Sunday, January 22, 2017


I'd hammer out danger,
I'd hammer out a warning,
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land....

Nothing could have hammered out danger more forcefully; 
nothing could have rallied hope more convincingly. (Click here)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


* For non-sports fans: an * is placed beside a record that is tainted because unusual circumstances or some kind of cheating contributed to it.

by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Rafael Jesús González 2017:

                  A woman said I was not polite
                   to the opposition,
                      that I was harsh
                        and did not encourage

                      Perhaps if I were Christ,
                       I could say, "Forgive them
                              for they know not what they do."
                        Or the queen, and apologize
                     for stubbing my executioner's toes.

                     But only if I knew
                      the executioners
                                were mine only.

                What courtesy have I the right to give
                  to them who break the bones,
                                the souls of my brothers,
                                                    my sisters;

                          deny bread, books
                               to the hungry,
                          the children;
                                   medicine, healing
                                       to the sick;
                    roofs to the homeless;

                  who spoil the oceans,
                           lay waste the forests
                                   and the deserts,
                        violate the land?

                       Affability on the lips
                  of outrage
                      is a sin and blasphemy
                          I'll not be guilty of.

             © Rafael Jesús González 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Still thinking about the movie, Hidden Figures, which we saw a couple of days ago. It's an important story and deserves the widest audience. 

Most important, of course, is the belated recognition of the achievements of some truly remarkable black women. Then there are the circumstances they had to overcome, especially the generally ignored and scandalous fact that huge programs of the federal government were run according to the rules and practices of Jim Crow. Also, it's worth thinking about the cold war culture that fueled the space "race".

For now, I find myself thinking about what we take from the fact that rare individuals can overcome the most incredible obstacles. Surely that's a source of wonder and pride and deserves celebration, particularly when it's the "norms" of society itself that individuals have to overcome. 

In addition to the "hidden" heroes of this story, I think of others throughout history who rose to rare heights of human achievement despite their circumstances, despite slavery, poverty, or being condemned by cruel institutions of government and church. I think of current examples. Who can fathom a B. J. Miller, a triple amputee due to a ghastly accident as a teen-ager, who went on to become an outstanding MD and innovator in palliative care? When I read Charles Blow's book, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, I marveled at how a black kid born and raised in the rural Jim Crow South could in his early twenties become a widely read and admired columnist for the NY Times.

We rightly glory in the marvels of human achievement against all odds. But all the achievers and the rare genius are never the whole story. Hidden Figures should raise hopes and expectations for all young people, those of color most of all. It should also enhance our social conscience, our refusal to bow to those elements of our social order that crush hopes and opportunity for the millions.

We listen to music often during breakfast, and sometimes we happen on to a wonderful surprise. Today it was the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra playing Mozart Piano Concerto 17.

I have a strong preference for Mozart performed with the modern piano and orchestra rather than early instruments, so the joy I felt today was genuine surprise. The concerto is sandwiched in between two other concert pieces. The setting in Freiburg is old and gorgeous. But the biggest thrill is in the sheer joy of the performers. They absolutely love what they’re doing; the first violinist is irresistible, playing beautifully while bouncing almost out of her chair.

Am I the only one who often “thinks” and engages in political encounters in my dreams? Bizarre. Another weird one last night, near morning: I talked with an old man. (I was not old in the dream.) He told me that he had the solution for Israel/Palestine: just declare that everyone throughout the land is both an Arab and a Jew. On the spot, it sounded good to me, but then I woke up.

Seems the problems of the world can’t be solved in dreams; I wish they’d stop interrupting my sleep.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


The book Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson was presented to every new student at UC Berkeley in 2016. If it were to be read by every young adult across the country, it would change America profoundly.

In comments appearing on the book’s back cover, Isobel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, describes Stevenson as “a real-life, modern-day Atticus Finch”; and Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, writes that he “is one of my personal heroes, perhaps the most inspiring and influential crusader for justice alive today…” And if that can be topped, Desmond Tutu calls Stevenson “America’s young Nelson Mandela”.

Brian Stevenson went to Alabama as a young lawyer in1983 even as he was still earning his law degree at Harvard. There he went on to establish the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). To this day, that project has challenged an incredibly cruel and pervasively racist “justice system” at its very heart in the deep South, as well as before the US Supreme Court. (It’s that system from which Jeff Sessions emerges as Donald Trump’s Attorney General-select.)

Stevenson and EJI focused on death penalty cases, of which there are so many in Alabama and other southern states. Death rows are loaded with victims who never stood a chance before Jim Crow courts and customary “legal” procedures. Thousands were condemned to years of cruel and destructive punishment as they faced eventual execution.

Despite the odds, Stevenson and his EJI coworkers made significant headway, saving some victims from prison and death, winning Supreme Court judgments against application of the death penalty to juveniles and to mentally disabled. They continually broadened their legal battle, for example successfully defending poor women charged astoundingly with “murder” after a miscarriage.

As my son liked to say when he gave a book report in grade school: "if you want to know more, read the book."

But I still want to say what struck me most about Brian Stevenson himself.

I’m in awe. I’ve known many people selflessly devoted to a just cause. But from his very first case, Brian was completely engaged with the human being he was defending. However important the cause or the issue at stake, it was the human connection that would never be diminished for him. He was as one with the person in trouble; he sought out and linked up with the family, sensed and responded to changing health and emotional problems.

Yes, I’ve known people as active and devoted to a just cause as Brian Stevenson — not very many. Also. a few of these good people might be less than exemplary in their relationships and attitudes toward others. But, although I’ve never met Brian, I think I may never have known anyone with a deeper sense of humanity.

If there are such, I think the guy is a saint.

Monday, January 9, 2017


It’s time to shift this blog away from almost exclusive commentary on current political issues. That’s despite the fact that our country is at a turning point that may prove more fateful than any since the Civil War.

Resetting the focus of this little blog of mine is a personal need, not a political statement. It has to do with being 95, staying engaged without ignoring the realities, minus and plus, of aging. I could go on about the negatives of old age, but perhaps there are some positives that I can call on exactly because I’m a lucky old man. I’m in relatively good health, with lots of time these days for musing and many exciting years to look back on.

My intentions are tentative and not ambitious: comments on books and movies, more sharing of responses to music; reflections on experiences I’ve had and choices I’ve made. I’ll continue to think about politics (the “big picture”) and won’t be able to resist an occasional essay on a hot political issue. My practice has been to email a list of interested people when I post a new blog. I’ll do less of that now so as not to attach undue importance to casual musings. I imagine some of my readers will look in on my blog from time to time without frequent email prompts. I hope some of you will stay in touch, emailing me comments, questions and suggestions.

I suppose what I have in mind lends itself to Face Book, but I’m more comfortable with this familiar setting.

Tomorrow, or in the next couple of days, I’ll start the shift with a few musings about the movie, “Hidden Figures”, and a great book, “Just Mercy”.