Thursday, April 28, 2022

Remembering the Confederacy

Saw a post today, heralding the Confederacy.

There was a moving, mournful poem.

It was somber...and even beautiful.


But here's the thing - those folks aren't really "remembering the Confederacy." Or, more accurately, they are not remembering the lessons of the Confederacy.


So, at long last (because I probably should have articulated this in a public way sooner) here it is - my thoughts on the Confederate legacy - as written by myself, a woman whose love of "Gone With the Wind" and Southern culture are well known, who had relatives who fought for "The Cause," and whose family owned slaves:

While it's always sad when poor men have to take up arms because rich men screw things up (which is pretty much always how war works), we're better and stronger as United States than we would have been if the Confederates had won.

An economy based on slavery was destined to fail, regardless of how the Civil War turned out. Europe was already abolishing slavery at the time of the US Civil War. It was only a matter of time until the USA decided to do the same.

It's tragic that it played out this way.

It's tragic that so many died for what they perceived as an infringement of their rights.

It's tragic that the South didn't come to the conclusion on their own that slavery was a catastrophic injustice, and take steps to right the wrongs.

It's tragic that the KKK and Jim Crow were established and continued to negatively affect a group of people who did nothing "wrong" but be born with African heritage.

It's tragic that the South chose to fight to maintain a sullied past, rather than adapt and change to ensure a bright future for everyone who lived here.

It's tragic that, to this day, there are those who continue to think there is nothing for which the South should apologize.

And we're dealing with similar issues NOW because, apparently, we've learned nothing.

Even as I write, poor men are being harmed because rich men screwed things up.
Attempts to control, punish, and subjugate those who question established institutions are featured 24/7 on the nation's news networks.
Racism continues.
The world is changing and an entire group of people are vehemently fighting to stay in the past instead of adapting to thrive in the present and future.

THAT'S the pity of claiming to "remember the Confederacy"... those who do so unfailingly forget the lessons learned by its loss:

Adapt, change, and do better to thrive.

Cling to the past?
Wither and die.


And no number of epic movies, statues, or moving poems will save your legacy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Cage Fear

I was raised by fearful people.

Caution, not exploration, was praised.

Ours was not a family for chasing waterfalls.

And even the rivers and lakes we were used to
had, not lifeguards, but police.

Exposure is always "up to the parents."

One cannot deny
that there are things that children should not encounter,
at least,
not encounter too soon.

But, as with all things, there is a line -

a line between protection and prevention

a line between instruction and endoctrination

a line between 'don't touch that, it'll burn you' and 'don't aim high, you'll only ever get burned.'

Clipped wings -
were they to keep me safe? Or to keep me caged?

A canary
allowed to sing
behind the bars
of Fear's cage.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

For Better Or For Worse?

What do you believe?

Sure, in the context of God... but also about the universe?

See, some folks feel the universe is fair. Or, if not fair, per se, that everything more or less works itself out in the end.

The people who believe this seem - at least from the outside - to lead pretty nice lives. Generally speaking - again from an outside perspective - shit tends to work out for these types of people.

But is this chicken or egg?

In short, do these people believe shit will work out because it usually does work out for them, or does shit usually work out for them precisely because they believe it will?

I watch and listen to a lot of Louise Hay. To boil her teachings down to a soundbite - "Change your thinking, change your life."

Is it really that simple?

Can mindset really make people who previously shunned you, embrace you? Will it bring jobs and money and relationships and every other human desire your way?

I've tried this on the micro level. Sometimes, I can make it through a day being pretty positive, and, the days I manage to, tend to be my better days. Sure, nothing huge happens. I don't win the lottery or get discovered by Steven Spielberg. But, on the days when my mind is in a good place, I smile more. And, as a result, other people smile more at me. Perhaps they see me more favorably. Perhaps, given time, this would manifest in more opportunities for me.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

But such positivity does not come naturally to me.

Hay would say this is because of programming I received as a child - messages and behaviors I saw and subconsciously adopted as "the way life is."

And to my mind, life is a lot of struggle with little - if any - gain.
Life is giving it your all just to see someone who's prettier, smarter, funnier, or who just knows the "right" people, swoop in and take what you worked so hard for away from you.

In short, "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

But is this chicken and egg?

Do I believe this because life has treated me this way? Or has life treated me this way precisely because I believe this?

I don't know.

The only thing I do know is that this whole "Change your thinking, change your life" thing makes me feel really powerful - for better and for worse.

One the one hand - if changing my thinking can make my world better, that means I have the power, in this very moment, to make my life better and change my trajectory. How exciting! How wonderful! This promises better days ahead, should I but choose to "think better."

The flip side is, of course, that if I have this power and don't use it (or don't use it wisely, or don't use it frequently enough) - every bad thing that happens to me - every cosmic slapdown that I previously attributed to bad luck and/or "being born under an unlucky star" - becomes my fault.
I had the power to manifest a positive outcome, and I failed.

Fault, fault, fault.

Guilt, guilt, guilt.

But even now, I recognize as I write, how I am framing this argument.

