You can order Love in the Time of Unraveling at Amazon.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
A Review of Love in the Time of Unraveling
by Franetta McMillian
With monks who channel voudoun spirits and bisexual scientists who heal the earth, Franetta McMillian’s Love in the Time of Unraveling confronts our current dysfunctions as few post-apocalyptic works dare. Mad Max and The Road more escape our world than expose it, abandoning their heroes to a feral struggle in an empty landscape. We may enjoy vicarious bloodletting or lament our Hobbesian fate, but either way, the life we know is over.
In McMillian’s future, set in the latter part of the present century, the power structure that preceded the collapse is still holding on. One-percenters luxuriate beneath an air-conditioned Dome while we ninety-nine percenters wheeze through short and brutish lives in a toxic “Outside,” texting and sharing videos from hermetic abodes. We don hazmat suits to commute, often on ferries, given the high sea level of our iceless world. The smog that choked 2013 Bejing and Mexico City is ubiquitous now and getting worse. October swelters but the sun never shines. Beauty fades before it ripens, and we die young of disease or crushed in collapsing mines. Protest is permissible, but only in “free-speech” zones, just like 2013. Adding insult to injury, Domer do-gooders slum in the Outside. The press gossips, but rarely reveals. The market is up, while prosperity is down. Yet spiritually and sexually, our world is very much alive.
The first in this collection of interrelated stories concerns Magdalena Ocunto, a seven-foot former hacker and black priest-in-training in the Knights of the New Star, a monastic order of the “New Catholic Church.” When the environmental cataclysm split the Church, it also unraveled Cartesian reality. Ocunto can read thoughts; the voudoun demigods will speak through her. Her first big assignment is to write computer code to crash the stock market during the G20, still doing mischief at century’s end. Her church, in the borderlands between politics and spirit, calls this a “deep act of conscience.”
Then we meet billionaire scientist Lillian Ruby, whose androgyny in name and orientation re-enforces the borderlands theme. Lillian, who came from the “Deep Outside,” a now uninhabitable part of Louisiana, gathers fellow prodigies to heal the earth. One of his recruits is David Grove. Over red wine and marijuana (Lillian’s preference), their collaboration grows to love. Love is the healing alchemy in this work.
For example, Allison Flowers, a Domer and revolutionary graffiti artist, has the power to heal with touch or, for more serious maladies, with sex.
Love, both sacred and worldly, binds Morian Watts and his mentor, Father Allen, who trains him to release the souls of the dying and perform exorcisms. Though he hates the super rich, Morian exorcises seven-year-old Caitlyn Traynor, a mine baron’s daughter, who is haunted by the workers who died in her father’s mine, called Destination Hill.
This echo of the 2010 Massey Mine disaster is not the only place where McMillian confronts our contemporary calamities. The Upper Ninth Zone, setting for much of the action, is located in a region known as the Crescent and suggests the inundated Ninth Ward of New Orleans, the “Crescent City.” There is Great Mountain Security, a Blackwater-like private army that protects the barons from the growing revolt. There is even a super hurricane called Kali, sounding like Katrina and Sandy and named for the Hindu goddess of time-doomsday-death. Accompanying all these disasters are End Times Signs and Wonders. Of Kali, Morian Watts says, “Sometimes an event is so unthinkably horrible that it actually blows a hole in time and everything becomes unsettled.” He adds that the outcome, unlike that of Tim LaHaye’s Armageddon, “is malleable. It could all turn up roses or it could all go to shit.”
The extraordinary cast includes members of the Richard Corey Club, teens planning suicide by the supernatural psychedelic Blue Sky; Mei Ling, a Beijing transgender hooker-cum-weaponized HIV terrorist; and various members of the families Traynor, Flowers, and Storm: Innesto Storm, an Outsider and Allison’s summer fling; his estranged wife Angie, a psychic and devotee of voudon; and son Zaden, a prodigy who declines to join Lillian Ruby’s firm. By the time we get to the final episode, a letter by Lillian Ruby to Allison Flowers, we are invested in these characters and their struggles, not only because they are so gripping, but because they are our own. Happily, Lillian’s letter suggests a sequel.
