On Pavlovitz, Positivity, Privilege – and the Bossa Nova


by Roxanne Tellier

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina, who has a wonderful site called, ‘Stuff That Needs To Be Said.’

john pavlovitzMost of his posts are essentially sermons that could be just as easily spoken from a pulpit as read from your tablet. Pavlovitz asks the hard questions of those who consider themselves Christian – what kind of person does the world need right now? And what are you prepared to do to help?

His views are not radical, or at least, they weren’t radical until this current administration began to mutate the basic tenets of Christian beliefs into something unrecognizable.

golden rule

Pavlovitz is a good man, and well able to put into plain words the confusion so many feel in seeking to make sense of the ugliness that suffuses so much of the United States (and Canada) in 2019.

On ‘thoughts and prayers,‘ “As a Christian and pastor I have no aversion to prayer, but in the face of injustice and suffering, prayer without behavior change or measurable movement isn’t something I’m all that interested in. Whether religious or not, heroic people move from burden to action, from heart to hand; they evolve from simply feeling empathy to tangibly expressing compassion. The people who are the difference makers don’t wait for someone else to stand up to corrupt power or oppose unjust legislation or advocate for people who are hurting so that they can join in — they stand up and oppose and advocate regardless of the cost.”

On the rush of Evangelicals to proclaim Trump and his presidency as God’s anointed, he says, “Christians need to stop passing the buck to God, and just own the compromises and sick bedfellows they’ve been willing to make for Supreme Court seats, anti-abortion legislation, weapon stockpiling, and a rapidly assembling white Evangelical theocracy. Stop namedropping God.”

In his most recent post, he responded to many of his followers who enjoy reading his heartfelt prose, but wish he could just lighten up a little. You know – insert a few gifs of playful puppies and kittens into his discussions of how best to deal with an administration hell bent on dehumanizing anyone whom they consider less than themselves, and who dismiss any sort of bipartisan pushback with vile, toxic, rebuttals that further tear their nation apart.

Been there.

It had never occurred to me that being able to dismiss anything that disturbs your little world is a privilege. But it is. If you’re the tiny snotty-nosed kid at the border, wearing dirty diapers that you’ve had on for days, sucking on a bottle that hasn’t been washed in weeks, you don’t have a lot of time to smell the roses. And if you’re a mother who has to worry every time her black skinned son leaves the house, that you may never see him again because some white cop ‘feared for his life’ and shot him for no reason … you may get a little testy when you are told to ‘smile,’ because it makes some stranger happier.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/07/06/the-privilege-of-positivity/

Positive thinking is pretty easy when you’re in the In Club, when your work is appreciated, and when you make a decent or maybe even a good buck. It’s a lot harder when you feel like the whole world is against you .. because it is.

In just two years, the trump administration has managed to completely change America’s attitude towards immigrants and refugees, and in the process, to further step up what seems to be an innate fear and loathing of people of colour.

statue of liberty

While there were always a few hard liners who hated ‘foreigners,’ most people understood that there are only three kinds of Americans on American soil – colonists, immigrants, and Native Americans. Every American’s ancestors came from somewhere else, all the way back to the first settlers, who were lucky they weren’t greeted with the same hatred and cruelty that this current crop of asylum seekers is facing.

Americans used to know that. And they used to know that the people who bagged their groceries, cooked their meals, tended their kids or their gardens, and worked in the jobs that others thought below them, were just the newest wave of those who flocked to America for the chance of a better life.

They used to know that immigrants were actually less likely to commit crimes than white male domestic citizens, and that, until they were given some kind of approved and official status, immigrants could not access any social benefits.

immigrant alternative factsImmigrants are the lifeblood of America. Without the influx of striving, determined workers, America would eventually fade away, as each generation has less children than the one before. It is immigrants who make it possible for Americans to retire – it is the taxes they pay that enable the country to prosper.

In just two years, America has gone from being the ‘shining city on the hill’ to a place where immigrant babies are caged, the Attorney General acts as a personal lawyer for the president AGAINST a Supreme Court decision, and Independence  Day is co-opted as nothing but a re-election rally for a man who spits on Constitutional norm, and needs military parades to keep his ego from sagging. 

july 4 2019

This is a process called ‘normalization.’ Every day we need to tweak our definition of ‘normal’ just enough to get thru another 24 hours without screaming or running around like our hair is on fire. We are constantly normalizing, rationalizing, bringing things down to somewhere near ordinary, just so that we can accept the new status quo and live a semi regular life.

