Finally Friday Reads: Imagine!

Image result for imagine john lennon pianoGood Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s that time of year where I play John Lennon’s “Imagine” over and over and hope that an upcoming New Year will see a United States more in keeping with the spirit of the song.  We all look for places of refuge and peace.  There is a group of Americans trapped in a cult of hate and we must deal with them.  Impeachment may move forward.  We may see change in 2020 but until we deal with this cult there will be no peace and no justice.

Our country’s biggest sin has always been connected to mass imprisonments, genocides, and enslavement. It seems an odd time of the year to have to reflect on our continuing participation in creating horror for other human beings but we must.

I have two stories with bylines here in New Orleans.  My city is known for creating a uniquely American form of culture that includes joyful eating, celebrating, and making music.  Yet, we cannot escape the blood on the ground.  This is the headline from USA Today that disturbs me beyond any words I can conjure.  “Deaths in custody. Sexual violence. Hunger strikes. What we uncovered inside ICE facilities across the US”.  (TRIGGER WARNING GRAPHIC)

NEW ORLEANS – At 2:04 p.m. on Oct. 15, a guard at the Richwood Correctional Center noticed an odd smell coming from one of the isolation cells. He opened the door, stepped inside and found the lifeless body of Roylan Hernandez-Diaz hanging from a bedsheet.

The 43-year-old Cuban man had spent five months in immigration detention waiting for a judge to hear his asylum claim. As his time at Richwood dragged on, he barely answered questions from security or medical staff, who noted his “withdrawn emotional state.” He refused to eat for four days.

The day after his death, 20 other detainees carried out what they say was a peaceful protest. They wrote “Justice for Roylan” on their white T-shirts, sat down in the cafeteria and refused to eat. Guards swooped in and attacked, beating one of them so severely he was taken to a hospital, according to letters written by 10 detainees that were obtained by the USA TODAY Network and interviews with two detainees’ relatives.

Before that day, detainees at Richwood had chronicled a pattern of alleged brutality in the Louisiana facility. Detainees complained of beatings, taunts from guards who called them “f—ing dogs” and of landing in isolation cells for minor violations.

You may continue to read the horrifying things happening in this and other ICE Detention Centers if you can stand it.  It has a long list of reporters on the byline and they’ve all done their best work.

The White Evangelical Community appears to have some folks that have read the New Testament and are willing to speak up against the Pharisees in their Community.   I used to occasionally see copies of Christianity Today floating around my churches or friends.  I really had no idea of its history or connection to Billy Graham.  We know Franklin Graham has been willing to sell just about anything for earthly gains which is why these headlines today shocked many.  From CT: “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.  It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was.” This came from the pen of Mark Galli.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

You can read more at the link. Franklin Graham could not leave this alone of course.  He posted to FACEBOOK.  I assume he can still find a mirror to see if he has a reflection.

Trump also had his say as reported by the AP.

President Donald Trump blasted a prominent Christian magazine on Friday, a day after it published an editorial arguing that he should be removed from office because of his “blackened moral record.”

Trump tweeted that Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham, “would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”

The magazine “has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years,” Trump wrote. Some of his strongest evangelical supporters, including Graham’s son, rallied to his side and against the publication. Their pushback underscored Trump’s hold on the evangelical voting bloc that helped propel him into office and suggested the editorial would likely do little to shake that group’s loyalty.

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So, tomorrow I will walk a few blocks to my nice little–usually only noisy because of small children–library and do what is done daily at Women’s Clinics around the country.  I will stand in a line, smile, and let the little children go hear story time at the library.  If some angry white male feels the need to scream, then he can scream at those of us that can deal with it.

This also basically the same pattern.  They don’t want anything but what they want for them, theirs, and the rest of us.  It gets old.

Image result for drag story time new orleans

 

My friend David Gladow has shared Drag Queen Story Time with his kids. Here are some details in an article from last year.  I should also mention that Vanessa is a friend too.

In New Orleans, the story time is the main focus, with traditional children’s books being presented in a fun, engaging way.

The presenter changes from event to event, but is always fun, glittery and a part of the community already. And perhaps more in New Orleans than in most any other city, the concept has been embraced (over 150 people showed up for a recent story time).

In a town that enjoys dressing up more than any other, where costumes are a part of the experience from Mardi Gras to New Year’s and all points in between, having a storyteller wear a costume isn’t exactly a stretch from the daily routine.

The only real message that is stressed is “different is okay.” For the kids, it’s less about “drag” and more about “character.”  They see characters in real life and it sparks their imaginations.

The event is about reading stories in a safe environment, having fun, and seeing the entertainers as normal people — but fancier.

Related image

Portrait of Felix Fénéon, Opus 217 ,1890, Paul Signac

The photo is of Vanessa and the Alvar Library in my neighborhood captured by the NYT.  Come on!  What little kid doesn’t like to play dress up and hear stories!  

Edie Pasek, who organizes story hour events in and around Milwaukee, said her readings had been “protested like the dickens,” especially in smaller cities like Oak Creek, Wis., and Zion, Ill. But she said she and the performers tried to stay focused on the point of Drag Queen Story Hour.

