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

 

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” 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 Long Road From Normal


desktop computing 90sA long, long time ago, I used to play chess. Not very well, to be honest; I was probably a better backgammon player if anything. Or maybe I wasn’t all that great at either.

But here’s the thing .. I’ve played neither of those games in… gotta be nearly three decades. First, it was computers … when I fell under their spell, that was it for spare time. I was enthralled, seduced by DOS and data bases. I tend to get pretty intense when I dive into a new interest.

And then I got into politics – headfirst and totally submerged. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been following politics seriously for about the last six years, but, you see .. I didn’t really need to before that. Things were ticking along pretty well – we didn’t get too far forward, but we also didn’t fall too far behind. Business as usual, really. And I was busy.

But then there was Harper. Oh, he’d been around for a while before he really started getting up my nose, but there came a point when I realized that his political trajectory was going to take Canada to places that most of those I consider friends and family, really didn’t want him to visit.

As things heated up towards the 2015 federal election, there were more and more issues in which Harper’s ultra-conservative bent seemed contrary to real growth for Canadians. Austerity measures in Canada worked against future prosperity, and his government’s penchant for secrecy and overreach of government powers of surveillance, especially in the drafting of Bill C51, felt way too much like a Big Brother usurpation of civil liberties.

Harper represented an old guard that was terrified of losing power, and determined to hold on, by force if necessary. Trudeau seemed a breath of fresh air, a loosening of your grandfather’s prohibitive rules, and a step into a better Canada.

And then along came Trump, and the world was never the same again. And probably will never be the same again, in my lifetime.

Now, the weird thing is, I knew, right away, from the day Trump swept down that escalator with Melanoma, like Boris and Natasha, that he was going to be the worst, most disturbing, and most damaging person, to ever happen to America.

trump melania escalatorFor a while I had recapped his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and so this cast of characters were mildly familiar to me. This crew of misfit toys believed that they were the equivalent of American royalty, and displayed the same sort of quasi lèse majesté /insanity so often found from that mix of inbreeding and narcissism. The Trump family were petty tyrants – and they hadn’t even begun to tyrant.

Once inaugurated, I knew he and his family of damaged goods were going to rape America, pillage it’s treasures, and then burn it to the ground, before salting the earth, to prevent further generations from bringing it back to life.

chosen by god to make fun of trumpBut as bad as I thought he might be – he’s worse.

For at least the first year of Trump’s tenure, myself and a very large crop of ‘resisters’ lived on high alert, watching an administration filled with the worst appointees in history, picked solely for their ability to bring down every supporting pillar of democracy and justice, set to the destruction of America in as short a time as possible.

And, oh my .. wasn’t there a lot to see!

Amy Siskind‘s The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year, compiled a list of actions taken by the Trump regime that posed a threat to our democratic norms. Under the headline “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” Siskind’s Weekly List began as a project she shared with friends, but soon went viral. (Amazon)

resist mugDr Stuart Shapiro, a teacher of macroenomics at Rutgers Bloustein School of Public Policy, kept a diary of his own Facebook comments, titled, Not Normal: A Progressive’s Diary of the Year After Trump’s Election

In it, he chronicled his reactions to the incidents, tweets and policy proposals instigated by the new administration in it’s first year. His palpable exhaustion as the nation lurched from surprise to surprise, and outrage to outrage is a helpful reminder that no other presidency in recorded history ever dominated the news cycles as thoroughly and unceasingly as this one has.

And then there was my favourite guilty pleasure … The Resistance by Keith Olbermann

Truthfully, within a year of Trump’s reign, the general definition of ‘normal’ was no more – crushed under the weight of executive orders and a display of greed, arrogance, and corruption so vivid and intense that it often threatened to blind me.

mr corruption

Oh, sure, the Old Guard flailed about, and those bipartisan lawmakers remaining managed to get the Robert Mueller investigation into play, but the Republican party stood firm that their Dear Leader and his demented whims were how those once United States would now be run.

Every time Trump or any of his minions were caught for wrong doing, they immediately cried victim. But really, it is Jane and Joe American and their kids who have paid the price for this poor presidential pick.

Most of the time, I don’t really blame Jane and Joe for falling under the spell of a politician. When you’re trying to raise a family and make a living, a lot gets put aside, to be dealt with sometime later .. maybe after the kids go to bed. It’s all part of a life cycle; someone’s gotta be keeping those home centres and toy companies in business. I can totally understand why the average person – say from 30 to 50 years of age – absorbs no more than the loudest or most eye-catching information that goes on around them.