Science fiction often projects a limited notion of the future. Whether it is gee-whiz-bang gimmickry or dystopian nightmares, it tends to repeat our dominant ideology of individual entrepreneurs discovering exotic natives. It is blind to the humanity not only of the natives that dwell in the future, but of the natives that struggle in the now.
If you are one of these natives, this book is for you, for Love in the Time of Unraveling is about now, where now is heading, and how we may prevail. Franetta McMillian peels off our time’s blinkers and lets us look outside the lines, in the borderlands between genders, classes, and races and between Cartesian reality and the spirit world.
As Lillian Ruby asserts in his missive to Allison Flowers “You lived in the borderlands, outside the lines, and there is a wealth of power there.”
You can order Love in the Time of Unraveling at Amazon.
You can order Love in the Time of Unraveling at Amazon.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Was a Story Set in Wilmington Among the Earliest Influences on the Literature of the Harlem Renaissance?
Among the earliest literary figures who lived in Delaware in the early 20th century was Alice Dunbar-Nelson. She was born Alice Moore in New Orleans on July 19, 1875. Her first husband was the American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar who died in 1906, about three years after she moved to Wilmington where she had family. Probably the best and most recent example of her influence on Paul Laurence Dunbar and about their the stormy relationship can be found in Eleanor Alexander’s 2002 book Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow (New York University Press). Her own literary career did not end there. Her literary work showed up, both before and after her marriage to Dunbar, in places like George Jean Nathan’s and H. L. Mencken’s Smart Set as well as in Crisis when it was edited by W. E. B. DuBois. While in Wilmington she married Robert Nelson and is better known today as Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Later she worked as an educator and social activist as well as publisher of the local African American newspaper, The Wilmington Advocate, during the early 1920s, making her a pioneer of local Black journalism. Her literary and journalistic works inspired many who participated in the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s.
One of Dunbar-Nelson’s early short stories, “Hope Deferred,” is among her most anthologized. Two anthologies where the story can be found are: Ebony Rising: Short Fiction of the Greater Harlem Renaissance Era, edited by Craig Gable and published in 2004 by the Indiana University Press, and “Girl, Colored” and Other Stories: A Complete Short Fiction Anthology of African-American Women in The Crisis Magazine, 1910-2010, edited by Judith Musser and published in 2011 by McFarland & Company, Incorporated.
“Hope Deferred” was first published in 1914 in Crisis 8, the main publication for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The story was most certainly written in Wilmington and gives clues regarding its locale. Early on in the story, Dunbar-Nelson states that the city in the story is, “if not distinctly southern, at least one on the borderland between the North and the South.” Later on in the same story she divulges that the protagonist, Edwards, is serving time at the “county workhouse.” The “Workhouse,” during a little more than the first half of the 20th century in New Castle County, was the name given to the county penal institution then located at the intersection of Greenbank Road and the Newport-Gap Pike (Route 41) near Price’s Corner. The “Workhouse” was also the place from which an uncharged inmate, George White, was kidnapped by local white citizens and lynched nearby in 1903, the year that Alice Dunbar arrived in Wilmington. The “Workhouse” was also the location, where about two weeks before the lynching of George White, several men were publicly whipped and made to stand in the pillory. Delaware finally outlawed the pillory in 1905, but the state did not abolish corporal punishment until the late 1960s. One of the guard towers of the ‘Workhouse” still remains in the Park at Price’s Corner.
Alice Dunbar-Nelson wrote “Hope Deferred,” which is most probably set in Wilmington, at a time when the Dupont Company was about to make an obscene fortune from profits from World War I, when the United States occupied the impoverished country of Haiti, when the Ku Klux Klan in Delaware was at the height of its power and influence and when both major political parties heard racist views. Even though the Progressive Era was in full bloom in places like New York City, and the Modernist Movement was making significant cultural advances, hope seemed to be waning for Wilmington’s African-American community. It was a bleak time in Delaware to be writing for social and cultural progress. In spite of this, Dunbar-Nelson wrote a story that was echoed in a refrain attributed to Langston Hughes when “hope deferred” became transferred into a “dream deferred.”