I hear the fear and frustration in my tone.

It's this very fear and frustration I seek to master.

Thank God I am my own Master!

Oh god... I'm my own master...


Monday, February 21, 2022

Log Off

Waited by the phone
waited for the ring
waited for meaning
but you don't mean a thing

Sure, everyone knows you
but you feel like they owe you
well, baby, I don't

Want me back?

I won't.

I'm tellin' you, I won't

Sure, you've got the birthdays,
the parties
but I won't be party
to the destruction
you've wrought.

With you? Everything's for sale
but I won't be bought.

No, I won't be bought.

Sure, you may be
the one that we
ran to with all of our thoughts -
Lost in a sea of comparison, we
reaped what we sewed
but you oughta know
that you gave us the arrow we shot.

Are you proud of yourself
for this Hell for this wealth
for all this destruction you've wrought?
With you? Everything's for sale
but I won't be bought.

No, I won't be bought.

No more phone
No more ring
No more caring a thing
and just don't
try to get me back
'cuz, I won't

I'm tellin' you, I won't.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

I'm letting you go

It's happening.
At last it seems
I'm letting you go.

Read between
every line,
every rhyme
and now I know
I'm letting you go.

I cannot spend
another day
letting my life
slip away -
mired in my desire -
for a future
whose time has passed.

This is the last
I give up
my time
to you.

I'm through.

It's happening.
At last it seems
I'm letting you go.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Neshemah. For Joel.

Why can’t we hold back the rising tide, like Moses long ago?
Or at the least, like Aaron, with his rod, lead you safely home?
With cloud and fire to guide you -
Safely to Gan Eden -
Can you hear us, as we mourn you?
Can you take us by the hand?
Let us walk you to the Gates, Joel.
See you to the Promised Land.

Oh descendent of the Covenant
claim your inheritance
for you bore the Breath of God -
neshemah -
and it’s to Him you have returned.
The Mourner’s Kaddish says rejoice
but still we mourn.

Still we mourn.

Why couldn’t we hold back the tide?
Or bear the rod like Aaron?
Why can’t we behold your entrance
to the Gates of Heaven?

And soothe our souls with images
of you
among the “blooms
and almonds” by the score
in this Paradise, as promised
in Torah days of yore.

May your memory be a blessing, Joel
and - once the pain subsides –
May we watch the Braves and, yes, the Tide
with knowing little smiles

May we drink a toast at holidays
and every Yahrzeit celebrate
the Man Bernard remembers
as his favorite – his best Mate.

Oh descendent of the Covenant
though you’ve claimed your inheritance -
neshemah! - The Mourner’s Kaddish says rejoice
but still we mourn.

Still we mourn.

Why couldn’t we hold back the tide?
Or bear the rod like Aaron?

Just one more day
to see your face
to hear your laugh
feel your embrace
to reminisce
on good times past

On hot dogs at The Battery
On all the things you meant to me
From Heaven can you fully see
your impact, engraved upon our hearts?

My god, Joel – where to even start?

Where to start?

The childhood that you shared with Beth and Stevie in Ozark?

The bachelor life with David before Nancy came along? And took you in and fed you – the Miller house: a second home

The godsons, Lane and Scott, that you loved as your own?

Or on our special bond?

On Churchill and that time you wandered off
in England

On “delicious meats” at Harrods…

Or the beach at Normandy…

On everything you meant to me?

They say you went peacefully…


You went gently
into that good night

which is some small comfort.

The Mourner’s Kaddish says rejoice -
to revel in what was
But how do we experience the joy of what was

with what is?

Why couldn’t we hold back the tide?
Or bear the rod like Aaron?

Is it because Joel’s miracle
was reserved for Heaven?

His miracle, a table set with Joel Gott wine
and a meal he’ll likely question (Nancy: “It’s brisket.”)
Joel, will you remember
all the times
you ate so well you’d mention
at every meal to follow?

Is there memory in your miracle?
Across from your miracle table, a miracle a 72 inch tv,
tuned to ESPN or MSNBC.
So you can talk baseball with Scott and Billy
or politics – he’s meshuggah! – with David.

Joel’s miracle: easy-to-use electronics
that he doesn’t need Scott to fix
so he can care for Stevie
check in on Beth
catch up with “Dr. Miller.” (“Y’all heard from Lane? How’s he doin’?”)

But perhaps Joel’s greatest miracle – he had those things in life.
At least the best, most important parts.
And his miracle continues as he lives on in our hearts.

And perhaps that is our miracle
that we received the gift
of Joel Elliot Schaffer

We’ve been blessed.


May he rest.
May he rest.

For Joel

Picking through
the archaeological pieces of you

to parse to the closet
or display on the shelf
Trash bags and trash bags and trash bags and trash bags full

of your pieces of self.

Picking through
the archaeological pieces of you

- for tidbits of the man we knew -
to live on
after you're gone...

But how do we live on after you're gone?

How do we carry on?

Picking through
the archaeological pieces of you
what we wouldn't give to trade
the pieces for the whole.

We fucking love you, Joel.