Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gustav Now A Monster

Time to pray for everyone along the Northern Gulf Coast, particularly New Orleans. From the latest NHC Advisory:

DATA FROM AN AIR FORCE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT MAXIMUM
SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE INCREASED TO NEAR 150 MPH...240 KM/HR...WITH
HIGHER GUSTS. GUSTAV IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY FOUR
HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE SCALE. SOME FLUCTUATIONS
WITH AN OVERALL SLIGHT STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 24
HOURS...AND GUSTAV COULD REACH CATEGORY FIVE INTENSITY DURING THIS
PERIOD. GUSTAV IS FORECAST TO REMAIN A MAJOR HURRICANE THROUGH
LANDFALL ALONG THE NORTHERN GULF COAST.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Comment on Obama's Speech:

Wow.

Hunter's On Fire

Hunter at Daily Kos slays the stupid like no one else on the left...

Gawd. So they're really going with this, eh? Their attack is going to be that the elitist Barack Obama is using... ETHNIC ARCHITECTURE?

What the h... I mean, how does... with the... and half of D.C... the White House... aaaargh.

[...] I can't even find words for the stupid. Nobody can be this stupid. Nobody. Not even in politics. Not even among Republicans. I don't care if they're paying you to be this stupid, I don't care if you're having daily meetings to decide how to best be stupid, I don't care if you're a ten-time gold medalist in synchronized stupidity, it's not possible. You could drill a hole in your skull and fill it with mayonnaise and olives, and you still wouldn't be this stupid. You could convince yourself you were a tropical fish, and dunk your head in an aquarium to breathe the cool, refreshing water, and your decomposing body would still be smarter than this two weeks later.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gulp. Blink.

From the great Billmon at Daily Kos:

This evening, though, I watched something happen that I was solid sure would never happen in my lifetime, or probably my children's lifetimes: A major American political party just nominated an African American as its candidate for the presidency of the United States -- the big job, the Leader of the Free World, the whole enchilada.

Watching it on C-SPAN, I saw a closeup shot of an African American delegate after Nancy Pelosi banged the gavel down. She was hugging the delegate next to her (a white woman) And the tears were pouring down her cheeks.

Hurricane Gustav Update


Things are beginning to look ominous indeed along the northern Gulf coast, given the updated track of Gustav. Notice the city that is right in the middle of the currently forecasted track: New Orleans.

The track will almost certainly be adjusted to the east or west in the next few days. That is the best hope for long-suffering New Orleans residents; given the atmospheric and water temperature environments in the Northern Gulf, it is virtually certain that Gustav will be a major hurricane at landfall.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tropical Storm Gustav


As I write this, Gustav has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but will be back up to hurricane strength once it clears Haiti and gets back out over the warm waters of the Caribbean.

One of my hobbies is meteorology, and the ingredients for Gustav becoming a monster may come together in the next few days: low shear, high water temperatures, and a track that will be almost entirely over water - notice too that the middle of the track gets pretty close to some areas devastated by Katrina. My prayers go out to my Gulf Coast readers.

Via The Swamp Blog at Time...

...comes this indication that McCain is less than a true believer in the pro-life cause:

The McCain campaign welcomed delegates to Denver with a new ad Monday, showing Debra Bartoshevich, a self-described "proud Hillary Clinton Democrat," announcing that she opposes Barack Obama and will vote for John McCain. To back up the message, Republicans arranged a press-conference in Denver Monday morning with Bartoshevich and other Clinton supporters, who are all now backing McCain.

Midway through the event, Bartoschevich was asked if she was concerned about McCain's pro-life voting record. At a podium paid for by the Republican National Committee, with McCain aide Carly Fiorina standing nearby, Bartoschevich said this:

Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Assassination Plot

The CBS affiliate in Denver is reporting four men were arrested who were plotting to assassinate Barack Obama. At least one of the men had tattoos and other signifiers of membership in white supremacist organizations.

The expectations game

McCain's handlers have decided that Obama needs a 15-point "bounce" coming out of the convention, thereby setting up, say, a 5 or 10-point bounce (which would still mean an Obama landslide) as "failure."

