Monthly Archives: February 2005

Goodnight Ossie

Actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis died yesterday at the age of 87. He and his wife of over 50 years, Ruby Dee, fought for civil rights thoughout their life together. He marched in the anti-lynching campaigns in the 1940s, opposed McCarthy in the 1950s and was close friends with Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X (whose eulogy he famously delivered) and Paul Robeson.

One of the things I’ve always admired most about Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee is that they remained loyal friends with Paul Robeson when most everyone else in their industry and circle abandoned him for his avowedly communist beliefs. Likewise I’ve admired how they stood by each other. It would have been easy for a man of Davis’s generation to discourage his wife’s career. Instead he nurtured it along with his own, constantly seeking out projects for them to work on together.

I heard him speak when I was an undergraduate. It was a speech on the civil rights movement, but what I remember most was his comment on the right thing being the easier road because in the end you have to live with yourself. He pointed out that inside we know right from wrong, justice from injustice.

He was a man of great class and dignity. 87 years is a long life, yet when I consider all Ossie Davis did I wonder that he had time enough.

He will be missed.

Burning Anaya

burning-booksDear God. The crazy, far-right protect-children-from-knowledge crowd are burning the classic Chicano novel, Bless Me, Ultima in Norwood, Colorado. Burning it with the help and support of a superintendent of schools Bob Conder who admits to never even having read it. The copies couldn’t be donated, he explained, because he didn’t want to risk them falling into the hands of a child.

Heavens no. If it fell into the hands of high school students, they might read it and learn how full of shit he is. What is he teaching them by burning school books, destroying novels? (Picture is a famous shot from a Nazi student rally where objectionable books were burned).

This is not some new marginal or semi-pornographic work that a radical teacher is trying to slip into her or his classroom, not that I’d support burning those either. The novel was written in 1972 and is probably among two of the first and best known Chicano novels. Its author, Rudolfo Anaya is both an award-winning author and a literature professor (okay, I think maybe he’s retired now) at the University of New Mexico and the book has national and international standing as exceptionally good American literature.

I’ve read this novel many times and been in two classes where it’s been taught — I can’t really see what the problem with teaching it to highschool or even junior highschool students would be. The book uses magical realism to tell the story of a soldier returning home from the second World War and the healing he finds in the memories of the herbal magic practiced by his mother and adopted grandmother.

There’s some profanity in the book, as befits a character who’s a young former soldier. The grounds for the book being destroyed? That it’s obscene and promotes paganism. More about the burning here.

I’ve sat here for a while trying to come to grips with what can be done. My suggestion is to buy a copy of the book, read it and then if you think its worthy, donate it to your local library.

At least they’re being honest

alberto-gonzalesI have no idea what the source of this is, other than the wonderful bookofdays blog where I found it. It may be a real screen shot (and god I do hope so) or it may be the product of photoshop.
But wherever it came from the picture has had me laughing for the past two days. Sure it’s bitter laughter, but laughter nonetheless. I know a lot of my readers (friends who I’ve begged) are in the uk or Austrailia, but for those of you that are trapped in the US with me, calling or faxing your Senator about filibustering Al would be a good thing.

I may have seemed wishy-washy in my first About Al post but latino or not, I sure don’t want someone who can turn his legal mind to defending torture to be the country’s chief law-enforcement officer. I’m trying to imagine him attacking LAPD abuses or looking into civil rights violations and wondering how he could have any credibility.

Okay, this turned serious. But, as Chris says, the picture is worth a thousand. What I say is maybe the only thing we can do to keep from crying is to laugh.

Super humiliation

Last night my dad called me. He had a reason (reminding me of my great aunt’s birthday), but was also stuck in traffic on his way home and wanted to chat. After asking me about my day and week and what I’d been doing when he called, he struck out in a new direction.

DAD: "So, do you and Paul have any plans for the Super Bowl?"

ME: "Um, no not really. I haven’t really thought too much about it."

{PAUSE} DAD: "Oh. Do you know when it is?"

ME: "This weekend? Um, Sunday?" {I thought about checking on the computer, but was afraid he’d hear me typing and laugh.}

DAD: {Laughing anyway} Do you even know who’s playing?

ME: Um, the Colts? Fortunately he was apparently stopped in traffic because after giving my answer the game show buzzer he dissolved into much laughter and then gave me the right answer (it’s the Patriots and Eagles in case you’re as out of touch as me.)

He suggested that P and I might want to consider taking a newspaper. I agreed. As I answered, I realized I’d been actively avoiding the news since the election. How long can my denial continue? Still, I was glad it provided my dad with a good laugh.