Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where I agree with Steve Bannon

One thing I want to make sure of, if you look at the leaders of capitalism at that time, when capitalism was I believe at its highest flower and spreading its benefits to most of mankind, almost all of those capitalists were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian West. They were either active participants in the Jewish faith, they were active participants in the Christians’ faith, and they took their beliefs, and the underpinnings of their beliefs was manifested in the work they did. And I think that’s incredibly important and something that would really become unmoored. I can see this on Wall Street today — I can see this with the securitization of everything is that, everything is looked at as a securitization opportunity. People are looked at as commodities. I don’t believe that our forefathers had that same belief.

- Steve Bannon.

Read his speeches. I agree with this. This is the repugnancy of neoliberalism - that capitalism has turned from having its underpinnings in the rule of law and equitable negotiation and covenants (contracts) into being global highway robbery. The Dems/the Left can acknowledge this truth and split from their Davos/Bono overlords, or they can keep goddamned losing elections because they think the working poor should consider themselves fortunate to be able to vote for an overlord. Don't you get it you guys? We're China now, with a lot of same-y people at the top, and this vote was the impoverished of America pressing the SCREW THIS button. The racism, antisemitism, misogyny and homophobia were bolt-on applications that Bannon and the alt-right have odiously connected to an economic message. But this economic message is fundamentally sound.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


I can't watch. I couldn't rouse myself to watch the first debate, though I tried, and I couldn't stream the Cubs' victory last week and like Brexit, I figure, why rob myself of a good night's sleep, the result will still be there in the morning. Or the news of the shootings. Or martial law, you know, all depending.

So many of my friends feel good today, posting about tearing up, feel like something good has happened, this groundswell of effort for Hillary. Pantsuit nation. They feel so good that perhaps they don't notice that the big ugly problems are not going away. They feel great because Michelle Obama said to go high, so they went high, but that only is in comparison to people calling for Hillary to be jailed, so it's not that high. This wasn't a campaign on issues. Not even the bullshit flashpoint faux issues that traditionally divide voters. This was campaign as reality television, a battle of personalities and footage. It was awful. Read about the Lincoln-Douglas debates and realize the days of intelligent discourse are way, way behind us. Blech.

Does anyone else in their heart of hearts think that Hillary got as far as she got partly because of her husband? Does anyone else fear the absolute groundswell of misogyny - unconscious yet unmistakable - in the comments about her? In the feelings people had about her? In the hate?  Maybe I should be grateful the ceiling could be shattered tonight. Maybe I should celebrate the good and not dwell on the massive giant flaws.  But really: we haven't come that long of a way, baby.

I wish the Republicans had not let the Evangelicals turn their political party into a nasty partisan zealot club. I wish that old enemies could reconcile. I wish that someone in some far off reach of this campaign had an objection to war, the money, all the drone killings. I wish someone was speaking about peace. I really wish that. Peace is only mentioned on Christmas cards now and I hate it. I will send your Christmas card back with 'screw you' written on it if it mentions peace and you voted for Hillary, because she's a hawk.

 I wish that corporations didn't have a lockdown on Congress. I wish that the first thing they told you when you ran for Congress was that you could make a difference - not that you needed to ask corporations for money. I wish that all that anger that translates to Trump support could be acknowledged in some big, meaningful way. I wish that the judiciary could see how blind they are to their own disempowerment. I wish someone could start bringing lawsuits against those in Congress blocking confirmation of Merrick Garland. WHEREFORE MERRICK GARLAND, everyone?

You can take your daughters to the polling stations all you want and God bless you for it but deep down you know what I know: the world is getting worse. We are in a dark place and it is getting darker. The United States is gripped with bipolar disorder, and no one at one end will make friends with those at the other. In fact the last year has just made it worse.

Monday, October 31, 2016

My Samhain

Hallowe'en is from Samhain, the Celtic pagan holiday that commemorated the dark half of the year. On October 31st, the veil between the living and the dead was weak, the living could visit the dead and the dead could visit the living The original jack o'lanterns were turnips in Ireland to ward off the less savoury dead characters, the troublesome ghosts and demons. And  trick or treating is from mumming, when villagers would dress as the demons and the less savoury dead, and get treats in exchange for leaving homeowners in peace. Trick or treat: children echoing ancients pretending to be demons.