Jeff Lieber at Daily Kos is a good deal more demanding than conservatives:

Barack Obama must get a six-hundred and thirty-eight point bounce.

Barack Obama must be inspiring, but not TOO INSPIRING SO AS TO SEEM A PROPHET, and present his ideas clearly, but not TOO CLEARLY SO AS TO SEEM SIMPLISTIC, and with specifics, but not TOO MANY SPECIFICS SO AS TO SEEM WONKY, and be tough, but not TOO TOUGH SO AS TO SEEM TO HAVE GONE NEGATIVE.

Barack Obama must walk on water (but not in such a way that suggests that either he or his supporters see him as a deity) and give a speech in front of 70,000 people (but not in a way that suggests that he's a celebrity) and completely unify the party (but not in such a way that suggests that said party is "liberal") and speak to the base (but not so much that suggests he's "out of the mainstream of America" ) and embrace Democratic ideals (but not so much as to suggest he's "going back to the days of Jimmy Carter") and remind America about all the good that happened under the last Democratic administration (without using the words "Bill" or "Clinton" or "Hope" or "Cigar" or "Blue Dress").

Barack Obama must be able to quote all the lyrics from American Pie and solve the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle in less that seven minutes and win American Idol and juggle a half dozen flaming chain-saws and name the capitols of all forty-nine states (Hawaii being recently deemed Unamerican and sold to the Chinese for a bag of gumballs) and eat poorly prepared Fugu without dying.

Barack Obama must be black, but not too black, and not black while trying to seem white, and certainly not black while trying to be white without trying to LOOK LIKE he's greyish-blue.

Krugman on Character Attacks

[I]n the world we actually live in, pro-corporate, inequality-increasing Republicans argue that you should vote for them because they’re regular guys you’d like to have a beer with, while Democrats who want to raise taxes on top earners, expand health care and raise the minimum wage are snooty elitists.

And in that world, stripping away the regular-guy facade — pointing out that everything Rush Limbaugh said about Mr. Kerry applies equally to Mr. McCain, that Mr. McCain lives in a material world few Americans can imagine — is only fair. Yes, Mr. Obama vacations in Hawaii — and Cindy McCain says that “In Arizona, the only way to get around the state is by small private plane.”

The squealing from the usual suspects demonstrates how much the Obama counterattack has the G.O.P. worried. Back in 2004 Fox News described John Kerry as “one of the haves” with a “billionaire wife”; now it asks whether raising the issue of Mr. McCain’s houses is “bashing the American dream.”


Well, exactly. Republicans can't win on the issues, so they accuse their opponents of the things they themselves are guilty of.

Good on Obama to respond to lies with the truth.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hunter at Daily Kos...

Dismisses the customary hackery of Bill Kristol:

This is hilarious. I love it, because Kristol's not even trying to mask his concern trollery, and the end result is just a lumpy mess of Suck. The Democrats have a problem with a "Glass Ceiling", because Obama didn't pick Clinton? Excuse me, but were you watching the Republican debates?

Whose side are you on?

Everything Walmart does is guided by one consideration: anything that competes with maximum profits for the owners is something they oppose.

Workers want a raise?

That's competition.

Struggling main-street sporting goods store that has sponsored the local little league team since the current coach's grandfather was a player?

Competition.

Government investigating you locking workers in the store and other abuse of your workers?

Competition.

Liberals, get this straight: Walmart is the anti-Christ. It's better to buy ersatz affection at a whorehouse than a genuine hairdryer at Walmart.

"Free Trade" is "There'll be a pay cut before we fire you and 'offshore' your job."

"The nation can't afford single-payer healthcare" is "We rich people don't want to pay for single-payer healthcare."

Got that?

A Woman Called Hope

I side, reflexively and all the time, with the little guy. Unions. Blue Collar people generally. The Poor. Minorities. The desperate. The doomed. The outcast. That little old lady you see pushing a shopping cart full of garbage outside Starbucks? She's your sister. What can you do to help her? The fact that she's talking to people who aren't there means she needs help. How can we make America a place where she is overwhelmed with gratitude at the help that follows her around, ready to catch her if she stumbles?