Alice Dunbar-Nelson only has a small citation in Alain Locke’s monumental tome, The New Negro: Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, published in 1925. Perhaps she might have had a greater part in Locke’s anthology and commentary had she gone to Harlem and played a greater role in that flowering of modern African-American culture. She chose instead to remain in Wilmington, and in her later years in Philadelphia, writing and struggling for social progress. Alice Dunbar-Nelson died on September 18, 1935. She is interred at the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
One writing idea I've had, but won't be using because I'm no longer writing literary art, is to continue the story after those happy endings from popular American cinema. A variant might be to recount incidents behind the scenes, which we don't see, that occur in those films. I played around a little with this idea in my novel UNTIME, but since I won't be taking the idea into any new writing projects it's an idea that maybe others might find useful.
Here's an example of one specific idea I've had of the continuance of the storyline from a fairly well known American movie. See if you can guess which one:
The story begins in Wilmington in October 1948. Frank and Nora McCloud have just gotten off the train at the Wilmington train station. They are on a honeymoon trip to New York City. Along the way from Nora's home in Florida where they had got married, they departed the train at several locations to see the sights. Among those have been Savannah, Washington D.C., and Wilmington, Delaware. Nora's father-in-law, James Temple, came from a long line of hotel owners, so they decided to visit hotels her father-in-law had told her about to wile away the time during the war when her husband had been overseas. One of those hotels had been the Terminal Hotel in Wilmington, which was conveniently across the street from the Wilmington train station.
Frank McCloud was a World War II veteran. Before the war he had been a newspaper reporter. He had served as a major in the army during the Italian campaign. One of the men in his unit, George Temple, had been killed during the battle of Cassino. Frank had promised George that if he didn't survive his wounds he would pay a visit to his wife and father-in-law at their home in Florida.
Frank McCloud's trip to Florida after the war proved eventful. While there, just as the tourist season had ended, a group of mob figures headed by Gianni Rocco showed up and commandeered the hotel. They had arrived by boat from Cuba with a stash of counterfeit money they planned to sell to some underworld figures from Miami. Next a major hurricane rolled in.
After waiting for an opportunity to get the drop on Rocco, Frank could make his move. Gianni appreciated a good hot bath while smoking his best Cuban panatela, the ashes falling in the sudsy water. He was surrounded by his goons. It wasn't 'til it was time to go after the hurricane subsided, that Frank could make his move. With the help of gangster moll, former singer and ex-chorus girl Gaye Dawn, who slipped Frank a pistol, he could get the drop on each of the gangsters where Nora and Mr. Temple were out of danger. It would be a story Nora would tell 'til her dying day because the incident would lead to their getting married.
After their honeymoon they returned to run the hotel because George Temple had bequeathed it to Nora unconditionally. James was infirm and getting older. They had many happy times through the remainder of the 1940s and the early years of the 50s. They had had a son, but new crises had hit all at once in the mid 50s.
Nora's husband and father-in-law died within a year of one another. Frank had terminal cancer. After James Temple died of a heart attack, Nora became sole owner of the hotel. Nora, still a young woman with a son to raise, hung onto the hotel with an enterprising local Seminole named Jay until 1968 when he died. That same year, her son was old enough to leave home to roam among the guests and the gangsters in Miami, and even though he made a lot of money, Nora was still dismayed and worried over her son's choices.
With her son gone and her business partner dead, Nora decided to sell the hotel. The hotel was still turning a dollar, so it was a good sale. Afterwards, Nora retired to Key West, bought a nice but modest house, and became a parrot head. Every now and then her son would visit. He'd become a "businessman." He'd bring his buddies from Miami, mostly rough trade. Thugs, Nora would think. They reminded her of Gianni Rocco.
