Reflections on Memorial Day 2020

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On this Memorial Day 2020, I reflect on the lives cut short in America’s never-ending wars of terror across the Middle East, following our invasion of Iraq in 2003. I share with you an insightful realization, born of lived experience of war, from the opening chapter of the novel, The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers (USA, 2012).

SEPTEMBER 2004
Al Tafar, Nineveh Province, Iraq

The war tried to kill us in the spring….
Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all color from the plains…. The war would take what it could get. It was patient. It didn’t care about objectives, or boundaries, whether you were loved by many or not at all. While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on. And I knew the war would have its way.

Narrative voice of twenty-one-year-old Private John Bartle of the USA Army from the novel, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, published by Little, Brown and Company, USA, 2012, pp 3-4.

Described in these terms, humanity’s wars operate much like the deadly COVID-19 let loose among Earth’s populations. What will it take to end the spread of viral human warfare? When will we stop losing our loved ones on the frontlines? When will we stop killing vulnerable civilians—women, children, and the elderly—exposed to the virulence of our wars?

KEVIN POWERS was born and raised in Richmond Virginia, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. He served in the U.S. Army in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, where he was deployed as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. The Yellow Birds is his first novel.

“for the mothers who did the best they could” – Poem by Caribbean-American Poet Aja Monet

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Caribbean-American Poet Aja Monet
Photo Credit: gal-dem magazine

 

My Poetry Corner May 2020 features the poem “for the mothers who did the best they could” from the poetry collection, My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter (USA, 2017), by Caribbean-American poet Aja Monet. Born in 1987 in Brooklyn, New York, to Cuban and Jamaican immigrants, Monet is a cofounder of Smoke Signals Studio, a political safe-haven for artists and organizers in Little Haiti, Miami. She facilitates a workshop “Voices: Poetry for the People” in collaboration with Community Justice Project and Dream Defenders. She currently lives in Miami, Florida.

Monet’s mother raised her and two siblings with little help from their absentee father. In the “Author’s Note” of her poetry collection, Monet notes: My mother was a freedom fighter and so were her mother and her mother’s mother. I witness their movements in this world and it informs my own, their labor to love and live freely, their joy and their pain, the magic and madness… I dream of a world where no mother regrets, no mother resents, no mother buries her child.  Continue reading

The Writer’s Life Under the COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown

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Today marks the fifty-third day of my home isolation under our statewide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. Though I’m used to working at home, the fallout of this global pandemic has unsettled my creative writing process. I can no longer focus. Our federal government’s chaotic mishandling of this health disaster has scrambled my brain cells. Each day brings new shocks that demand processing.

Attempts to write the fourteenth chapter of my third book have proved futile. Instead, I focus on completing the essential research required to add legitimacy and depth to the profiles of women I plan to feature in this book. More than ever, men and women must work together as equal partners to find solutions for the existential crises the human species now face. No more name calling. No more putting down. No more cries to lock her up.

After my initial consideration to postpone the 2020 release of my second novel, The Twisted Circle, I’ve decided to go ahead with its publication. I’m now ticking off each step completed of the process for submission of my complete manuscript from cover to cover. More about the cover art at a future date. Continue reading

Thought for Today: We Must Imagine a Different World

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The [COVID-19] pandemic should awaken us to the realization that in a just world, social fetters should be replaced by social bonds, ideals that trace back to the Enlightenment and classical liberalism. Ideals that we see realized in many ways. The remarkable courage and selflessness of health workers is an inspiring tribute to the resources of the human spirit. In many places, communities of mutual aid are being formed to provide food for the needy and help and support for the elderly and disabled.

There is indeed “an uplift in solidarity among common people in many parts of the world, and perhaps even the realization that we are all global citizens.” The challenges are clear. They can be met. At this grim moment of human history, they must be met, or history will come to an inglorious end.

~ Noam Chomsky in excerpt from a discussion with Robert Pollin from the article “Chomsky and Pollin: To Heal From COVID-19, We Must Imagine a Different World” by C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout, published April 10, 2020.

NOAM CHOMSKY (born 1928) is an American linguist, cognitive scientist, philosopher, historian, social critic, and political commentator. Considered the father of modern linguistics, he holds a joint appointment as Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Laureate Professor at the University of Arizona. He is the author of more than a hundred books, covering such topics as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media.

Earth Day 2020: Climate Action

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Earth Day 2020 – 50 Years
Photo Credit: Earth Day Official Website

 

April 22, 2020 is Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. The theme this year is Climate Action with the aim of mobilizing all citizens of Earth “to call for greater global ambition to tackle our climate crisis. Unless every country in the world steps up with urgency and ambition, we are consigning current and future generations to a dangerous future.”

Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1970, twenty million Americans took to the streets, college campuses, and hundreds of cities to protest environmental degradation and demand a new way forward for our planet. With the launch of the environmental movement that year came two important developments: passing of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Act; and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Continue reading

“Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing and Falling: A Call and Response” – Poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

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2019 United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo
Photo Credit: Joy Harjo Official Website (Photo by Shawn Miller)

 

My Poetry Corner April 2020 features the poem “Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing and Falling: A Call and Response” from the poetry collection An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States. (Note: The following excerpts of poems are all sourced from this collection.)

Born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first of four siblings, Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, playwright, and author of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Her father was Muscogee (Creek) Nation and her mother of mixed ancestry of Cherokee, French, and Irish. Her mother exposed her to poetry at an early age, but painting was her first love.