The soldier returning from war, unable to escape the terrible knowledge that what he has seen has shown him the damnable lies that our country tells itself in order to enable men to do things that will haunt them forever? The one who wakes up downstairs, halfway out the front door, because he heard an explosion in his dream and is now warning buddies who aren't there that they are about to die and his wife doesn't understand but tries to be there for him any way she can, but at the same time she's worried for the children? What can you do to help them? They are your brother and sister. How can we make America a place where they are overwhelmed with gratitude at the help that follows them around, ready to catch them if they stumble?

The man, now 45, who suffers from nightmares and flashbacks from growing up in a neighborhood where he went to sleep many nights to the sound of gunfire; where he lost precious, priceless, irreplaceable friends to random murders, and is not sure he can handle one more fucking senseless death? How can we make America a place where he is overwhelmed with gratitude at the help that follows him around, ready to catch him if he stumbles?

The woman whose actual first name is Hope. The one who wakes up every morning and, if she's lucky, has a few moments of peace before she remembers that both of her precious grandchildren were murdered; before she remembers that losing the first one was hard, but staring into another grandson's coffin almost exactly a year later -- that that was the beginning of the desolation and crushing grief that robs her daily of the rightful, well-earned joy of being a grandparent. She spends her free time ministering to the kids in the neighborhood, doing what she can to reach them before the gangs or police do. The ones she loses to murder she prays for; the ones in prison she visits and writes to. She is a saint. She needs your help.

How can we make America a place where she is overwhelmed with gratitude at the help that follows her around, ready to catch her if she stumbles?

America has become a scary place in the last 30 years. How can we make America a place filled with people who are overwhelmed with gratitude at the help that follows them around, ready to catch us if we stumble?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Biden

I would have picked probably Bayh (though that would mean losing a Senate seat), but Biden should be a solid campaigner.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Things That Piss Me Off

I question whether the libertarian "left" is really "left" - you don't get to call yourself a liberal just because you're pro-choice and drive a Prius.

The most harm done to workers has been by Democrats (yes, I'm looking at you, Bill Clinton) who pivoted away from the notion that the power of government ought to be a counter-balance to the power of business, and sold out the New Deal to a bunch of greedy, corrupt boodlers.

I'm reading Thomas Frank's new book, and getting angrier by the minute. (I'll post a full review if I can keep from making the entire thing one long blue streak of angry swear-words.)

Revolution may be our only hope.

Interesting Factoid

The McCains pay $270,000 per year for butlers and maids--that's $50,000 more than the median value of an American home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saw this on a Daily Kos Diary...

and had to quote it, as it is extremely similar to my own journey from Rebublican to Democrat:

I began to see that all the talk of "small government" and "fiscal responsibility" and "everyone is equal so no one needs help" from the Republican Party was just, well, rhetoric. Empty spin. Republicans never seemed to follow their own rules, morality, or principles. And, shockingly, even though it was so-called "Republican" ideals that attracted me to their party, it seemed like Democrats were actually the ones whose votes and policies achieved the results the Republicans kept promising.

Digby on McCain Choosing Lieberman

It would spell the end of Obama's ineffectual paeans to "post-partisanship" and force him to make a strong case for progressive policies -- which I have long believed the country was finally willing to hear for the first time in decades. He's got a gift for speaking and that's what he needs to be speaking about.


Preach it, girl!

A Democrat Like This Would Be Nice

I'm (obviously) supporting Obama in this cycle, from the beginning of the primaries til now; but thought I'd post this just for fun; I actually composed (and then deleted) a version of this diary a couple years ago. For what it's worth, my post-Obama candidate for 8 years from now...

[Beginning of make believe]

My dream candidate is a state governor who grew up working class and made himself prosperous by his own efforts. He knows his way around a union hall; while he's been both a union member and management, one of the things that made him want to start a business is he didn't have the stomach for the kind of screwing over of workers that is part and parcel of being a middle manager in many large companies.