Nora was not surprised to learn about her son's sudden demise in a room in the Terminal Hotel in the late 1970s. It had become a dive where dirty deals went down. One of those deals had cost her son's life.
These are the stories Nora's still repeats, sipping her Piña Colada under a broad fringed umbrella, in the cafés of Key West. An aura of Hemingway hangs in the air. She is famous but keeps her distance. She only loosens up when Jimmy Buffett holds a concert. She still knows how to sway those hips.
You've guessed the movie by now. Next is to write.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Douglas Morea has just published a breakthrough collection of poems, Letters to You, with Broken Turtle Books. Written with an “epistolary pretence,” these poems address the memories, persons, events, places, and moral preoccupations of Morea’s life. Breakthroughs are thought to be the province of youth, yet Morea has developed a new language of poetry, more intimate, but no less daring than the verses of Keats.
Douglas Morea was publishing poems in The New Yorker in the early 1970s when he was about the same age as Keats in his glory. Douglas and his then wife Kass left the literary limelight of New York for the moated enclave of Delaware in the late ‘70s. Douglas remained productive, releasing short run chapbooks, essays, and cartoons, and reading at local venues his longer poems, typed on sheets pasted end to end somewhat like a scroll. I have long proclaimed Douglas to be Delaware’s finest poet. Letters to You demonstrates, I believe, that Douglas Morea’s craft and power have grown since his youthful successes at The New Yorker.
I had been speaking recently with Douglas about John Keats, who had been so clever and daring, before he died at 25. Douglas, who has a wide knowledge of science, said it was even common for folks in the sciences to peak in their youth. I thought of Einstein, who published his Special Theory of Relativity when he was 26. So what’s new with Morea since his day in The New Yorker sun?
Morea’s growth can be measured by comparing “Having Children,” a brilliant poem he published in the September 16, 1974 New Yorker, with “Hey Canada Geese, How Come Your Babies Almost Never Get Run Over Anymore?” from Letters to You.
In his earlier treatment of procreation amid life’s vicissitudes, Morea’s dominant metaphor is a scene where “brazen summer/wilts weeds in a city lot.” Describing the struggle of the weeds to thrive amid “gobs of tar, old tires,” Morea demonstrates youthful pyrotechnics of imagery, sound figures, and word play:
These growths are pale pith,
sweet and rank, piped in green fibre;
leaves ladder up them:
footholds gouged in the face of sheer cliff-air.
Sun pounds down on raised fingers branching
upon the ledge of bloom;
With such precocious flair, he was good then, but he’s even better now. In “Canada Geese,” he mutes the fireworks so we can hear a more intimate voice, one that tells a subtler tale. Noting how subsequent generations of geese have learned to protect their offspring from traffic, Morea, with defter music, work-play, and apostrophe, laments
While most of you arise by wise adults, seasoned on many seasons,
we get raised by raw near-children.
Humans mostly have but one shot parenting, then
Like you, we learn to keep them off the road, but often
not in time. Like yours, our wisdom grows, but ours grows only old,
and with us dies.
You can read the entirety of both poems at Letters to You Samples.
Some suppose that after his Theory of Relativity, Einstein’s production was restricted to thinking deep thoughts at Princeton until he died in 1955, although he published over 300 scientific papers.
Since his last piece for The New Yorker, Morea has published six other collections of poetry including How About Meet Me Where Nothing Has Ever Happened in the History of the World and Not Sterilized but You Won’t Die From It/The Even Newer Testament. An essayist and cartoonist, Morea wrote The Andrist: a Sexual Political Essay and Book of Crosses: A Thematic Cartoon Collection. His works have appeared in numerous literary magazines including Dreamstreets and The Mickle Street Review, which awarded him the Doris Kellogg Neale prize in 1984.
Like Keats, Morea achieved youthful fame. Like Einstein, his later works are famous to but a few. May the publication of Letters to You provide a second and wider fame for Delaware’s finest poet.
