star in the wings and she is fired up and ready to go. It’s as if a storm has swept through our country and we can now smell the beginning of new air. It’s the sun after a hurricane. We must fight against voter suppression, we must fight for basic human rights and one-payer healthcare. This is the time to take our country back! Please Oprah, I hope you will run. There’s “A new day on the horizon.”

Here is Bob with Berdelle, our 91 year old neighbor, at the TN State House today because you’re never too old to be a revolutionary!

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