Category: People

Christmas in America 

 

 

I know you know 

about God‘s beloved 

shivering on the floor

Wondering how hope turned into terror 

Upon arrival in the promised land 

 

I know you know 

about swaddled babies 

ripped from their mothers 

born at the wrong time 

in the wrong place 

in the wrong skin 

 

I know you know 

about free flu shots 

waiting idle in boxes 

while the cough begins to spread

Among the Other 

Waiting idle in boxes

 

I know you know 

about the human crossing borders 

binding people into suffering

instead of protecting them from fear 

 

I know you know 

about our old lady 

Standing with the lamp 

Waiting for tired huddled masses 

yearning to be free 

needing to be White 

 

I know you know

about the stable 

Home to donkeys 

A new family 

And earthly bribes 

For a heavenly gift

 

I know you know 

about sanctuary in Egypt

A fearsome flight 

For first time parents 

hiding the light of the world

in Ill fitting clothes 

begging him to stay quiet

hoping for one more miracle 

 

I know you know 

Whether Mary would be safe 

In your care 

Or if you’d remind her 

That Jews don’t belong here 

Without looking into her eyes 

 

I know you know 

This is Christmas in America 

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2019

A poem by Franklin Oliver

 

 

 

Neighborhood Watch 

 

It was raining like hell

 

When they cuffed me 

I told the cops

It was simple

 

An eye for an eye 

Leaves the whole world blind 

Just like Lady Justice 

Except that I have a smile 

Not a smirk

On my face 

 

See, Trayvon carried skittles 

But I packed heat 

When I followed George

From his house 

Until he idled 

At the drive through  

 

It’s hard to leave a Krispy Kreme 

Once you’ve seen the Hot light  

And it’s even harder 

After I’ve dropped my whole clip 

Into your chest 

 

I told the cops 

It was simple

Lady Justice is blind

But I can see clearly 

 

The rain is gone 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2017

 

 

If you’d like to hear this poem performed, please check out our podcast.

http://whodeannypod.libsyn.com/may-poetry-pod

 

 

Justified Use of Force (for Botham)

 

 

Every year there are

Untold more of us

An Amadou Diallo, Botham Jean,

Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or me

 

Then a loud clamor

Our broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

That no one’s forced to answer

 

With sympathy’s short half-life

Most just wait for the noise to stop

So the questions

Can disappear once again

 

Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2019

 

MeatSaladSurprise, a poem

MeatSaladSurprise

 

Beto’s favorite word

is a meatsaladsurprise

Too thick for its guise

of healthfulness,

slightly indigestible

 

See, this is America

The land of the free

who refuse to be brave

 

Because comfort trumps conviction

and clarity yields

an automatic timeout

 

 

We’ll keep wading through disasters

on our raft

of thoughts and prayers

 

Convinced that if we’re

just polite enough

someone else will save us

 

 

From ourselves

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver

© Gayle Force Press 2019

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Our Chalice

 

God is in the wax and smoke

The lingering scent of a fire

Now extinguished

Still burning

Brighter than ever

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

© Gayle Force Press 2013

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

The Cuckoo Clock Is Ticking: The 2016 Presidential Election Forecast

 

Four and eight years ago, I made public disclosures about my predictions for the Presidential elections. In both elections, I got the entire map correct. <back pat> (I was especially pleased with 2012;  virtually nobody got that one right.) The streak probably stops at two. 

 

 

This year, I have far less confidence in polling data, the American polity and my own ability to read the tea leaves. However, the conversation keeps coming up so I might as well give it a shot. What do I have to lose? Besides the rest of my sanity…

 

So here’s my map: http://www.270towin.com/maps/RJjN4 

 

Go ahead, explore it, analyze it, mock it. I’ll wait.

 

My prediction is that in a couple months, Hillary Clinton will be the first woman since Catherine the Great to be the most powerful person on Earth.

 

Yup, I have it Clinton 342- Trump 196. That includes a couple tricky oddities. 1- Omaha area district peeling off for her as it did Obama in 2008 and 2- Clinton winning Ohio  despite polling leads for Trump. I figure that between Kasich’s disdain and The King’s support, Trump has to contend with two of the three most important men in that state. (I assume Urban Meyer is a Trump voter.)


I also kept Utah, Arizona and Georgia red. Those all feel very tricky to me. Utah, because of the Evan McMullin factor, would not surprise me if Trump, Clinton or McMullin won. Trump’s disastrous misadventures in wooing Mormons are the stuff upon which a reality show might be based. If he wins there, it will be because of voter inertia. If Clinton or McMullin wins, it will be because there is a rare, genuine opportunity to send a political message. In that battle, I generally assume inertia will win out.

 

Georgia is just a mess. Ditto for North Carolina but for different reasons. We should just accept that North Carolina is now a blue state. Tar Heel blue in fact.