So, I must ask you – in the face of this “new normal,” what does it mean to ignore the abuses of elected officials in our meeting places, just so that we appear to be ‘positive’ and acting in a societally approved manner?

Is it being cynical to believe that those in power have only their own best interests at heart? To see that those who cannot “afford” to give immigrant children soap or toothpaste can somehow find $102 million under the couch cushions to spend on weekly golf vacations, and another $92 million to throw a parade/party to celebrate their own selves?

Or is it perhaps far more cynical to believe that the marginalized, the homeless, the asylum seekers … those who are being hurt, demonized, or treated unfairly because of their birth place, sexuality, or lack of money ….. have ‘only themselves to blame’?

Do those who victim blame really believe that the victims have done something – intentionally or not – to deserve the pain?

If a kneejerk reaction to hearing about cruelty, unfairness, inequality, and the abuse of power is to instinctively blame the victim, who is the real cynic? Is it the one who rails against brutality, or the one who believes that some people are just not born as equal or worthy as others?

ostrich syndrome

I know that the world seems brighter and happier when we all put on a happy face, but hiding our heads in the sand to avoid the reality of a world heading in a precipitously downward motion doesn’t stop the fall; it just makes the landing a lot more of a painful surprise when the ride inevitably ends.

always take sides

 

………………………………………………….

” João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira, known as João Gilberto; (10 June 1931 – 6 July 2019), was a Brazilian singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He pioneered the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s, as such, he is sometimes known as the “father of bossa nova”.”

girl from ipanemaJoão Gilberto, 88, pioneered the bossa nova genre, and in so doing, brought a little bit of ‘strange’ to North America that it didn’t know it had been waiting for.

He had an extraordinary life. In 1955, after releasing his first few recordings, his father, who could not grasp his son’s style, and refusal to get a ‘real’ job, had him committed to a mental hospital. He was released after a week, but not before some memorable psychological interviews there.

“Gilberto stared out of the window and remarked “Look at the wind depilating the trees.” The psychologist replied “but trees have no hair, João”, to which Gilberto responded: “and there are people who have no poetry.”

Gilberto soon teamed up with Antonio Carlos Jobim, a composer, producer and arranger with Odeon Records. But is was with his hit single, “Girl from Ipanema,” sung by Astrud Gilberto (his wife at the time,) that he became known in America. His 1964 album Getz/Gilberto with the American saxophone player Stan Getz, sold millions of copies, won several Grammy awards and popularised bossa nova around the world.

Just this morning I read about the meaning of the word, ‘saudade.’ which can be roughly translated as, “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.”

chega de saudade

“It is a yearning for one’s childhood, when the days would merge into one another and the passing of time was of no consequence. It is the sense of being loved in a way that will never come again. It is a unique experience of abandon. It is everything that words cannot capture. “ Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop

“Gilberto began singing at 18. After moving to Rio de Janeiro, he released the record Chega de Saudade in 1959, which marked the beginning of the world-famous bossa nova music style. ” (The Guardian)

And the rest became history. Rest in Peace, Senor Gilberto.

 

The Fall of Man


My apologies to faithful readers who may not agree with me – or who are easily offended. I’m very offended by anyone who can continue to to support Trump at this stage. This blog is NSFW. (Not Safe For Work.) You have been warned.

…….

A few years back, I used to write recaps of reality shows for a showbiz site. One of the hardest to sit through without gagging was Donald Trump’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’

Watching the D, E and F list celebs fawn all over the Cheetoh, and pledge fealty and allegiance to Trump’s superior business sense made me sick, and the end of each episode’s visit to the Boardroom, where Trump, with Thing 1 and Thing 2 seated stony faced to his right and left, levied his ‘justice’ upon the celebs, and chose who would be ‘fired,’ was always illogical, and unexpected only by those who don’t know the rules of Reality TV – keep those ratings coming.

