Ah, recovery…I am pleasantly surprised by how quickly and easily I got my running mileage back up to an acceptable level after the five-week layoff while my wardrobe included a cast on the fractured wrist. The cast came off on Friday, 27 March. I ran the next morning.
Saturday I capped off a 30-mile week with a run just shy of 13 miles, building on two preceding 25-mile weeks. My pace remains glacial, even by my standards. That is okay. Getting the base back is the priority as I ready myself to begin marathon training in three weeks.
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Maybe the running would not mean so much if I had a life. I say this somewhat tongue in cheek, but only somewhat. Those who come to this space regularly will note that I have not done so of late. It is not that I no longer go to my desk. Far from it. The files are littered with fitful starts, abandoned essays, images and fragments that might have coalesced into poem but did not, all dross and detritus, as I find myself adrift in the desolate gray of Beckett territory, nothing to say, no words with which to say it.
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Conscience forbids turning blind eye and deaf ear to injustice and wrongs we humans inflict upon one another almost routinely. Conscience compels obligations of citizenship and engagement in the public arena, if nothing else that we take a stance, always with the terrible awareness that any act is apt to amount to little more than gesture, symbolic, futile, empty. Perhaps ’tis well to bear in mind Wordsworth’s lines in “Tintern Abbey” about “that best portion of a good man’s life / His little, nameless, unremembered, acts / Of kindness and of love.”
For too long I have eased my conscience with regular donations to organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, and Union of Concerned Scientists, supplemented by occasional participation in letter-writing campaigns. A week ago I thought of going downtown for the May Day march. I shied away because I knew that among those marching in good faith for a righteous cause would be a critical mass of self-styled anarchists in balaclavas and bandana masks, playacting at revolution, out to precipitate the confrontation with police that indeed occurred. Maybe this is all the more reason for those who think as I do to take part and be counted. Something to bear in mind going forward.
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These days paranoia run amok scarcely counts as news. Even so, Texas managed to distinguish itself with the furor over a routine military exercise that a fair number of citizens believe is cover for a military takeover of the state where guns will be confiscated and dissidents will be imprisoned in abandoned Walmart stores. Governor Greg Abbott showed himself to be a fitting successor to Rick Perry, who as Molly Ivins observed, has really good hair, when he issued an order for the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation, from which he backed off a tad after even some Republicans chastised him for pandering to the crazies. The Secretary of Defense hardly distinguished himself with his denial of a charge that does not merit comment.
It takes no great expertise in the field of history to note that the federal government has already taken over Texas on several occasions, first seizing it from Mexico, and again after ill-fated secession from the union. As Texas has not yet tried secession again, a federal takeover would seem to be redundant.
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The to-do over use of the term “thug” by Barack Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, among others, to describe those in Baltimore who burned, looted, pillaged, and rampaged was something of an annoying sideshow to events of greater import. I am tempted to say that I can accept just about any derisory term to express condemnation of acts that went beyond the pale of acceptable conduct regardless of provocation or underlying issues. Thug, jerk, knucklehead, Republican, take your pick.
A moment’s reflection gives rise to second thoughts. Emotionally charged words are ill-advised fodder for superficial distractions. The usual suspects among the crowd of law-and-order fetishists gleefully took up the epithet to tar protesters generally. That was and is despicable. I suspect that among the rioters, along with hotheads out for confrontation, eager to stick it to the police, or the man, or whoever it is they thought they were sticking it to, could be found a fair number of ordinary people caught up in the dynamic of the mob, doing things they would not be doing under less extraordinary circumstances. We can understand this without condoning it.
The president got it right. Congressman Elijah Cummings got it right. Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony got it right. Destroying the community is not acceptable; it does nothing to bring about redress for legitimate grievance or remedy systemic social, economic, and political injustice and failure. Wanton, mindless destruction brings only harm and suffering to innocent people.
There is no manual with step-by-step instructions to wipe away disparities in wealth, education, and opportunity, to provide decent-paying, entry-level jobs for men and women without education, training, or in some cases discipline, to provide role models for children from families that are broken, in many cases children whose parents are not be bad people, just all too human.
There are heartwarming stories of children with exceptional parents, altogether heroic mothers and fathers who rise above the most difficult of circumstances to give their daughters and sons a shot at a better life. Not everyone is exceptional. Children who grow up without the guidance from parents, teachers, and community that some of us were fortunate to know will not have that experience to draw on when they themselves become parents. A terrible cycle will be perpetuated.
“If we have learned nothing else from the twentieth century, we should at least have grasped that the more perfect the answer, the more terrifying its consequences. Imperfect improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all we should seek.” —Tony Judt
The Texas takeover is like Obamacare death panels, or Sharia law coming to a court near you, or fluoride in the water supply. It doesn’t matter if the particular charge is proven to be completely false. Just getting the larger idea (don’t trust Obama’s feds, they want to un-cling you from your guns and religion) into the mainstream media is a victory. It validates the paranoia. (Leslie Savan, Who’s Really Laughing About the Invasion of Texas? The Nation, 8 May 2015)