There's a story circulated about him that he once missed an important vote in the state assembly because it was opening day of deer season, and he was nowhere to be found.

He is passionate about doing what he can to make sure that workers get a fair deal in America. Reliable rumor has it he once threw a Democratic Party official out of his office, with instructions never to return, because that Democrat had dared to make a crack about "the damned union chiselers."

He's known for intervening personally to try to save jobs (especially union jobs) when some mill owner makes noise about "off-shoring" production. He once loudly and publicly questioned a plant-owners patriotism for sending jobs overseas. He drives a pickup truck; not because he's making some kind of "positioning" statement, but because he actually needs one for driving around his working farm. He overturned his state's "right-to-work" laws, and passed card-check legislation, as one of his first acts as governor.

He got elected governor by putting together a coalition of blue-collar workers (who, in reciprocation for his manifest passion for their welfare, would gladly walk through the fires of hell for him); hunters and environmentalists (the hunters love telling the story of that missed vote, the environmentalists respect him for the genuine passion with which he talks about conservation) and family farmers (who trust him implicitly to look out for their interests.)

He insisted that his son and daughter attend a state college, even though their grades could easily have gotten them into a top-tier private college. Anything that smacks of elitism is something he has little patience for.

There are a few things that really piss him off...

Anyone, especially a self-described "progressive," who has the temerity to say a word against unions and people whose collars are likely to be blue is going to be the object of a withering dressing down, and be called a "damned Judas."

Hypocrites: A pastor who has a mega-church in his state once got a meeting with the governor. No one is quite sure what transpired in that meeting, but his secretary remembers hearing the governor bellow, "No God-Damned Pharisee swindler in a thousand-dollar suit is going to tell ME what to do!!" followed by the Pastor retreating from the governor's office with an ashen face.

Polluters: He'd rather personally swim in nuclear waste than have some company dump a teaspoon of pollution on his state. He appointed a pitbull to go after polluters in his state.

He's more of an egalitarian than a libertarian; he knows instinctively that one of the primary functions of Government is to help balance society by keeping things (relatively, anyway) equal, thus providing stability.

[End of Make Believe]

A guy like this would make deep, deep inroads into the Republican working-class base. He would also be familiar to (and typical of) generations of Democrats from the late 1920s to 1970s.

Sherrod Brown was once asked why so many blue collar people in southeastern Ohio voted for Republicans. His perfect response: "Because Democrats stopped talking to them."

Worth pondering...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More from Chris Hedges

HEDGES: Umberto Eco is the great Italian writer—I mean, he wrote that very popular book, The Name of the Rose, and he had a nice little book of essays called Five Moral Pieces, and in it he writes about the salient qualities of what he calls “Ur-Fascism,” or eternal fascism. And I wanted to list those—I thought it was probably as good a list as I’d ever seen compiled on what the main tenets of fascism are—to begin the book, because my argument is that this is not a religious movement. Although it certainly depends on the support of many earnest, well-meaning, decent people who are religious, I would argue that they are manipulated not only, of course, to be fleeced for their own money, but essentially to give up moral choice and surrender to the authoritarian demands of these leaders to march forward and essentially dismantle our democratic state. And I think that when we look closely at what it is that this Christian right movement espouses, it does bear many similarities to, you know, the main pillars of fascist movements: the cult of masculinity, the war against—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “the cult of masculinity”?

CHRIS HEDGES: Well, the fact that, you know, they elevate male figures within the megachurches, who cannot be questioned, who speak directly for God. Any kind of questioning or self-criticism becomes essentially battling the forces of Satan. That power structure is to be replicated in the family. Much of this movement is about the disempowerment of women. Children have to be obedient. And so, that power structure of the family with the dominant male and everyone else submissive is replicated in the megachurches, which oftentimes—and I’ve been in many over the last two years—revolve around cults of personality.

When we look at the sort of empires that people like Pat Robertson run, you know, this man is worth hundreds of millions, some people say up to $1 billion, surrounded by bodyguards, flying around on private jets, investing in blood diamonds in Sierra Leone. He has rock star status. I mean, if you’ve ever been to an event where he appears, people are weeping and want to be touched by him. There is no question. He essentially runs a despotic little fiefdom.