“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

trumps-women-guarding-their-pussiesThere really is a delicious irony in the GOP’s recoil and revulsion at Trump’s latest faux pas – oh, sorry what I meant to say was, admission of serial sexual assault.

Certainly …  it could be argued that Trump AND the Republicans have said worse in the last few years, putting forward ideas and regulations that dehumanized and disempowered large groups of their own citizens, including minorities and veterans of war. And of course – women.

But apparently, all of these lawfully appointed representatives have to draw the line somewhere, and withdraw their support from Trump  NOW – just weeks before the election – because he’s revealed a truth they’ve danced around for years; that GOP stands for Grab Our Pussies.

gop-stands-for-grab-our-pussiesAnd it’s not because they’re embarrassed at his vulgarity. No, I think it goes way deeper than that. Trump just put into words what they have been putting into practice and law for at least a decade.

They’ve built a cult around appealing to the very people who regularly unleash legal fury on anyone who doesn’t follow Christianity as strictly as they purport publicly to do. All manner of evil and hypocrisy has been done in the guise of  preserving the women, the children, and the god fearing, from any hint of wrongdoing. America, they contend, has descended into a hellfire pit as horrific as the tales of Sodom and Gomorrah, where ‘fornication, going after strange flesh, sexual immorality, perverted sensuality, homosexuality, lust of every kind, immoral acts and unnatural lust’ has become the rule of the land.

donald-trump-rallyAnd, just as in the Bible, those most viciously condemned and punished are women. The Republican Party has effectively taken one giant step backward for mankind, a giant step forward for a Christian form of Sharia law.

Make no mistake; Republican lawmakers have been ‘grabbing our pussy’ for a very long time. They just disguised it in legal terms, and in vague protective cautions that alluded to, but didn’t quite come right out and say, that women were stupid, emotionally fueled creatures unable to either understand the dangers of sex, or to properly deal with the consequences.

It is paternalism writ large. “The policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates’ supposed best interest.”

It has been laughable, watching Republicans attempt to distance themselves from Trump’s chauvinist misogyny.

Remember Mr. Binders Full of Women,  former presidential candidate Mitt Romney? Even he had to draw a line. “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, and Mitt’s running mate in 2012, said he was “sickened” by what he’d heard and banned Trump from a political event in Wisconsin. This would be the same man who’s doubled down on women’s health issues, voting for a bill referred to as the “Let Women Die Bill” because it proposed to allow hospitals to refuse a woman emergency abortion care, even if her life was in immediate danger; co-sponsored a federal personhood bill that declared a fertilized egg that hasn’t even resulted in a pregnancy to be the equivalent of a living person, with all of the rights of federal law, which would mean that aspects of in vitro fertilization procedures and some forms of contraception would be criminalized, as would operations to save a woman’s life in the case of dangerous ectopic pregnancies that cannot be carried to term. Oh … AND voted against women receiving equal pay for equal work. That guy.

From Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has stood by Trump uncritically through numerous controversies: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”

(A 2014 report by the Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report found that women think the GOP is “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion,” and “stuck in the past.”)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the comments are “repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance” and made clear Trump’s brief statement would not suffice.

That would be the same McConnell that legislates against 2.2 million Kentucky women every day, and the women of his country year round, by voting against equal pay legislation, the Violence Against Women Act, and countless other pieces of legislation geared towards protecting the health and security of women. Yeah. That guy.

pence-is-a-bad-manAnd Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate for VP, has, as Governor of Indiana, been a huge proponent of controlling the pussies of Indiana’s women, insisting upon invasive medical procedures, (forced transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion; state rape by any ones definition)  while ensuring a lack of access to the morning-after pill or abortion options. And as recently as March 2016, he signed a bill that required that aborted fetuses receive what amounts to a funeral.

Pence is not only a heartbeat away from taking over as President should a President Trump decline or be unable to govern,  he accepted the request to be Vice-President when told that the offer would make him “the most powerful vice president in history, in charge of domestic and foreign policy.”  (This was the offer made to John Kasich this past July, duly reported when Kasich made the terms public.)

Everything about Pence’s policies should frighten most people, as his gubernatorial practices have showcased the spectacular power available when a conspiracy theorist, who can be bought at a bargain price, gets into office.