Morea was born in 1945 in Queens, New York City, and grew up primarily there, marrying and moving to Delaware in his late 20s, where he with their mother Kass raised two daughters to successful adulthood. He remains here now with his second wife, Karen.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
I write this as thousands of Americans have bought their Lotto ticket and await the winning numbers. One would have to be living under a rock not to hear all the hoopla and be tempted to go out and buy just one. However, like every one of them, I've entertained those fantasies of what I'd do with an over half a billion dollar jackpot. I did not yield to temptation and buy a Lotto ticket. However, in spite of those who would claim I'd do otherwise, should I stumble into such obscene wealth, here's what I'd do. Here's my fantasy:
First, quite naturally, I'd think about myself. I'd acquire a little more living space; only a few hundred more square feet to relieve those cramped conditions in which I live now. Believe it or not, I don't desire to buy a fleet of Rolls Royces, or even one sleek Porsche. Those who know me, know I'm a firm believer in public transportation. Even though I have an old car thanks to the good graces of a good friend, I consider that car as a back-up to our pathetic local public transportation system. Instead, I'd use the extra cash for taxi fare to supplement the gaps in our current woefully inadequate public transit. And of course, I would be able to go out and enjoy some quality time with my few closest friends.
Cutting to the chase, here's how I'd use the remainder: First, I'd build a recording studio, and a radio and television complex to make possible public access for all the talented musicians and media artists in our community. I'd set up a marketing mechanism so that these musicians could get paid for their work, and to disseminate their product, through the sale of recordings. I'd create more permanent spaces for local public visual artists, past and present, and subsidize the creative processes for those still working. I'd establish a local press to publish the entire local canon of past literary work by Delaware authors and poets, establish bookstores for their sale, and donate important past literary works to local schools and libraries. This same press would publish and pay current worthy literary artists as well. I'd help to establish and support local theaters that stage live performances, as well as to establish theaters for the screening of serious cinema, especially films in the interests of those minorities who've become the majority in Wilmington. I'd begin to preserve historic sites in Wilmington, and, for example, finish the work to restore the Sugar Bowl.
The important thing here is that doing all these things, through the graces of good fortune, would provide more wealth, first through the work necessary to get these kinds of projects off the ground, and later in the need to maintain them, and finally creating an enriched environment that could attract the need to bring necessary manufactures to the area, from bakeries to breweries, from a new and efficient public transportation system to repairing a crumbling urban infrastructure.
However, our local community would not need me winning millions of dollars to realize all these projects, to make this fantasy come true. This kind of money is already out there. It's there in the collective "old money" bank accounts of our local duPont clan, in the annual bonuses of those corporate and bank executives who live here, tucked away in those portfolios, and Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts of the Centreville jet set. The kind of money I'd never win, the half billion dollars I claim could miraculously transform our cultural environment, would never be missed by those in the local wealthy class who have it. With the click of fewer mouses than one realizes, that kind of money could make it all happen.
It won't happen, however, because an enriched cultural environment is not in the interest of the wealthy class. While they may throw chump change and tax write-off dollars to this or that cultural organization, they only do it to control the local cultural environment instead of liberating it. It is not in the interest of the local wealthy class to better engender an enriched cultural environment because it would serve to raise the social value of all those who live here, to allow people to feel as though they play a more valuable part in our community. If such were the case, they might have to pay more people a better wage and a larger salary, and that would not be good for profits. The value of greater social and cultural wealth challenges the cause of mere capital accumulation for a few. An enriched cultural environment creates greater value for larger numbers of people than those relative few who strive for mere greater capital accumulation, while shielding themselves by using chump change and tax write-off dollars in the cause of promoting cultural mediocrity. I know this from experience. I know there are some immensely talented and gifted artists of all kinds living among us who are struggling in poverty, with low paying jobs that serve to devalue their spirits, wear down their bodies, and blunts their desire to express themselves. I also know there are many more who live in or near poverty who are capable of appreciating, understanding and are open to being enriched by all those local gifted and talented artists. The truths embodied in our cultural potential could be the truths that set us all free, but the purse strings controlled by the wealthy are the chains that make us think that the only thing for which we can strive is mediocrity because the exceptional is out of the question.