“We want to teach the kids acceptance, not bullying, learning to make good choices, how to be nice to other people,” she said. “I have a 6-year-old daughter and whatever I think we need to teach her is what we bring to story hour.”

Ms. Pasek said her group holds about a third of its events in libraries and a third in churches, where dozens of children sometimes show up.

“In the Midwest, we do drag in churches,” she said. They also hold events in private venues, like a popular Milwaukee cat cafe. “Let me tell you, people really love cats and drag.”

But protesters tend to show up wherever they go. Sometimes the protests upset the children, who are usually too young to understand the banner and chants, Ms. Pasek said.

She said her performers had developed “a little spiel” to explain all the ruckus to their young audience.

“Normally we say, ‘It’s O.K. to be the way you are, and the people outside are yelling because they don’t want us to be the way we are,’” Ms. Pasek said. “And the kids do the Mr. Rogers thing. They say, ‘We like you just the way you are.’”

Vanessa has already assured me that she will be there.  This group has shown up before.

Lucians Strange Creatures - Aubrey Beardsley - WikiPaintings.org

Lucians Strange Creatures – Aubrey Beardsley

So, last night I did watch the debate and had a chance to learn about “wine caves”.  The Daily Beast has an interesting take on the exchange between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttgieg and upscale fund-raisers.  These are the kinds of events sworn off by Warren and also by Senator Kamala Harris whose campaign ran dry of funds. This is a discussion really of access to candidates and what that implies. I had no idea that this wine cave has a long history of granting access for Democrats wealthy donors.

The cave in question—more of a wine basement, if you want to get specific, built for storing and aging wine in barrels—has been a gathering place for Democratic politicians long before Warren pointed to it as evidence that Buttigieg is too close with wealthy donors to be able to deny them access, appointments and special favors down the road. Owned by Dallas billionaires Craig and Kathryn Hall, the cave’s fundraisers have benefitted at least a hundred Democrats over the years, in the estimation of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“That cave’s been used by Democrats all across the country for fundraising,” Newsom told reporters in the spin room following Thursday night’s debate. “Probably a hundred congressional representatives have benefited from the use of that.”

After Thursday’s debate, however, the wine cave is serving as an entirely different kind of fundraiser after the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) purchased the domain PetesWineCave.com, which now redirects to Sanders’ donation portal.

Asked if he himself had attended a fundraiser at the wine cave—which, as the Associated Press first reported, features a “Chandelier Room” drowning in crystals—Newsom was straightforward.

“Are you kidding?” Newsom, himself a former vintner, said. “I’m in the business, so I know that place well.”

Other politicians who have attended fundraisers, receptions, and meet-and-greets at the Halls’ wine cave include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as current and former Reps. Leon Panetta, Reps. Ami Bera of California, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, and Patrick Murphy of Florida.

The long and lucrative political history of the cave and its owners bolsters Warren’s contention that big-dollar fundraisers have helped pave a path for wealthy financial backers to ask for favors—but also Buttigieg’s defense that everyone on the debate stage has benefited from these types of financial backers, including Warren herself.

I’m not sure what is worse.  Self-funding billionaires getting access to debates or Big Bundlers like Kathryn Hall of Wine Cave fame buying access and an ambassadorship.  This is surely one example of where we can say both sides do it.

The problem is we’ve lost the voices of many good candidates that should’ve been on that debate stage when donations and name recognition rules the early days of polling and money.  The one thing I will say is the only candidate I wrote a check to because I wanted her on the stage is still there.  This is from The Atlantic: “Amy Klobuchar Is Still Here. The senator from Minnesota has outlasted flashier candidates, and dominated in last night’s debate. But can she escape the shadow of her nemesis, Pete Buttigieg, who has seized her sensible-midwesterner mantle?”

I asked Klobuchar why she thinks she’s spent the year being overlooked. She joked that it’s because she’s 5 foot 4—James Madison’s height, she then immediately pointed out. “Some people have this image of what they want right now,” she said. “And it’s not necessarily what the American people want right now, what the pundits think people should want right now.”

Klobuchar’s case for being the nominee, aimed right at panic-attack Democrats, is that they’d “better not screw this up.” She warns that the wrong candidate will give voters permission to reelect Donald Trump. She’s directing her pitch at voters like Sandi McIntire, a 68-year-old retired nurse from Ankeny who’s skeptical about the size of the government-funded programs being promised by other candidates. “I don’t know that they should happen,” McIntire told me. “If you get everything for free, you don’t appreciate anything.”

Just a few other things you may want to check out:

ABV NEWS ANNOUNCES TWO-HOUR SPECIAL AND EIGHT-PART PODCAST ON JEFFREY EPSTEIN AND THE WOMEN WHO SURVIVED HIS CRIMES  —  “Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein” Airs on Thursday, January 9 (9:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET) on ABC and the Podcast Debuts the Same Day

Eric Newcomer / Bloomberg:
The Decade Tech Turned Dystopian

Tom Elliott / Grabien News:
Montage: 12 Most Mortifying Media Moments of 2019

So, what are you imagining today?

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one