Despite ample proof, for instance, that cigarettes are a health hazard, Pence has repeatedly sold himself (and very cheaply, I might add) to Big Tobacco, allowing Indiana, under his governance, to attain “the highest adult smoking rates of any state in the industrial midwest region and the seventh highest smoking rate in the nation. With among the lowest tobacco taxes of any state, public health experts warn the state is “really in bad shape.” Indeed a 2014 article noted that “17 percent of pregnant women smoke — nearly double the national average — and this has been linked to lower birth weights and higher rates of infant mortality. As a result, it noted, “the state spends $28 million a year on health costs for infants born to mothers who smoke.””

Moreover, he doesn’t believe in climate change, is vehemently against any LGBTQ equality, marital or otherwise, and we already knows how he really feels about women.  And this is the guy who’d be in charge of your domestic policies. How do you like him so far?

trump-logicSo spare me the pearl clutching, Republicans. Spare me the supposed indignation over Bill Clinton‘s CONSENSUAL if stupid fumblings with a starry eyed intern, and your belief that Hillary Clinton was his enabler, who should somehow have been able to control her husband, who was at the time the most powerful man of the land, and thereby disqualifying her from being President herself, two decades later.

That kind of thinking buys into two distinct feminine stereotypes, and you’re asking us to hold both of those ideas as reality;  there’s the poor, innocent young woman, who can’t be expected to control herself around a powerful man’s needs, and the harridan wife who, upon assuming marital status, wears the pants in the family and controls her bumbling husband’s indiscretions.

trump-outreachSee, that’s the thing, Republicans … women are people, not stereotypes. Sure, you can point to a woman or two that seems to embody the qualities you’re decrying, but that’s got as much relevance as saying that you saw a dog with three legs once or twice, so all dogs with four legs are anomalies. Stereotypes are personal observances rushed to judgment, nothing but ” a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”

The bigger picture, revealed by Trump’s words, and his non-apology disguised as ‘sorry not sorry‘  if anyone was offended, implies that people like Trump and his supporters do not find his comments offensive, but that his words are rather the truth and reality of how men talk behind closed doors when they’re saying what they really mean about women.

It’s saying that those that are offended are somehow lesser beings, incapable of understanding the real trappings of wealth and power. It’s saying that they don’t care about your feelings at all, and that, in fact, they are annoyed that you had the nerve to call them on it. In fact – they blame you for having the nerve to be upset. After all .. it was just a bit of boyish banter, like all men do when they’re out of a woman’s earshot. Mostly.

It’s not an apology when you’ve no intention of either acknowledging your words or actions or changing how you’ll behave in the future. It’s saying that you’ll keep on doing these things in private, hoping you don’t get caught again.

trump-grabs-ivankas-assIt makes his repeated insistence that, “there’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do,” a cause for serious alarm.

It’s not like the leaked tape should have come as any surprise, really. Trump’s obsession with women, including his own daughter, is well known.  He’s treated women as disposable items throughout his entire life, taking what he wants from them, and then discarding them for younger models. He’s had hissy fit temper and twitter tantrums that called women ‘pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ and worse, describing reporter and debate moderator Megyn Kelly as having ‘blood coming out of her .. whatever’  in what was simultaneously the most prudish and repulsive manner possible. He’s held all women, no matter what their place in life or relationship to him, accountable to a high standard of … well, let’s face it .. fuckability. And when those women fall below his standards, they are summarily dismissed, like so much trash.

megyn-kelly-before-and-afterHis entire campaign has been built around a fairytale of his own making, insisting that America is “in such a desperate place that a wild card like Trump is worth the risk. Trump fans talk like they live in a western town, where the banditos are so out of control, only a maverick gunslinger can save them. A man with no tax code, the fastest tweet in the West, covered in man tan. ”

“But I give Donald Trump’s supporters a little credit. They know he’s an asshole. It is hard to hide. They just don’t care. Yes, he’s dangerous. And thin-skinned. And unhinged. And clinically insane. And an egomaniac, a compulsive liar, a charlatan, with the impulse control of a grease fire.  But we have to take the risk because America is hanging by a thread! How do we know it is? Donald Trump told me!”  (Bill Maher, Real Time)

Trump has proclaimed that America is a hell hole, in dire straits, where the ‘generals have been reduced to rubble,’ the American Dream is dead, the infrastructure is going to hell, aw hell, everything and everybody is living in hell! Yes, YOU, each of you!

trumpzombieapocalypseTrump’s vision of America resembles a zombie apocalypse, where the good townsfolk do battle against the bad zombies, killing with impunity, taking what they want or need when they find it, and yes, treating women as disposable chattel that the most powerful can have without any niceties.