With the money I could have used to buy a Lotto ticket, I bought a cup of soup instead.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I’ve usually made it a policy not to talk about works of fiction that I'm writing while in progress, but since I’ve retired, or gone on strike, I’m talking. My workshop was the place where the written page was produced. Now I’m blabbing to whoever wants to know.
Some time ago I told my friend Franetta about an idea for a fiction project based on the theme of turning something inside out. I began with the ideological concept and Franetta finished by saying that it sounded like it needed to be a novel.
With the Progressive Era and the Bolshevik Revolution contributing to form what is called the “left” in 20th century politics, there followed the reaction, or the formation of the ideological “right,” characterized by the Fascist march on Rome by Mussolini only a few years after the Russian Revolution. In the language of ideology, the former represented “the dictum of the proletariat,” while the latter, the reaction, represented “the dictum of the bourgeoisie.” Historically and geopolitically speaking, these dicta represented martial forms ostensively led by Stalin on behalf of the Bolsheviks, or Communists, and Hitler on behalf of the Fascists, or the virulent and racist variant called the Nazism. This is an oversimplified background for the idea for the novel.
In the United States this ideological conflict was not as acute as it had been in Europe, but existed nonetheless, in a “softer” form. In the United States during the 1930s, when Capitalism had been weakened by The Great Depression, President Roosevelt’s New Deal, which had been considered by right wingers to be a slippery slope toward Communism, was challenged by extremists who believed that Fascism was not only an antidote to a Communist threat perceived to be lurking within New Deal policies, but was also a martial form of Capitalism that had the potential for lifting us out of The Great Depression. Thus is the basis for my idea for the novel.
Cutting to the chase, the novel begins with the United States House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigating an attempted Fascist coup d’état of the United States government financed by elements of those in the corporate and banking sectors and led by a phalanx of disgruntled military veterans from the American Legion, Pinkerton thugs and other recruits to be led by an American military hero like General John J. Pershing, or Douglas MacArthur, or U.S. Marine General Smedley Butler. In this actual incident, after an attempt to recruit Butler was made, Butler blew the whistle on the plot, which led to an investigation by HUAC. However, after the first reelection of Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, the tone of HUAC’s investigations changed. Under the chairmanship of Congressman Martin Dies (D-Texas) the investigation turned toward suspected Communist influence within the Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), especially the Federal Writers’, Artists’, and Theatre Projects. A good depiction of this move by Congressional extremists can be found in the 1999 film Cradle Will Rock.
In my idea for a novel, which I would entitled Whitelisted, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) does not get taken over by paranoid extremists like Martin Dies and continues to investigate real Fascist and Nazi influences instead of suspected and alleged “Communist” influence.
In Whitelisted, after the war, HUAC continues its investigations, but instead of investigating persons with alleged “Communist” ties, it continues to investigate those with Fascist and Nazi sympathies. Instead of Alger Hiss being sent to prison, Charles Lindbergh, who had accepted the Service Cross of the German Eagle in 1938 from Hermann Goering on Hitler’s orders, found himself in hot water. Instead of the Hollywood 10 being “blacklisted,” others in Hollywood, like up and coming actors Ronald Reagan and John Wayne, found the best work they could get was in local community theatre. Instead of members in the leadership of the American Communist Party and a number of suspected labor union leaders being sent to prison, members of the John Birch Society were imprisoned. Political purges take place within the American Legion and Pinkerton Agency to sweep out Fascist and Nazi elements. Entertainers like Paul Robeson, Hope Foye, and the Weavers are never blacklisted and go on to have stellar careers. Theodore Bickel finally earns an Academy Award. The writer William F. Buckley can only get published in small community newspapers, while Dalton Trumbo earns a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Ayn Rand can only publish her fiction in boiled down versions in obscure pamphlets and Mickey Spillane is forced to self publish small mimeographed copies of his novels. The Ku Klux Klan is driven underground and many of its most vociferous spokesmen are driven into the woodwork like cockroaches when the lights are turned on.
