C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Obama's Eulogy for John Lewis

Former President Obama delivered a moving, eloquent eulogy at the funeral of Rep. John Lewis today at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.  It's well worth your time to listen to this historic address.  Excerpt:
The life of John Lewis was, in so many ways, exceptional. It vindicated the faith in our founding, redeemed that faith; that most American of ideas; that idea that any of us ordinary people without rank or wealth or title or fame can somehow point out the imperfections of this nation, and come together, and challenge the status quo, and decide that it is in our power to remake this country that we love until it more closely aligns with our highest ideals. What a radical ideal. What a revolutionary notion. This idea that any of us, ordinary people, a young kid from Troy [Alabama] can stand up to the powers and principalities and say no this isn't right, this isn't true, this isn't just. We can do better. On the battlefield of justice, Americans like John, Americans like the Reverends Lowery and C.T. Vivian, two other patriots that we lost this year, liberated all of us that many Americans came to take for granted.

America was built by people like them. America was built by John Lewises. He as much as anyone in our history brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals. And someday, when we do finish that long journey toward freedom; when we do form a more perfect union – whether it's years from now, or decades, or even if it takes another two centuries – John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.

And yet, as exceptional as John was, here's the thing: John never believed that what he did was more than any citizen of this country can do. I mentioned in the statement the day John passed, the thing about John was just how gentle and humble he was. And despite this storied, remarkable career, he treated everyone with kindness and respect because it was innate to him – this idea that any of us can do what he did if we are willing to persevere.

A life of courage, perseverance, gentleness, humility, kindness, and respect: what a concept. What a man. What an American.

Former presidents Bush and Clinton also spoke at the funeral:

Former President Carter was too frail to travel but sent a letter of condolence which was read out during the service:

The current squatter in the White House was nowhere to be seen, but he did tweet out a plug for a pizza joint during the ceremony:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Gay Trump Voter Learns Harsh Lesson

You cannot imagine the guilt I feel, knowing that I hosted the gathering that led to so much suffering. You cannot imagine my guilt at having been a denier, carelessly shuffling through this pandemic, making fun of those wearing masks and social distancing. You cannot imagine my guilt at knowing that my actions convinced both our families it was safe when it wasn’t.

For those who deny the virus exists or who downplay its severity, let me assure you: The coronavirus is very real and extremely contagious. Before you even know you have it, you’ve passed it along to your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors.
Tony Green thought the virus was a hoax cooked up by Democrats to ruin Trump's re-election chances. After a family gathering last month, however, 14 members of his family became infected with Covid-19, and one has died. Dallas station WFAA reports:

Read Tony's contrite account of what happened to his family in the Dallas Voice here.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday Drive: Summertime in Venice

The poignant theme from the movie Summertime (1955), starring Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brozzi, is as beautiful as the film. If you've never seen it, you should.

The original trailer for the film gives an idea of the glorious cinematography that shows the city and the stars at their best:

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

Bulletin, 12 Noon:  Olivia de Havilland dead at age 104.  The beloved actress died in her sleep at her home in Paris yesterday.  She is survived by her daughter, Giselle, a journalist.

By sad coincidence, I just last week posted an interview with Miss de Havilland from 2016.

The last star of the Golden Age has fallen, one of the loveliest.  May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

The BBC reports:

Turner Classic Movies remembers:

And the late Robert Osborne, longtime host of TCM, was a close friend of Miss de Havilland's for many years until his death in 2017:

Saturday, July 25, 2020

What I'm Watching: Secrets of the Museum

This fascinating series takes us behind the scenes at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Your Head Trucker got to spend a couple of hours there once, which was of course not nearly enough time to see all I wanted to see.  In addition to the usual paintings and sculptures, the museum houses a fabulous collection of historic furniture and furnishings, clothing, jewelry, and all sorts of decorative objects, including children's toys.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sunday Drive: Puccini, Un Bel Di, Latonia Moore

Texas native Latonia Moore at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia in 2010 with a magnificent rendition of the beloved aria.  If you aren't woke now, you will be when Latonia gets done with you.  I tell you what.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

What I'm Watching: Interview with Dame Olivia de Havilland

Olivia de Havilland
Miss de Havilland in 2001.

This long, juicy 2016 interview with one of the last survivors of the Golden Age of Hollywood is a real treat.  In case you didn't know, Miss de Havilland is still very much alive today at age 104 - yes, that's right - and living in Paris, full of fascinating memories and joie de vivreBon appetit!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Chris Cuomo Is All of Us

Never in my lifetime, or any other lifetime since this country was founded, could anyone imagine a President selling beans from the Oval Office. I am genuinely astonished that the roof didn't fall in on that filthy impostor.

