New Year’s Day

 

 

January 1 is always the same

A bacchanal of sound and fury

Signifying something ineffable

Precisely timed though

Imprecisely valued

 

We pause to notice the flow

Of time’s endless river

Hoping to gain some measure

Of how far we’ve sailed

Or at least gratitude

 

To be journeying for

One new day

One new month

One new year

One last chance

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver

 

© Gayle Force Press 2015

 

 

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Thank God for Ferguson

My US History classes are doing significant work on Thomas Jefferson right now. Thinking so much about Jefferson and his complexities keeps bringing Charlottesville to mind. That led me to dig into the archives for this reflection on Ferguson. We keep seeing. When do we start changing?

FDO- 9.21. 2017

 

There’s a massive difference between being seen and being invisible. That’s why I’m glad Ferguson has become not just a place but a thing. Ferguson is now qualitatively different than every other incidence of police brutality. Mike Brown’s murder was the catalyst for something bigger and potentially transformative.

 

In the past couple weeks the whole world has begun to see what Black people have experienced for decades; the use of state power to intimidate and suppress populations. The police are the clearest example but much of the infrastructure of our society has done the same thing for centuries. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ invaluable article ‘The Case for Reparations’ provides the clearest explanation of the mechanisms behind this reality.

 

Ferguson demonstrates that the police do not always work on behalf of the citizens. In fact, for many in law enforcement, people of color are presumed to be an enemy force. This reality has been astonishing to many Americans but entirely unsurprising to people of color. Very few people of color can really be shocked when we hear the story of Mike Brown or Eric Garner or Ezell Ford or Tamir Rice.

 

What separates Ferguson from previous police violence is that the public response has been handled in such an absurd fashion. Everyone should be appalled at the way the police have brutalized and intimidated citizens who have not done anything wrong. Perhaps more than anything else, it’s the scale and openness in Ferguson that has garnered such attention. However, the idea that this style of policing is new or limited to a single police force is ludicrous. There’s already been some amazing reportage on this.

 

The biggest difference between the public recognition level of Rodney King (an instantly recognizable name for most Americans older than 35) and Sean Bell (who?) ….. is not that King lived but that we saw happened to him. It’s not the outcome of these situations that creates public recognition, it’s the coverage of the situation. Even in the murder of Mike Brown, the authorities have attempted to create a counter narrative that reduces the level of blame for Darren Wilson. Since we didn’t see Brown being shot, we don’t know precisely what happened.

 

Fortunately, we do know what the response to the mostly peaceful protests in Ferguson has been. Those images will linger because they are chilling and astonishing and might well be repeated in dozens of communities across America. The overwhelming militarization of the police makes the visuals more stark and citizen fear more understandable. That clarity matters. Ferguson is likely to provide the most important visuals of 2014 in America. We are Mike Brown and we are Afghanistan and we are Iraq and we are not far enough from being Pakistan or Guantanamo.

 

America is still intensely separated when it comes to race but that often has little to do with where you live, what you like or how you spend your time. Instead, that divide is usually about understanding and experience; the lenses through which you view the world. Those lenses often aren’t chosen by any of us individually; they are usually provided for us. None of us choose what America will expect of us or how America will respond to us.

 

It’s very hard to say this and I need to be clear that I’m deeply grateful that Mike Brown is the only person to have died at the hands of the police in Ferguson. But I am very happy that White America has the chance to see more of the realities of being a person of color in the USA. Now comes the hard part.

 

 

 

More Love for Venus

More Love for Venus

During the 2015 US Open, I posted a simple request: Can we show some love for Venus Williams?

 

Now that she’s made her way to the Wimbledon semifinals and solidly into the top 10 of the WTA rankings, I want to ask again for a renewed appreciation of a legendary, perhaps iconic American athlete.

 

In case you’ve forgotten, Venus is one of the 10 greatest players in the history of women’s tennis. She’s won seven Grand Slam titles, four Olympic gold medals and revolutionized tennis with her unprecedented combination of power, speed and athleticism in much the same way Martina Navratilova once did.

 

The primary difference between those two is that Martina’s great rival was her foil, not her sister. The epic battles between Martina and Chris Evert elevated both players. The numerous finals Venus lost to her little sister, Serena Williams, seem to have added to Serena’s ledger of greatness but diminished Venus. In that earlier post, I dug just a bit into the why of the Serena domination, but suffice it to say that Venus’ seven Grand Slam wins underrepresent her excellence. They also only scratch the surface of her historic importance.