It just becomes really difficult to keep on giving the Trump Cult that benefit of a doubt as the evidence piles up against their idol and his feet of clay, and still, his approval numbers stay in the mid 40s. These days, the nation is just too damn tired and jumpy to even raise much of a fuss when Trump sets fire to another couple of million dollars on a  weekend getaway, or increases the debt ceiling by another trillion dollars or so.

Most of us following the Trump debacle had just assumed that the Mueller Report would be wrapped up, by now, and that Trump’s crimes would be exposed, and another can of presidents opened in time for dinner.

But nope … apparently there’s still a lot more rabbit hole to fall down.

There is hope, though. This week has turned out to be one of the wildest chapters in the book of Donald’s really terrible, horrible, no good, weeks. As the current White House resident met for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, desperately trying to shake off some of the stink of that fake ‘national emergency’ he’d declared just before taking a long vacation weekend, former personal lawyer and broken nosed ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen testified publicly about the Trump Foundation’s many quasi legal and often very illegal business workarounds while calling Trump a “a racist,” “a con man,” and “a cheat” before Congress, right as the New York Times released a new report detailing how Jared Kushner‘s security clearance had come about .. and it wasn’t nearly as secure as either the Donald or the daughter of POTUS had promised. Nope .. not at all.

Oh yes, a very bad week indeed.

Kim Jung Un got Trump to buy him dinner, give him a place on the world stage, enable Kim’s propaganda, choose Russia/North Korea‘s words over America’s own intel, excuse horrific and ongoing human rights violations, and walk away from taking the blame for Otto Warmbier’s brutal beating death, in a country where nothing is done without Kim’s explicit permission.

In exchange, the North Korean dictator produced a “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. in 2017,.” where the tiny tyrant accused the Trump Administration of being a billionaires’ club, that harbors a “policy of racism” while exacerbating social inequalities and denying freedom of the press and health coverage to citizens.”

trump kim big envelopeOh me oh my and ouchy! Something tells me that the days of sweet, sweet love letters in giant envelopes arriving at the White House from his loving Kim are far behind us now …

I also suspect that a lot of that ‘locker room talk’ in the 2 hour 20 minute CPAC rally rant had much to do with the POTUS feeling increasingly cornered. It’s not surprising the mask would begin to fall off, and a little bit of the crude ‘pussy grabber‘ re-emerge. Thankfully, this time, only an American flag was molested.

Strange days indeed, mama. Or, as Daniel Dale tweeted, “Folks, these are the rantings of a sundowning old man whose brains are leaking out of his ears live on stage.

Can someone please point me the way back to ‘Normal’?

 

The Kids Are Alright


My kids are Gen Xers, the ‘middle child’ of generations. Praise the lawd and hope the creek don’t rise, they’re safely ensconced in solid careers. They’re good people, with good hearts and a firm grasp of reality, if at times, perhaps a little jaded from growing up in this society and as our kids.

millennials who why

The grandkids – well, that’s another story, yet to be written. Caught between two larger generations, the Gen Xers and the Boomers. the Millennials are poised to officially take over as the major demographic in North America in 2019, surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.

And I couldn’t be happier.

It is time to marvel at how capable, thoughtful, media savvy, and socially conscious most of them are. It’s also time to be aware of what kind of country and world we want to live in, as, when this generation takes the reins, they will eventually becomes ‘the boss of us’ AND of our own kids, their parents.

Too many people of my age and slightly older still direct the course our governments have followed for decades. In an allegiance to slash and burn capitalism, and an inability to cede power, we are seeing a spastic, greedy final grasping at mining the best our countries have to offer in an effort to line their own pockets. It’s as though the physical siphoning away of these riches invigorates them like an infusion of virgin blood. That group of supposed fiscal conservatives have little consideration of the current or future environmental or financial welfare of the real inheritors of our countries – the kids.

Or in the case of America, of the fate of most of their citizens. The decisions made by the current government reward the wealthiest of the people, at the expense of the social safety net.

child will burn down the villageWe can plan for our futures, and keep our fingers crossed that we get from cradle to grave without too many inconveniences, but we have to acknowledge the truth – the quo rarely stays statused.