It’s natural to think that such a scenario would have been improbable. Typically, liberals of the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal tradition have neither the stomach nor backbone for the kind of inquisition those conservatives have, especially those that range from the Joe McCarthy stripe to neo-conservative inquisitional tactics of today –– the Obama birth certificate paranoia being a good example. Yet, with the right kinds of circumstances, perhaps under the initiation of a strong personality, such an occurrence might be made possible through the crafty use of fiction.
Fiction enables conclusions to be ascertained, providing an ending to the novel, evoking and provoking subjects that may be discovered beneath the surface or in plain sight. One such conclusion that might surface is how those victims of these kinds of official inquisitions tend to be cultural figures such as writers, actors and entertainers, and how dangerous they are perceived to be. The next question to consider is why such is the case. Could the answers be suggested by the tendency for artists of all varieties to seek safe havens, such as retreating into the notion of art for art’s sake or poetry for poetry’s sake? Historically, could this help to explain, or even merely introduce the discussion about, the prevalence of abstract expressionism in art after World War II where form obscures content, or the prominence of imagist tinged poetry where appreciation of it is often the product of rigorous deconstruction, usually in an academic setting?
These kinds of issues could be fleshed out through the kind of novel I propose. The post war effort by the Central Intelligence Agency in collusion with a number of corporations and their foundations to influence and shape the post war cultural environment is already somewhat known. The proposed novel Whitelisted could bring these kinds of issues to the forefront, but I won’t be writing it. No one would publish it. I can’t afford to publish it myself. I’ve already written novels that sit on the shelves of a couple local libraries and are never taken out. I have small piles of my unsold novels in my cramped apartment. And I live in poverty and it’s a struggle to keep my head above water. Believe it or not, there are those who are glad of that. They keep the blacklists.
Monday, October 22, 2012
|Protester Ejected from UD Debate|
Innocence and Optimism
Tuesday morning October 16 began with a lesson on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, what President Ronald Reagan called “a standard by which any humble person on Earth can stand in judgment of any government on Earth." Before the day was out, the lesson would be undermined by the University of Delaware-sponsored electoral debates.
I had asked my Freshman English class to select some favorite passages in the Declaration and tell why they spoke to them. I circled the room to see their work and to engage those innocent, optimistic youths in some dialogue. Among the most popular was Article 19:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Next in line was Article 21, paragraph 1:
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
I made some remarks that the debates to take place in the University’s Mitchel Hall that night were excluding Green, Libertarian, and Independent Party candidates and perhaps abridging their freedom of expression and participation in government. At the same time, I noted that rights were subject to limitation when necessary, as Article 29 prescribes, to secure “due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, [and] public order.”
A Train Wreck
What happened that night was a train wreck of rights in conflict, brought on by the University’s decision to limit the public discourse to those with the power of money. UD exacerbated the clash by overreacting to a Green Party and Occupy Delaware “mic check,” a brief, call-and-response demur endured with infinitely more patience at New Castle County sheriff’s sales, national rallies, and even at a speech by President Obama last November.
The stage was set for the clash by the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication (DPC), which organized the debates. Headed by Ralph Begleiter, a former correspondent for CNN, the CPC demanded that candidates meet standards set by the Pew Debate Advisory Standards Project, which suggests that forums either require candidates to raise high sums of money or have the parties go to great expense on polls to prove the popularity of their candidates. Other than the two dominant party candidates, only unaffiliated Alex Pires, a wealthy businessman, was able to buy his way into the debate. Several other debates in Delaware, including those at Widener Law School and the Jewish Federation of Delaware (after some urging), welcomed all ballot-qualified candidates, but the publicly-funded UD imposed its own form of political correctness. As I argued in my Broken Turtle Column August 10, “[f]or UD to take part in this pseudo-debate is a violation of its educational mission.” Let us note that Sen. Tom Carper and Congressman John Carney both sit on the Advisory Committee of the Center for Political Communication that protected them from alternative views.