I have my dead on this Samhain, but my Samhain is Halloween, it's Timewarp, and Snickers bars. My Samhain is hitting Sixth Street even though I lived on Fourth to get as much candy as possible. Tonight my daughter was invited to a White Party at a church because some people now think that the demons may be knocking, but I invited her to come trick-or-treating instead, to walk in darkness and befriend the demons.  The anarchy of walking in the dark and knocking on stranger's doors, the homespun panic of putting up braids so that Princess Buttercup was just right, the using up of my best eyeliner on cat whiskers and bat noses, that is my Samhain. I honoured my dead with the chaos of Ghostbusters and doorbells and tails falling off seven-year-old cats. I gave myself over to the ritual I knew and went deep. I smelled leaves and watched toddlers hustling for Maltesers and immersed myself in this thin moment.

I don't know where the dead are. I know they can't be  ignored. I know there is no point in a white party that pretends the darkness isn't there. It is there. I made my peace with the darkness tonight with small Mars bars and streetlights and individual packets of Haribos. It is enough. Goodnight, my dead. Goodnight Nick. Goodnight Francesca. Goodnight Mark. Goodnight Taid. If the veil was thin enough, I would have offered you a drink and invited you along. I would have given you Twix and M&Ms not to leave but to stay. I would have handed them out of my £5.99 plastic cauldron. I would have been grateful for Samhain.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Blindness and Betrayal

I am thinking about blindness and betrayal. I am working on this courtroom drama  based on a true story about a jury case I tried in Federal Court in 1997. The first time the phrase 'predatory lending' was used in court. I read the whole manuscript of the trial when I started working the play and I have to tell you I come across as kind of a racist on the spectrum. I mean we won so there's that, but I have been thinking about my blindness in that time. I am not claiming to have perfect vision now, but at the time, I had been deeply acculturated into thinking that a hoop jumping Harvard Lawyer working at a top firm really did know better than everyone else.  I dismissed a certain percentage of what my client Mr. Williams told me as fanciful. As untrue. Or an exaggeration. 

For instance he used to tell this story (which may not make it into the script) 

EARL:          Where I live more of a war zone.

RUBEN:         Objection.  Relevance.

JUDGE:         Sustained.    

EARL:          (Oblivious) I remember one summer, some crack heads took over a tore-up housing project over to N Street.  It was a Friday night. Police try to shoot them out.  Now that don’t work. Those crack heads in a concrete bunker!  So the National Guard they sent in some tanks plow right in there and they set up these lights, these real bright lights like they use for the Oriole night games. Shined it in to drive the crackheads crazy. And they played music. They played some white musicall hours. (SINGING) “IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN ---- da-da DAH dah, dada dah dah dah; dada DAH dah, dada dah dah dah. ”   

REBECCA:       Earl, stop. Sorry, Mr. Johnson, the objection was sustained. That means you’re supposed to stop talking. Remember? What happened at the money places on Georgia?

I used to think he was making this up. Tanks? In a neighborhood? I mean come on.  Surely that would be in the papers! That's what I thought.  No! He’s making that up.

A month ago I watched the opening sequence of Straight Outta Compton which takes place the same year (but in L.A. not Washington).  It is exactly what Mr. Williams described. I sat in my living room alone shaking my head for a long time. There was a tank. I mean the whole thing. So you know, I really had no idea how bad it was out there for some people even though I thought I was this do-gooder. Now that I have some marginally greater level of insight that comes with age and reading The Economist  I still am pretty blind. The trick may be to know your own understanding is limited, and what other people tell you about reality should in fact be taken as helpful in understanding it. This is of course a pain in the ass. But if you want to be a good human, that’s really the only deal on the table.

If we can start with the logs in our own eyes that might be good.

Betrayal. I recently read a quote from a French philosopher (not really sure of the source) who said that moving forward in life requires that you say goodbye to things and people and projects, and viewpoints and habits. That everyone should daily practice this painful art of making room for the new by saying goodbye to the old.

What I see in this is that it is time to say goodbye to the things that do not serve us, and honest to God, that includes the current UK government.

It may be that it can be fixed, but honestly, we must betray the government in its current form for the sake of the people we are blind to.  Not because we don’t love our country but because we do. For the sake of our children. Out of love for pure justice and the rule of law. Because this is the land of the Magna Carta.  

Betrayal hurts, it feels ick, it is frightening, you are depriving yourself of something that was once a part of you, but if we want to move forward as good humans, this is what we have to face.