My mother was a songwriter and singer, Harjo relates in her poem “Washing My Mother’s Body.” My mother’s gifts were trampled by economic necessity and emotional imprisonment. // My father was a dancer, a rhythm keeper. His ancestors were orators, painters, tribal chiefs, stomp dancers, preachers, and speakers… All his relatively short life he looked for a vision or song to counter the heartache of history. Her father’s drinking and abuse ended their marriage.

At sixteen years of age, Harjo’s abusive and violent stepfather kicked her out of their home. She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she received her high school education at the Institute of American Indian Arts. After graduation, she returned to Oklahoma, gave birth to a son, and returned to New Mexico to pursue a life as an artist. In 1973, as a second-year undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, she discovered poetry. After earning her BA in 1976, she moved to Iowa to obtain an MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

“After all the abuse I had been through, I saw [poetry] as a way to transform what is harsh into something nourishing,” Harjo said, during an interview with Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Laure-Anne Bosselaar in January 2020. “I had found something in poetry not found in painting that was so compelling. I could write about Native women, fighting for our rights in over 500 tribal nations.” Continue reading

Now is the time…

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We are living in a time of great societal disruption. Despite all our advanced technology, we have been kicked off our pedestal by a mere virus. The COVID-19 doesn’t adhere to humanity’s border controls nor our military might. Its rampant spread across human populations is yet another reminder of the consequences of the imbalance our species have exerted on our planetary interconnected Web of Life.

As we grapple with social isolation, anxiety about paying our bills, and uncertainty about our future, now is the time to take stock of how we got here and where we are headed. If we wish to survive as a species, we humans must drastically change the way we live.

It’s no coincidence that our planetary societal disruption is occurring at a time of climatic and ecological crises. They are all connected. What’s more, these crises all have a common denominator—homo sapiens, Earth’s apex predator. The COVID-19 pandemic is just a taste of what lies ahead for humanity with the ongoing unraveling of the Web of Life.

Now is the time to appreciate our collective contribution and responsibility in providing and caring for each other.

Now is the time to determine what is truly essential for our well-being.

Now is the time to question our values and priorities.

Now is the time to examine our economic theories and beliefs built on individual acquisition and ownership of Earth’s gifts to all in the Web of Life.

Now is the time to determine what kind of future we want for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.

I recommend for your consideration the predictions of 34 big thinkers presented in the article, “Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How,” published by Politico Magazine on March 19, 2020. The areas covered include community, tech, health/science, government, elections, the global economy, and lifestyle.

Fear not the duality of life. New beginnings come with letting go of what we hold today as precious for our well-being.

Thought for Today: A Warrior of the Light faces the COVID-19

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A Warrior of the Light knows that certain moments repeat themselves.

He often finds himself faced by the same problems and situations, and seeing these difficult situations return, he grows depressed, thinking that he is incapable of making any progress in life.

“I’ve been through all this before,” he says to his heart.

“Yes, you have been through all this before,” replies his heart. “But you have never been beyond it.”

Then the Warrior realizes that these repeated experiences have but one aim: to teach him what he does not want to learn.

~ Excerpt from Warrior of the Light: A Manual by Paulo Coelho, Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa, HarperOne, New York, USA, 2003.

PAULO COELHO, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist, best known for his novel, The Alchemist (1988). His work has been published in more than 170 countries and translated into eighty languages. His books have had a life-enchanting impact on millions of people worldwide.

Climate Crisis Update

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Last week, a high pressure system over the overheated Pacific Ocean brought summer temperatures to Los Angeles of over 80℉ (26.6℃), reaching its peak of 88℉ (64℃) on Friday, February 28. Experts have observed that violent crime increases with hotter temperatures. Had the heat inflamed the man who entered our parking structure at 12:17 a.m. that Friday morning? Our surveillance cameras show him heading straight for a vehicle, dosing it with gasoline from front to back, and then setting it ablaze.

We were lucky. The winds blew the flames away from our apartment complex and onto the neighboring building, causing smoke and fire-hose water damage to two apartments. With concrete walls separating each four-vehicular unit, the fire did not spread throughout our parking structure. While only four of our neighbors lost their vehicles, the event left us all unsettled and vulnerable.

Meanwhile, further north, an extreme low pressure system over the Arctic has brought a warmer winter across much of Russia and parts of Scandinavia and eastern Canada. In Moscow, heavy snowfall arrived mid-January, two to three months later than usual. Beginning in December 2019, rising temperatures have broken the record, reaching 44℉ (6.6℃) last week. The spring-like weather in February, the snowiest time of the year with nose-biting cold below 5℉, have left many people in Moscow amazed. Ice skating enthusiasts are disappointed with Gorky Park’s melting ice rink. Continue reading

Epiphanies from Under The Tamarind Tree by Rosaliene Bacchus

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More praise for Under the Tamarind Tree: A Novel from JoAnne Macco, retired therapist and author of Trust the Timing: A Memoir of Finding Love Again.

JoAnne blogs at “Anything is Possible!”

Anything is Possible!

front-cover-under-the-tamarind-tree

At first I didn’t think I had much in common with Richard Cheong, the main character in Under the Tamarind Tree.  His story is set  in the country of Guiana during the 1950s and 60s during a time of political and personal danger which I have never experienced.  Richard’s father was Chinese and his mother was from India. His dream is to have a big chicken farm. The father of three girls, he is obsessed with longing for a son.

Stepping into a different culture, even through reading a novel, is often uncomfortable at first. Reading this book helped me grow in humility and understanding.  As I read, I grew to like Richard and to care very much about him and his family.

I realized that there are important things that transcend culture. Richard and I do have things in common. His little brother was killed at the age…

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