|The Palm of Information Control|
When Green Party candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Bernie August rose before the debate began to protest his exclusion with a mic check and invite the audience to an alternative debate outside of Mitchell Hall, the University let lose all the accoutrements of information control: Plainclothes cops descended on August and his supporters. Unidentified men in suits head-locked protestors out the doors. An usher in the Mitchell Hall lobby threw her hand over the camera snapping shots of someone in a suit and a uniformed UD cop ejecting a man they later charged with resisting arrest. UDaily, the University’s on-line newsletter, only mentions UD Police and says nothing about plainclothes private security, who, if they were involved, take the university into dangerous legal ground. While August says the police who held him at the Newark Police station were polite and professional, police were very slow to tell friends and family where he and the other arrestee were being held and waited until almost 1 a.m. to release them, pending trial.
UD could of course argue that the rights of the candidates to speak and of the audience to hear were disrupted by the boisterous mic check, even though the University had used its less boisterous power to silence views the audience would surely have welcomed. These views include what the Greens say about environmental issues and national single-payer health care and what the Libertarians say about the war on drugs and the anti-teacher provisions of Race to the Top. Indeed, writing in The Delaware Libertarian blog, Steve Newton reports that the same Pew Study that recommended the restrictive guidelines also noted that 53 percent of voters wanted third-party candidates included in debates. Had the Center for Political Communication given the citizens the debate they wanted, maybe they would have filled the considerable number of empty seats at Mitchel Hall and avoided a bumbling demonstration of arbitrary power.
When President Obama was similarly mic checked by Occupy Wall Street on November 22 of last year, he responded, “"I'm going to be talking about a whole range of things today, and I appreciate you guys making your point, let me go ahead and make mine, all right? And I'll listen to you, you listen to me." The University can redeem itself by dropping all charges against the two arrestees. UDaily reported only that the protesters were removed, apparently finding the arrests too embarrassing to mention. Or they can double down on this disgrace and throw their weight around, the way they did when they intimidated investors from bidding on the old Chrysler site by threatening to seize it through eminent domain, something I learned from Left Behind, a film produced by Ralph Begleiter and his students.
In an academic environment, taboos must be broken and assumptions subjected to challenge. This debate bolstered received wisdom, gave the entrenched a free pass, and suppressed the predictable reaction.
Competing Honors and Competing Rights: Drop the Charges
Recently Ralph Begleiter was honored by Common Cause of Delaware for his role in breaking the taboo against exposing the flag-draped coffins of American war dead. Almost simultaneously, Occupy Delaware was honored by Delaware Pacem in Terris as “Peacemakers Among Us” for breaking the two-party taboo against exposing the plutocratic one percent. I hope Ralph Begleiter will join me in urging the University of Delaware to drop all charges against those arrested and disclose if private security agents were involved.
My students demonstrate a fairly broad spectrum of views and I try to let them sort it out themselves as they contemplate competing rights. However, everything we do at the university is part of the learning environment. What will students take away concerning freedom of expression, participation in government, and Human Rights in general from this truncated debate?
PS: The Complete Mic Check
I am Bernie August and I am the Green Party candidate for the US House of Representatives. My voice, and the people's voices that I hope to represent, are being silenced with this debate. Because I am not a member of one of the entrenched parties, because I am not independently wealthy, and because I refuse to take corporate donations, I am not allowed to participate, even though I am a ballot qualified candidate.
As a result, I am protesting this partisan and farcical mockery of a debate and ask that you join me at THE REAL DEBATE to be held outside this hall and right after this message, where I and other 3rd party candidates will answer your questions. I urge you ALL, audience members and candidates on the stage, to join me so that we can have a truly free and open debate. All of our voices matter.