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Archive for March, 2008

Silvanellia Plath

I didn’t quite get my Villanelle Expirans right. Here’s another go.

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March 11, 2007

Jodi Kantor
The New York Times
9 West 43rd Street
New York,
New York 10036-3959

Dear Jodi:

Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years. You sat and shared with me for two hours. You told me you were doing a “Spiritual Biography” of Senator Barack Obama. For two hours, I shared with you how I thought he was the most principled individual in public service that I have ever met.

For two hours, I talked with you about how idealistic he was. For two hours I shared with you what a genuine human being he was. I told you how incredible he was as a man who was an African American in public service, and as a man who refused to announce his candidacy for President until Carol Moseley Braun indicated one way or the other whether or not she was going to run.

I told you what a dreamer he was. I told you how idealistic he was. We talked about how refreshing it would be for someone who knew about Islam to be in the Oval Office. Your own question to me was, Didn’t I think it would be incredible to have somebody in the Oval Office who not only knew about Muslims, but had living and breathing Muslims in his own family? I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed something other than what he believed.

I talked about how rare it was to meet a man whose Christianity was not just “in word only.” I talked about Barack being a person who lived his faith and did not argue his faith. I talked about Barack as a person who did not draw doctrinal lines in the sand nor consign other people to hell if they did not believe what he believed.

Out of a two-hour conversation with you about Barack’s spiritual journey and my protesting to you that I had not shaped him nor formed him, that I had not mentored him or made him the man he was, even though I would love to take that credit, you did not print any of that. When I told you, using one of your own Jewish stories from the Hebrew Bible as to how God asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?,” that Barack was like that when I met him. Barack had it “in his hand.” Barack had in his grasp a uniqueness in terms of his spiritual development that one is hard put to find in the 21st century, and you did not print that.

As I was just starting to say a moment ago, Jodi, out of two hours of conversation I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack’s taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print? You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed “sound byte” and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.

I have never been exposed to that kind of duplicitous behavior before, and I want to write you publicly to let you know that I do not approve of it and will not be party to any further smearing of the name, the reputation, the integrity or the character of perhaps this nation’s first (and maybe even only) honest candidate offering himself for public service as the person to occupy the Oval Office.

Your editor is a sensationalist. For you to even mention that makes me doubt your credibility, and I am looking forward to see how you are going to butcher what else I had to say concerning Senator Obama’s “Spiritual Biography.” Our Conference Minister, the Reverend Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman who belongs to a Black church that Hannity of “Hannity and Colmes” is trying to trash, set the record straight for you in terms of who I am and in terms of who we are as the church to which Barack has belonged for over twenty years.

The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth. I do not remember reading in your article that Barack had apologized for listening to that bad information and bad advice. Did I miss it? Or did your editor cut it out? Either way, you do not have to worry about hearing anything else from me for you to edit or “spin” because you are more interested in journalism than in truth.

Forgive me for having a momentary lapse. I forgot that The New York Times was leading the bandwagon in trumpeting why it is we should have gone into an illegal war. The New York Times became George Bush and the Republican Party’s national “blog.” The New York Times played a role in the outing of Valerie Plame. I do not know why I thought The New York Times had actually repented and was going to exhibit a different kind of behavior.

Maybe it was my faith in the Jewish Holy Day of Roshashana. Maybe it was my being caught up in the euphoria of the Season of Lent; but whatever it is or was, I was sadly mistaken. There is no repentance on the part of The New York Times. There is no integrity when it comes to The Times. You should do well with that paper, Jodi. You looked me straight in my face and told me a lie!

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Senior Pastor
Trinity United Church of Christ

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Here’s an interesting exercise: write a 19 line poem with just two rhyming sounds, and in which about a third of the lines are refrains. The first stanza haunts every other — its first and third lines alternating as conclusions to the stanzas that follow, until they come together to end the poem as a couplet. Do that and you will have created something called a “villanelle.”

See the rest of my post on The Well Read Child.