[...]

CHRIS HEDGES: ...and, you know, this is—I mean, essentially, when you follow the logical conclusion of the ideology they preach, there really are only two options for people who do not submit to their authority. And it’s about submission, because these people claim to speak for God and not only understand the will of God, but be able to carry it out. Either you convert, or you’re exterminated. That’s what the obsession with the End Times with the Rapture, which, by the way, is not in the Bible, is about. It is about instilling—it’s, of course, a fear-based movement, and it’s about saying, ultimately, if you do not give up control to us, you will be physically eradicated by a vengeful God. And that lust for violence, I think that sort of—you know, the notion, that final aesthetic being violence is very common to totalitarian movements, the belief that massive catastrophic violence can be used as a cleansing agent to purge the world. And that’s, you know, something that this movement bears in common with other despotic and frightening radical movements that we’ve seen over the past—throughout the past century.

Quote of the Day

Chris Hedges:

There is nothing wrong with taking a moral stand, but when we take a moral stand and then use it to elevate ourselves to another moral plane above other human beings, then it becomes, in biblical terms, a form of self-worship. That's what the New Atheists have, and that's what the Christian fundamentalists have.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Truer Words...

Hunter at Daily Kos:



One bright side of this campaign: the nation is indeed finally getting to see what a supreme tool John McCain is. And to see what two tools can do together. And what a professional campaign tool can do when they've been paid to lobby by one of the countries in question. And what the nation's most celebrated toolbox can do, when they just can't stand the idea of there being conflict somewhere in the world that they haven't been able to personally help make worse.



Honestly. Take all the worst things about the Bush administration, double them, then add Joe Lieberman. A McCain administration would be the presidential equivalent of a slasher flick.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Assassinated

According to CNN:

The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party died Wednesday, hours after a shooting at the party's headquarters, police said.

Chairman Bill Gwatney died at 3:59 Wednesday afternoon after a gunman entered his Little Rock office and shot him several times in the upper body, Little Rock Police Lt. Terry Hastings said.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

But Obama's the Elitist

In the Category of Things You Can't Make Up, the same guy who says this:

John McCain's celebrity ad was effective. It wasn't uncontroversial and it didn't please all the political scientists, but it sure got noticed, and it made Barack Obama overreact. Questions about Obama's desire for celebrity status will linger. He now has to be very careful about intersecting with Hollywood, pop culture and entertainment. Lee Atwater said the worst thing you can do in American politics is play to your negative stereotype. Well, Obama's negative stereotype now includes the idea that he may be a little too glitzy. (Speaking of negative stereotypes, when Obama was talking about the pictures of presidents on dollar bills, was he introducing the presumptuous notion that his face belongs on American currency? I wonder whom he thinks he should replace.)


...has his wife "standing in front of rows of her designer shoes cutting up sheets of freshly printed U.S. dollar bills with a pair of scissors so she can use them as wrapping paper."

But, you know, Democrats are elitists and don't share the concerns of working class Americans like Republicans do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thought-Provoking Post By Kyle

Kyle at Postmodern Papist has a post up concerning the quality of discourse in the blogosphere (particularly in comboxes) that is worth a read. This section particularly caught my attention:

The blogosphere proves a particularly dangerous realm, for we see only words, except perhaps an image, and we hear no voice. The faces of hosts and guests are conspicuously absent. We discuss and debate controversial topics in a setting marked by anonymity and the opportunity for immediate (often knee-jerk) response. The person is concealed behind words, and all too often, we allow ourselves to become trapped in the words and blind to the person behind them. Unable to see the face of one another, we see less of the other’s personhood, and thus the temptation to demean the other as a position, an idea, a narrative, or a label is increased. Words become weapons, standing in for famine, sword, and fire.

Dispatch from Shady Acres Rest Home

I’ve pointed this out before, but even if we grant that hippies caused all sorts of problems, they caused all those problems…40 years ago. Ranting about hippies now is sort of like the hippies of the sixties ranting about “bathtub gin” and Charleston dancing.