When in fact,  America’s in pretty good shape. Violent crime is at it’s lowest since 1970; fewer Americans are without health insurance; cancer, alcohol abuse, and teen pregnancies are down; employment is up, as is the stock market. The ‘hated’ President Obama has an approval rating of 55%.

But a world where things are actually pretty good – that doesn’t work for a guy like Trump. Trump needs to live in a self-created chaos, where he can rule as the absolute final word on all within his sight.

Or his grasp. Of a pussy.

The second presidential debate  between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take place at 9 pm Eastern tonight, and be conducted in a “town hall” format featuring questions from undecided voters.

donald-trump-enragedAs the denunciations from his former supporters, and calls for him to quit the race continue to stream in, I’m fairly certain we can expect more of that doubling down that Trump does so well.

His rage toward those condemning his words – turncoats, in his view; the ‘gotcha’ media;’ women in general for making such a big deal about his words and actions, and Hillary in particular for being too smart for her own good, will be barely contained.

He’ll be defensive, only just containing his insecurity, and will take every opportunity to turn any detrimental comment into an attack on Clinton and the Democrats.

He’ll lie, bold facedly, and deny things he’s on record as saying.

And still there will be those supporters who will stand by him, essentially handing him the possibility of running America as his own little fiefdom.

And sadly … many of those will be women.

 

Is It Foolish To Be Positive In A Cynical World?


I haven’t written much lately, and there’s a reason for that; I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by much of recent human behaviour, and I’m fighting against becoming cynical.

To be inspired to write, to communicate your thoughts and beliefs, is to be aware of the world around you. Everything is grist for the writing mill, whether good or bad. You “write what you know.”

main stream media owned by 6 corpsWhat are the messages we are receiving, from mainstream media, from social media, from our friends? What are we processing and regurgitating, aloud, in print or digitally? Are we absorbing the constant bombardment of information, filtering it through our own belief systems, and coming up with something that makes sense, or are we just letting it wash over us, as all too much to contend with?

In the face of injustice, as in blatant racism, or as in how those with money and power are treated differently to those without, many rush to justify what is clearly morally wrong. Unable or unwilling to actually parse the injustice, they make excuses, pushing aside their own moral concerns to side with the abuser rather than the abused. In time, that constant re-working of what goes against their own inner morality leaves them unable to clearly delineate right from wrong – every issue becomes subject to exceptions. Actual scientific facts become ‘unproven.’ “War is peace. Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.” (1984, George Orwell)

Our cultural heroes are no longer men and women of strong moral character, willing to sacrifice for causes to improve mankind. Rather, we put pop stars and billionaires on pedestals, and worship their most banal efforts as triumphs. And, befitting this shallow mindset, we first build up these ordinary people, and then we tear them down, mercilessly.

candycrowleyfatshamingThe ‘mean girl’ caricature, once parodied and satirized, is now considered normal behaviour for many with little themselves to offer, beyond snide disapproval or belligerent tirades. Those who, through luck or machinations, are in positions where they could actually improve the lives of their fellow man, instead choose to belittle those who already have very little.

“Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.”

99 want peaceLately this rush to demolish what took centuries of effort and sacrifice to create – a modern civilization with dreams of equality and peace – seems to have accelerated beyond all control. It’s difficult to remain positive and to continue to believe in the fundamental goodness of the human race.

And the irony of those attempting to pull down the pillars of society lies in the truth that they have no concrete plan for a new form of society beyond their only motivation; power, and to impose absolute control over everyone else’s lives.

I do believe in mankind. I also believe that we are at a turning point, a time when it’s still possible to turn the ship around, and get back on the right course. For civilization to move forward, we need to stop believing that social, political and religious differences should be met with intolerance. And we must demand of the people we have put into power that they work for the people, not against the people.  radical belief