Stuff happens. People get sick, and people get old. Some will lay down their lives for their countries, while others will never have the wherewithal to become productive members of society. No one can really plan for the catastrophic effects of extreme social or climate change, but there are towns, cities, and countries coping with it anyway. Natural disasters and human frailties take lives, and leave calamitous after-effects.

This is the core of community, the reality of a society that places it’s trust and bets it’s life that everyone in the community will work together for the common good, that the strong will lift up the weak, and that every human being has equal rights.

tax cut bybacksThat kind of thinking seems foreign and weak to those that have made their fortunes, and risen to power, with a dog eat dog attitude that screams, “ME FIRST! ME ALWAYS!”

But the Millennials have grown up watching this lascivious corporate greed and disregard for the well being of others. They have looked on as the ruling class redefines what we call ‘normal‘ – and they strongly disagree.

These Millennials simply don’t have the moral apathy of their elders. They are becoming fully fledged adults,  at a time in which the world has never appeared more off-balance, and they refuse to acquiesce to the attitudes of those that made it that way.

They’ve watched as we, their elders and supposed advisers, snidely point to the law breaking, insanity and inanities of the left and right and tear each other apart politically, and they have seen that a lack of diplomacy and the inability to negotiate, in politics or in business, endangers all citizens, not just those who will profit from posturing and aggression.

They’ve watched as political leaders plop their nuclear insecurities onto the war table, and wondered why these ammosexuals cannot see that the use of nuclear weapons would kill millions of their enemies, but also slaughter their own people.

trump crueltyThey’ve watched in disbelief as America’s president, with all of the class of a cornered rabid dog, exhibits a cruelty on a Grand Guignol scale, with no perceived opponent too big or too small to publicly crush and humiliate. He exhibits not a shred of compassion, no ability to feel or even acknowledge the pain of others, and considers his brutish, meaningless, contempt and cruelty for all of his subjects to be a feature, not a bug, of his reign.

Incompetent, ignorant, and unable to comprehend his own ineptitude, he and his equally vile henchmen have begun the normalization of social instability, as psychological distress, along with housing, medical, and food insecurity, ramps up to a fever pitch.

And the kids have been watching.

They have watched as their natural inheritance has been squandered and poisoned in service to those too married to greed to acknowledge their own incompetence and complete abdication of sanity, morality and ethics.

They have watched as we have asked them to consider it ‘normal‘ that a president of the United States would advocate the death penalty for those who produce or sell opioids. A president who casually dismisses countries with a largely black population as ‘shitholes, and who believes that the police system should violate due process whenever due process is inconvenient. A president who tells police officers to unleash their own brutality on prisoners, guilty or not.

They have watched as the president of the United States demands complete fealty, as he makes sweeping decisions of national consequence that he later upends and denies ever having said, all the while assuring his citizens that he never lies and must be trusted unconditionally.

A president who, despite already exhibiting signs of dementia with a little over a year in office under his belt, muses aloud about the possibility of extending his term in office to ‘unlimited.’

sessions justiceThey’ve watched as this normalization of the abnormal extends to what would appear to be treason – an allegiance to a foreign power – even as mounting and incontrovertible evidence proves that Russia is attacking American democracy. His refusal to impose sanctions nearly unanimously agreed upon by the House and Senate – hell, his refusal to so much as mildly rebuke the Russian intrusions – point to a president that is severely compromised, and should be removed from power.

They have watched as everything that we claimed to believe and to pledge allegiance to is overturned… and they have judged us, and found us wanting. And they are right. We seem to have caved to those who seek loopholes that would pervert the rules of law, and unbalance the scales in the hands of Justice. They cannot, and will not, live in that world. We didn’t raise them to live in that world. And now they’re holding us to what we promised them.

More than any previous generation, the Millennials have been taught to not see colour, religion or gender. They clearly see through the hysteria and misinformation the bigots and misogynists bray, and are politically engaged beyond the standards of our own youth. We led them to believe that they were capable, and nurtured their interests and abilities. They are doing what we taught them to do on the playground, in their class rooms; they are paying attention, and talking and listening to each other.

And ‘dying at the hands of a psychologically wounded fellow student ‘ was not on any to-do list that we gave them.

millenials voteIn the last election, 35% of Americans were willfully blind to the lack of ethics and morality, never mind good business practices, that were so evident, and they gleefully placed their X next to Trump’s name.

But this year, millions of Millennials will be eligible to vote.

And they’ve been watching us.

 

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a late addition .. I do love Randy Rainbow! 😉