 

Now that more eyes are on her again, let’s take a moment to recognize Venus Williams for her trailblazing brilliance.

 

Let’s go, Venus!

 

 

 

American Mythology (#1)

 

 

The history lessons I received in school

Have very little connection to the stories

My grandfather waited until I was 25

To begin sharing with me

 

School sounded a lot like the TV shows

Ads and movies that were produced

As Saturday morning serials in his day

And kiddie cartoons in mine

 

This should have made me nervous as a kid

Since FDR and MLK, the Cold War and Vietnam,

Sputnik and Neil Armstrong, crack and AIDS,

Computers and nukes, Coltrane and the Greatest

 

All changed history between my generation and his

But since there were bright colors and waving flags

I tried hard to believe the myths I was taught

After all, what else could possibly be true  

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2015

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver

 

 

 

 

Summer Days (#4)- Early Solstice

 

 

The sun bears down today

Not cruelly but firm

Insistent

Patient

Winning our grudging recognition

Acceptance of its force

 

 

Car windows go up

Air conditioners on

Jackets come off

Buttons undone

Joggers walk

Runners jog

Walkers smile in their malls

 

 

Children play and play

Barely noticing the sting

Of the sweat

They wipe from their eyes

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2008 

 A poem by Franklin Oliver 

 

 

Race Day

 

 

Camper cities

Traffic for miles

Checkered flags wave

In all directions

Coolers full of Bud

Dirt cheap sunglasses

Tank tops

Jake the snake

Around Brother Henry’s neck

Grilled brats and burgers

“Show us your tits!”

Naps on the infield

Day long engine drone

A rainbow of cotton candy

Tires over the fence

Some foreign guy wins

May is beautiful

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2004

 

 

 

25th Amendment Contingency Plan

 

 

This is the moment to begin making contingency plans for Executive Office vacancies. 

 

Either a VP or Presidential resignation or impeachment would throw the US into chaos. That's why Congressional leaders should make a concerted effort to identify multiple credible, competent replacement candidates in the increasingly likely event the 25th Amendment becomes necessary soon.

 

The President is very likely to have the shadow of impeachment growing closer. That means there are two other big things coming into play. 

 

1- Trump might decide at any given moment to resign. His unstable personality combined with his persecution complex makes that possibility a real concern. He certainly wouldn't go through an impeachment trial. As in his business life, he'd attempt to find a way to 'settle' without admitting wrongdoing. That means resigning. 

 

2- It's already apparent that the scandals enveloping Trump that might actually lead to impeachment are likely to pull Pence into the same orbit. It's not unlikely that Pence might be offered up as the sacrificial lamb if Trump believes having Pence take responsibility would provide Trump sufficient cover. 

 

This why I think it's imperative to find a viable, willing replacement VP. I'd suggest it be someone like Lindsay Graham, Bob Gates, Chuck Hagel or even Mitt Romney who a) could win near universal congressional support b) would pledge not to run for re-election and c) is not tied to Trump or Pence. That's the type of person who could help pull the country out of the Trump/Pence morass AND be politically acceptable on both sides of the aisle. 

 

This feels like a scary situation to even contemplate. Not having a game plan is scarier still.

 

 

 

-Franklin Oliver

 

 

Nectar

 

 

Remember the time

I pretended

 

I was a bee

That stung you

 

Hard

With my butt

 

Then I pretended

To die

 

In love

As a sacrifice

 

 

Brandy Rodgers and Franklin Oliver

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2014

 

 

 

Oldest Sibling

 

 

My sisters don’t look like me

They are sharper

With brighter, yellowed skin

Both look strong and solidly

Inside their bodies

With large brown eyes

Serving to illuminate their clear

Beautiful faces

 

I run together

Dark skin

Nothing hidden

With densely thick hair

Nearly black eyes bridging

The narrow gap in it

And my face scarcely shines

As my brooding manifests itself

In the weary sag of eyes,

Face, back, hips and knees

Atlas’ burden pressing upon me

 

My sisters love joy

They relish and seek it out

Once sought, it loves to be found

For me it’s too much to ask

Which is fine

Because joy doesn’t fit on my face

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2003