Friday, August 08, 2008

For Some Reason...

..I found this rather touching.

Unitary Executives, Pardons, etc...

Pruning Shears:

The crux of the problem is that the Republican party has come to view the law as entirely political. When Congress passes a law, or a President follows it (or doesn’t), or the Justice Department enforces it (or doesn’t), or the Supreme Court rules on it - these are all political footballs to be kicked around, not fundamental building blocks of a functional society. In other words, lawless, ignorant, contemptible hacks are fine as long as they are OUR lawless, ignorant, contemptible hacks. The collapse of integrity and wholesale politicization at Justice is not a problem in and of itself; it only is a problem if a Democrat does it. (The fact that they vote along party lines on these issues when they don’t walk out entirely should be all the proof you need.)

Department of the Obvious

James Howard Kunstler, on Las Vegas:

Las Vegas is the fastest-growing city in the United States. For a culture that understands things only in terms of numbers, this supposedly proves that it must be a splendid place. I’ve heard it touted often as the American city of the future, the prototype habitat for a society in which the old boundaries between work, leisure, entertainment, information, production, service, and acquisition dissolve, and a new exciting, colorful, pleasure-laden human meta-existence finds material expression in any wishful form the imagination might conjure out of an ever-mutating blend of history, fantasy, electrosilicon alchemy and unfettered desire. If Las Vegas truly is our city of the future, then we might as well all cut our own throats tomorrow. I certainly felt like cutting mine after only a few days there, so overwhelming was the sheer anomie provoked by every particular of its design and operation. As a city it’s a futureless catastrophe. As a tourist trap, it’s a meta-joke. As a theosophical matter, it presents proof that we are a wicked people who deserve to be punished. In the historical context, it is the place where America’s spirit crawled off to die.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

For all the Hand-Wringing...

..by some of my fellow Democrats, I think it is clear to anyone watching that McCain is going to get his clock cleaned in November.

The only question in my mind is whether it will be an overwhelming, tsunami-grade landslide or a smaller but still convincing win.

Obama losing? I suppose I can summon a scenario where he loses the election (involving being caught...Well, what would it take? Incinerating puppies to heat his house?) but...no, he's pretty much got it in the bag.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In Honor of the Blessed Mother

Ave Maria [Hail Mary] by Franz Biebl. Performed by Chanticleer. Sublime.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Reposting this from a couple years ago...

[Note from Matt: The following was a post from a couple years ago. In honor of the Feast of the Transfiguration, I'm re-posting it today]

I have a rather unusual background. My father was an Irish immigrant and mom was raised in a rural part of central California - that's not the unusual part.

My father was an engineer at Chevron for thirty years, and mom was what they used to call a "homemaker." That also is not unusual, at least for my generation (I was born in 1962.)

What is unusual, at least for white Americans, is where I was raised: in Richmond, California, in a neighborhood that was situated between two housing projects (Kennedy Manor and the Easter Hill projects, for those who know the area.)

I will talk in a bit about some of the dark events that haunt me from that time and place: that is not the theme of this Post, though. The theme is actually a favorite passage of scripture:

"A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

I want to tell you what it is like in some of the poorer and more violent parts of this country, but I want you to remember:

"A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

I grew up watching television that had a mysterious lack, to my naive young eyes, of people that looked like my neighbors. Adam 12. Bewitched. Ed Sullivan. The Andy Williams Show. Or if they did appear, they were in either stereotypical roles like the Buffoon (Flip Wilson) or the Token (Mannix's black secretary).

I was perplexed by this omission. Everyone I knew - friends, enemies, the fathers and mothers in the neighborhood - was black. My teachers were black (mostly). All of my classmates were black. We were Catholic, and went to Mass in Berkeley (at St. Joseph the Worker parish). There, there were a mix of '60s Catholic radicals (think Dorothy Day), and recent Mexican immigrants. Again, minority white.