Because the earth is ill and sixty-five million have no homes and we are mired in endless war, serving at all and every instance not the needs of our humanity and our planet but shareholder return. Corporate interests. Growth.

I watch this election in the States and the refugees and it is increasingly unbearable for me to benefit as I do from the bank-serving state while the victims of the state are unaided. I don’t have enough Rawlsian faith in the system. Why are we putting up with it? How can we put it behind us and make room for something new – something reformed – something that serves the earth and the humans.

We see where we are blind and we betray what is to make room for what we want to be.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Nick as an Inspiration

I met Nick in 2001. I was a trial lawyer in Washington when I fell in love with Rhys and Nick was one of the first people Rhys introduced me to.

Nick was reassuringly a fan of my future husband. He was an incredible asset as a friend, present in the hospital, at weddings and funerals- as Kate said- Nick was really a stickler for being a good friend.

He was generally a real stickler. Nick may have been seduced into the glamorous world of journalism as a youth but he matured into – in my estimation-  a great ethical thinker. He brought big thoughts into everyday matters. A practical justice. Should you thank someone for a thank you note? (yes but it had to end there).  Could we bring about a society that embodied the true socialist message of Bagpuss? (he went back and forth on this one) Should you ever buy towels that are not white? (no you should not).

When our son was born and I went back to work, I confessed to him how horrible I felt. He told me that his mother had worked, and that some of his warmest memories were sitting on the couch watching TV with his mom after work.  It’s good that you work, he said. It’s right. Nick enjoyed finding practical justice. 

In the early days of Facebook – 2008 -- he posted a quote attributed to EM Forster.

 We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

There is a graciousness here and Scottish practicality. Pure Nick. The life that was waiting for him became his art. That’s what he told me. And it was mostly the art of having as much fun as he could get away with in the circumstances. He was still dancing when I met him- he danced with ideas.  He would leap and flirt, ditch his partner for a more attractive one, race away only to circle back,  striking poses, endlessly engaged and endlessly engaging. He had a lot of dance moves. He had the prism of his legal education. He had his journalist background. He had this natural inclination to art. He had his encyclopedic mind. 

Nick was one of the most open-minded people I have known. I mean, I think of myself as quite open-minded but he was a radical dancer in that regard. I remember showing up for a Halloween party in Midhope House dressed as Groucho Marx and he loved it and was sort of prodding me about this male persona and didn’t I love it and did I want to come back next week in the same outfit. Very open-minded. His own ethics created this obligation to truth. No idea was above humour, and no idea was beyond consideration.

To me the subtext of his friendship was a mandate. Find the truth of who you are – that’s what he was saying- look fearlessly and then celebrate it.

He once said to me at a Gaylords party that he didn’t know what he had done to deserve such wonderful friends. I said some lame thing at the time but last night it occurred to me what he had done to deserve such wonderful friends. He had found them wonderful.  

To be loved by Nick was to be believed in. He had an intuitive understanding of art coupled with a stockpile of good judgment and the patience to – at least with me – sift through scenes and scenes and scenes and help me find the truth worth noticing, worth dancing with, worth celebrating. He rejoiced in my successes and said never mind when I failed. He saw the best of me and I wanted to be who he could see. 

Whatever situation you have in your life, whatever burdens you are carrying, however you are living the life that is waiting for you it should be of some consolation that Nick found you wonderful.

This past Saturday I was at his flat to help clean it out and the first thing I saw  - on the floor - printed out in large font - was this quote from Martin Luther King:  

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.  The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists.  In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!

He loved to dance with those big, magic, show-stopping ideas of justice and peace and to play with the big energies that you must play with to imagine how to get to a secure and liveable world. 

The last time I saw Nick really dance with these ideas – that now popularly fall under the heading “human rights” was when David Knott  - a true nonconformist - came back from Calais this winter and we met in Nick’s flat. Nick knew in his bones what it was to be vulnerable to the State, and he knew the fragility of humans already and when we heard David’s stories there was a resonance. An understanding of suffering.  That understanding gave him a depth of wisdom and empathy. That depth of empathy infused his mind and made the merely clever profound. To me that was the most beautiful dance of all.  That’s what human rights were to him, the vision of a possible world. Practical justice. 

Nick saw that further shores are reachable from here. The quote I found on the floor starts with hope. The hope of a secure and liveable world. Maybe a way to be inspired by his memory is to keep hope for justice alive.  With graciousness and practicality. For hope does come from the same place as jokes, as mischief, as dancing, as Nick.