Chris Cuomo speaks for all decent Americans beginning at the 4:45 mark:

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday Drive: Nessun Dorma, Il Volo

Your Head Trucker, sadly, knows nothing about grand opera; somehow I never the got the memo when that was added to the Agenda. But I just stumbled across some  youngsters I never heard of before, singing a pretty little ditty from one of them old opries - and all I can say is, Wow!  See what you think:

Friday, July 10, 2020

What I'm Watching: Interview with Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier in 2000.

Your Head Trucker prefers history and biography for light reading and leisure viewing, but not too often do I come across something worth sharing that seems to fit the format of the Blue Truck.

Usually, I post only short videos on this blog - who has time for more than a couple of soundbites in this modern world?  But apart from news of the day, too often frightfully depressing, it's not always easy to find short videos that are worth recommending.  So here is the first of what may become a feature on the Blue Truck:  a longer video that might take more than one sitting to get through, but which is entertaining or noteworthy for one reason or another.

I'll start off with this 2009 interview with renowned actor Sidney Poitier, from the American Academy of Achievement - an organization I never heard of before now. Among other incidents, his experience at age 15 coming to America from his native Bahamas - a majority-black British colony - and his encounters with American racism are most interesting - starting at about the 1:13 mark.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Can You Say Narcissistic?

Trump's niece, a clinical psychologist, can and does in her damning, soon-to-be-released family memoir:

You can read more excerpts in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

But of course, Mary Trump doesn't tell us anything about her uncle that couldn't already be seen by any casual observer:  he's a cold-hearted liar, cheater, bully, narcissist, maybe sociopath - a conceited rich kid with an infantile mind who has oozed and schmoozed his way through life on daddy's money, without ever having to suffer the consequences of his actions.

And talk about daddy issues - no wonder he's always sucking up to ruthless, strong-man dictator types, desperate for their approval.

But I suspect, as I've said before in this blog, that just as in the old Greek plays about powerful men consumed with hubris, his actions are soon going to catch up with him, big time.  Call it what you will - nemesis, karma, divine justice - there's just no wheedling your way out of it.

It could come as soon as Election Day - 120 days from now.  And just think what a huge ratings flop that would be. A failed president! A loser! Sad.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Independence Day, 2020

Photo by Saka8490 at Wikipedia, CC-4.0

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

--Abraham Lincoln, second inaugural address, March 4, 1865

While watching one of the memorial services for George Floyd last month, at which several people spoke from the pulpit, I was struck by the remarks of a grieving young woman, perhaps a teenager, who in the middle of saying her piece asked, contemptuously, "Make America Great Again - when has America ever been great?"

And while listening to newscasters and protesters and professional chatterati of all stripes during the past month, I have been distressed to hear pompous expressions and condescending judgments that seem to be based on the notion that nothing at all has changed in this country since 1965 - or indeed, since 1865.  Which seems quite wrongheaded to me; remembering vividly the segregated society of my childhood and youth, I could write a long list of things that have changed markedly for the better just in my lifetime, for all kinds and conditions of people, despite whatever seems to have gone wrong at present.

That is not to say that our country, or any one of us, has reached perfection yet.  We never will.  We can only continue working and reaching toward a more perfect union, even though our reach exceed our grasp.  Though we may always fall short of what we seek, the persistent striving for it is what counts.

How the nationwide disgust and outrage over the brutal murder of an innocent man got diverted into refighting the Civil War is a bit more than I can understand.  That conflict was ended, settled, and done with two centuries ago; and our enduring union was bought dearly, cemented with the blood of brothers from all parts of the land, all part of our one big American family:  Americans all, before and after the fight.

The enmities of that needless, senseless war were laid to rest long ago along with the bones of those who sacrificed themselves, as brave men in every age have done, in defense of their homes and families, and for what seemed to them the greater good in that day and time.  Mistaken or not, may they all rest in peace.  There is no North or South, no East or West, in the grave.

It is certain that those on both sides who survived the bloodshed were anxious to move forward as one people and bind up the nation's wounds, not tear them open again.  How much more so should we humbly desire to heal and reconcile with one another, we who live in this vastly different modern age, knowing and understanding so much more than they about all aspects of life on this fragile planet?

It seems to me that today's perils, conflicts, and injustices are what deserve our earnest attention and steady focus now.  The past belongs to the dead, who are beyond all praise or reproach; it is the present that belongs to us, the living - along with the sacred duty to carry on the good work that was begun, not ended, in 1776.  Lazily to castigate the past, which cannot be changed, instead of working hard to repair the present, which can always be improved, is a useless waste of time and spirit.