Life in my neighborhood could be quite rough - rough enough that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in part from some of the incidents there. Ray, my best friend, was murdered. When I was 9 years old, I was taken into a backyard and (literally) whipped. I was good friends with a couple of kids down the block, whose father was a boxer. I endured some absolutely savage beatings by his sons in their garage. My youngest brother, when he was about 4, was grabbed in an alley by some high-school-aged boys, and dangled screaming over a fence, on the other side of which was a German Shepard snarling and salivating.

Please, I beg you, do not look away.

Because "A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

When I was 12, my father threw me across the room, and my head smacked the corner post of my bed. I bled for a few minutes, ran my head under the bathroom sink to wash the blood out of my hair, and went to my sixth grade class. There, for one of the few times in my life, it got to be too much, and I suddenly wept in great gusting sobs. Some of my classmates laughed, but I realize now that by doing so they were running away from the pain we all shared, the pain that I was unable to keep myself from openly expressing.

"Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

That afternoon, I walked across Richmond (there is a God...) to the police station. I'd watched Dragnet, so I knew the police would be interested in child abuse. So I marched in, and prepared to give a sober, just-the-facts-ma'am report in my best Jack Webb imitation. Behind the counter was a pretty police woman, and her smiling eyes were the kindest I had ever seen, eyes that said, "I'm here for you." Jack Webb was suddenly forgotten, and she was confronted by a 12 year old who was crying so hard he was unable to speak.

She took me into the back, and handed me off to a policewoman who worked with CPS (Child Protective Services) cases. The woman took my report, and afterward, when I mentioned that I liked Dragnet, she gave me a tour of the police station: introduced me to some of the other officers, took me by the watch commander's desk, showed me the holding cells, etc.

Then, she took me by the criminal files, and showed me a few of them. "Here's one. He was first arrested for burglary when he was 14, then...let's see...stole a car when he was 16...now he's waiting trial for Armed Robbery. Oh, and this other file...really sad...guy had a breaking and entering charge when he was just 13 - imagine that - and now is in San Quentin for manslaughter..."

What she was doing was showing me in the most vivid way she could, "I know your life is hard, but don't go this way. Don't end up like these boys." I got the message.

"A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

I attend a Survivors of Urban Violence group, and have heard many stories similar to mine. One woman lost both of her grandchildren to murder. Despite, or maybe because of, the pain, she spends every free moment doing her best to mentor the kids in her neighborhood, working her tail off in diversion programs etc. Like me, she has refused to believe that murder, that hatred, that retaliation is all we can expect in this world.

"A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Hers is in many ways a lonely and thankless quest, and yet she works, even though her soul is all but crushed by grief. She works because she hopes, in spite of all the evidence that confronts her every day. She deserves every bit of help she can get, every word of encouragement I can give her.

My life could have gone in many directions, mostly bad. That I did not is evidence that there is a God, and as a result of a few people who lit the darkness, like the police women, like the camp counselors at the day camp I went to for urban kids, like the kindly, elderly neighbor lady next door who took me in sometimes and told me what a wonderful young man I was, and how she knew I would grow into someone really special. (To this day I have a special place in my heart for old black ladies. They rock!)

The wounds I describe still bleed (I cried a bit writing this diary) but I survived. I am here, and getting more whole by the day (though sometimes I wish life had a fast-forward button). And hear this: I forgive the ones who caused me pain. I love them unconditionally, I pray that they may find wholeness, despite their own darkness. They were in worse pain than me.

I'll close with a quote from Martin Luther King which seems apropos. I think especially of the woman I described who is working in the ghetto, despite her weariness, to be a light shining in the darkness.


“Then the Greek language comes out with the word, “agape.” Agape is more than romantic or aesthetic love. Agape is more than friendship. Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that this is the love of God operating in the human heart. When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition. This is what we’ve tried to teach through this nonviolent discipline.

So in many instances, we have been able to stand before the most violent opponents and say in substance, we will meet your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is just as much moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Threaten our children and bomb our homes and our churches and as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours and drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half-dead, and as difficult as that is, we will still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”



Dr King is almost 40 years in the grave, but it is truer to me than my own existence:

"A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."