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Please Sign the Petition

Dear Hillary,

I remember when I first saw you across the bar. You seduced me those experienced eyes and that raucous, sarcastic laugh. One thing led to another — too many cosmopolitans, a long conversation about solutions for America, then the uneven walk, arm-in-arm, back to my place. I vetted your credentials all night long. Good times.

I don’t know how it got so nasty. I tried to make it as clear as possible: I’ve chose someone else. There’s no chance — none — that we’ll be starting something up again.

But now I seem to see you everywhere. You say you have the experience. That I’m being seduced by mere words. You call me at 3am to tell me to “get real.” When that doesn’t work you cry, you beg, you tell me how hard it’s been, how it’s all unfair. In a flash you’re wiping away the tears and ridiculing me for being so deluded by hope. You say it’s all a lie.

And lately you’re telling all our friends how it’s not over yet, how it’s still possible for me to change my mind. You say it’s a “Myth” that I can’t come back to you. You say I’m going to get cold feet.

I don’t how to make it more clear that that’s not going to happen.

So please stop. This is hurting both of us: you’re tearing our family apart.

In Memoriam,

Most Democrats

P.S.: Next step: restraining order.

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Clinton 2.0

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“I’m human,” Clinton tells us, and it’s “news to some people.” We’re not told why this is so, but apparently its common knowledge that more is expected of her. What exactly the double standard here is we are not told. But if we connect all of the dots in her campaign’s narrative of victim-hood, we’re meant to interpret it in the following way: She is a woman, and Obama is black; but she is where she is because of experience, and he is where he is “because he is black”; while Obama’s blackness is working for him, her womanhood is working against her. And that’s unfair.

Because one bit of identity politics has been pitted against another, it is especially petty and nasty, as competing victim-hoods always are. That’s why we see such a willingness to embrace right-wing talking points in the enforcement of that privileged victim-hood: Clinton surrogates have jumped on Rev. Wright’s supposed anti-Americanism in a way that they — and most progressives — never would otherwise. This is not to say that the legacy of post-9/11 Democratic cowardice hasn’t helped incubate such mindless nationalism in all quarters.

But who would have guessed that some weird political chemistry would bind pro-Hillary gender consciousness and right-wing nationalism into a single molecule?

Here’s the glue: in Rev. Wright, we have a nexus of the volatile issues of race and patriotism. He is, so to speak, the catalyst that allows a progression from a manufactured opposition of race and gender (as competing presidential identities) to an implied correlation between race and patriotism. Woman or Black Man; if Black Man, then Black Anti-Americanism; therefore, Woman.

Let’s look at how this catalyst works in more detail.

The Clinton campaign seems to believe not only that her current predicament is unfair, but this unfairness is compounded by the contrast between Obama’s supposed post-racial, unifying campaign style, and her unabashed appeal to women and the “historic” opportunity to have a female president. The strategic consequence of this sentiment is the seizing on any opportunity to show that Obama’s campaign is not post-racial at all: that he is not only relying on white guilt and black identification, but also “playing the race card” when he sees fit. Of course, you can go further, and with Rev. Wright Clinton supporters found an opporunity to do just this: not only is Obama not post-racial willing to manipulate race to his advantage, but he secretly embodies the worst excesses of the black community — paranoia, anger, anti-white racism, and a corresponding anti-Americanism. These excesses then become the substance of her current predicament — her glass ceiling: the only way to turn voters back to her special status as a woman is to undo white guilt by connecting Obama to a particular kind of blackness that most Americans can be counted on to fear. That these associations are more common on the right is excused by the fact it is merely a tool to making Americans see a stark contrast between her legitimate identity-claim and Obama’s bogus claim to transcend identity politics.

There is a lesson to be learned from the failure of these tactics: to live by identity politics is to die by it. It can be used indiscriminately by the left, the right, or any political actor in order to vie for power. At bottom it relies on an emphasis on divisions (by race, gender, or other qualities) that can be used for good or ill.

And so this little chemistry experiment can also blow up in your face.

Clinton’s campaign was not helped by her emphasis on her sex or her victim-hood. So the nasty spectacle of her campaign’s prolonged death throws may be just another sign of the times — of this election season’s transcendence of identity politics.

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Classy. Hat-tip ACopperWire.

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