 

I’m also not going to be surprised if Arizona goes to Clinton. Just because McCain resurrected his campaign doesn’t mean Arizonans are actually going to support Trump.

 

The surprising takeaway from a 342 number for me is that it would push Clinton beyond Obama’s Electoral College haul in 2012. I’d never have guessed that a year ago.

 

One more day until history’s made!

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

 

Where Do You Stand?

 

Every spring, my US History classes learn about the Vietnam War. For most students, it’s a new experience to study Vietnam. Invariably, students have an important misconception about the war: they presume most Americans were opposed to fighting in Vietnam. When I share evidence that the war was incredibly popular for years and never became statistically unpopular, they often feel shock. The reason is simple. People lie about their support for the Vietnam War. It’s now the cultural norm to acknowledge it as a bad war. People want to be on the right side of history in their memory, if not in their actions.

 

We are already seeing a similar process unfold regarding the Iraq War. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly lied about opposing the Iraq War. Why? Again, it’s culturally preferred to acknowledge that Iraq was a bad war. That means average citizens rewrite their positions in much the same way Trump does. These kinds of lies have become both ubiquitous and casual. Unless you’re a public figure, who will take the time to go back and discern where you actually stood on Iraq more than a decade ago?

 

But, do you remember? Do you remember what you thought a year after the September 11 attacks when President George W. Bush insisted Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was part of an axis of evil? Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld telling us all that Iraq was intimately connected to al-Qaida? Do you remember whether you told your family, friends and co-workers that we needed to invade Iraq or that it would be a horrible mistake? I’m guessing you do. I’m guessing that sending Americans to fight, kill and die in Iraq mattered enough that you thought about it and made a choice.

 

Well, what about now? If someone asked you about Iraq, would you tell them the truth? Would you acknowledge the wisdom or folly of your choice?  

 

You already know where I’m going with this, right?! 2016 features the clearest choice between Presidential candidates in modern times. We have major party candidates with stark differences in experience, temperament, perspective and vision. The hallowed middle ground for which presidential campaigns usually compete is a void this year. And at the ballot box, America will make a genuinely historic choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan declared that he would not make any effort to assist Trump’s campaign and other House Republicans should feel free to withdraw their support as well. What Ryan did not do is repudiate Trump or rescind his endorsement of him. He recognizes what a debacle the Trump candidacy is but can’t bring himself to make a public stand against it. Dozens of current and former GOP officials, including President George H. W. Bush have already announced they will vote for Clinton. What about you?

 

A decade from now, there will be an established cultural norm about this election. And in the final referendum of history, every American will have a story to tell their friends and family about where they stood at this critical moment.  What story will you tell? Will that story be true?  

 

In 2016, where do you stand?

 

 

FDO

 

 

This is an update of a previous post.

 

 

Barry Bonds Making History

 

Fifteen years ago, Barry Bonds broke what used to be one of the most hallowed records in American sporting life. He hit 71 and 72 home runs in a single season. 

 

When, in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa launched their epic chase to breach Roger Maris' 61 HR mark established in 1961, the nation rejoiced. America began falling back in love with baseball its ugly strike led to a 1994 season with no World Series. Even when most of us recognized something deeply suspicious about the Hulking physiques of these sluggers, we all smiled and kept watching

 

Three years later, the greatest (and surliest) player in recent memory hit bomb after bomb in a whole new world. Steroids were perceived as the worst destructive force the game had ever seen. The luster of the home run was gone. And outside his home park in San Francisco, fans mostly watched Bonds with begrudging eyes. 

 

I, instead, marveled. Sure, Bonds had enhanced his body dramatically. That seemed de rigueur in that era. I didn't hold him more responsible for steroid use than any other player. His excuses of using the BALCO derived "cream" and "clear" without knowing what they were seemed absurd and childish though perhaps they were a necessary fiction. The reality is that no one else was pursued for using steroids in quite the way Bonds was. Far more than his newfound power, Bonds' disdain for reporters and media etiquette was always his real crime. 

 

Let's remember, baseball is a game that requires exquisite timing and nearly instantaneous decision making, especially in the batter's box. Due to Bonds' unprecedented hitting acumen he was the recipient of astonishing numbers of walks, intentional walks and pseudo intentional walks. (This pattern only grew. In 2004, Bonds reached base 376 times on only 373 plate appearances. NOT a typo.) Despite seeing so few pitches because of the (understandable) desire of pitchers to avoid him, he maintained an unbelievably high rate of success. 

 

Now that the dust has settled and Bonds has been fired from his only post-retirement job in baseball, let's please take a moment to acknowledge the real life history we were able to watch a decade and a half ago. Let's remember when the greatest player since Willie Mays did what no one has ever done in the history of baseball. And enjoy it. 

 

 

FDO