So today as we celebrate the nation's 244th birthday, I offer these musical selections as a reminder of the permanent possibility of progress  - now quick, now slow, but always upward - that has made the United States an inspiration to all the world from its beginnings, and will continue to do so, if only we remain one united people devoted to liberty, equality, and justice for all - in the enduring bond of brotherly love and mutual respect.

That is much easier to say than to do, of course.  But we must try anyway, and not be foolishly diverted from the essential issues that now confront us.  Though the forces of intolerance and disunity abroad in the land are bent on tearing us apart, I believe it is not yet too late for the better angels of our nature to prevail, and lead the American experiment onward to ever-greater heights.

Red and yellow, black and white, male and female, straight and gay, we are all Americans; we are heirs of the past but not bound to repeat it.  Let us fix what is broken and mend what is torn:  good neighbors and fellow workers in all the good we can do for our country.  Let us be friends; we must not be enemies.

Early or late, progress happens.  The story of how the following performance came about is too well known to repeat here.  The great American contralto Marian Anderson sings "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in April 1939:

The late actor and author Ossie Davis attended the concert as a college student, and here recounts what it meant to him:

In September 1942, Miss Anderson christened the Liberty ship Booker T. Washington in a shipyard in Los Angeles, and sang "The Star Spangled Banner" (the second half of the clip is silent):

Bonus: Miss Anderson sings Schubert's "Ave Maria" in the original German - one of the loveliest renditions I know of this sacred melody:

Thursday, July 2, 2020

But Is It Fascism?

Johnson and Trump at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, 2019.
White House photo via Wikipedia.

George Monbiot compares the politics of Trump and Johnson to historical fascism in an opinion piece for the GuardianExcerpt:
Is the resurgence of fascism a real prospect, on either side of the Atlantic?

Fascism is a slippery, protean thing. As an ideology, it’s almost impossible to pin down: it has always been opportunistic and confused. It is easier to define as a political method. While its stated aims may vary wildly, the means by which it has sought to grab and build power are broadly consistent. But I think it’s fair to say that though the new politics have some strong similarities to fascism, they are not the same thing. They will develop in different ways and go by different names.

Trump’s politics and Johnson’s have some characteristics that were peculiar to fascism, such as their constant excitation and mobilisation of their base through polarisation, their culture wars, their promiscuous lying, their fabrication of enemies and their rhetoric of betrayal. But there are crucial differences. Far from valorising and courting young people, they appeal mostly to older voters. Neither relies on paramilitary terror, though Trump now tweets support for armed activists occupying state buildings and threatening peaceful protesters. It is not hard to see some American militias mutating into paramilitary enforcers if he wins a second term, or, for that matter, if he loses. Fortunately, we can see no such thing developing in the UK. Neither government seems interested in using warfare as a political tool.

Trump and Johnson preach scarcely regulated individualism: almost the opposite of the fascist doctrine of total subordination to the state. (Though in reality, both have sought to curtail the freedoms of outgroups.) Last century’s fascism thrived on economic collapse and mass unemployment. We are nowhere near the conditions of the Great Depression, though both countries now face a major slump in which millions could lose their jobs and homes.

Not all the differences are reassuring. Micro-targeting on social media, peer-to-peer texting and now the possibility of deepfake videos allow today’s politicians to confuse and misdirect people, to bombard us with lies and conspiracy theories, to destroy trust and create alternative realities more quickly and effectively than any tools 20th-century dictators had at their disposal. In the EU referendum campaign, in the 2016 US election, and in the campaign that brought Jair Bolsonaro to power in Brazil, we see the roots of a new form of political indoctrination and authoritarianism, without clear precedents.

It is hard to predict how this might evolve. It’s unlikely to lead to thousands of helmeted stormtroopers assembling in public squares, not least because the new technologies render such crude methods unnecessary in gaining social control. As Trump seeks re-election, and Johnson prepares us for a likely no deal, we can expect them to use these tools in ways that dictators could only have dreamed of. Their manipulations will expose longstanding failures in our political systems that successive governments have done nothing to address.

Though it has characteristics in common, this isn’t fascism. It is something else, something we have not yet named. But we should fear it and resist it as if it were.

What I Say: I get Monbiot's point. But nevertheless, beware of an October Surprise - a suddenly trumped-up war, or the Washington equivalent of the Reichstag fire.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

How Time Does Fly

I just wanted to say that to somebody.  Hard to believe.  It was a great turning point in my life for several reasons not now of interest to anyone but me - and even I'm tired of hearing that old story, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing much.

I was going to write more here - went through several attempts at an essay, but they all kept turning into deadly dull autobiography, and none of them seemed quite right.

So I'll just say how quickly time goes by: from the summit of 60-something, the view is much larger and wider than at 20-something, and you wonder how you got to be this old so soon.  But this commonplace observation is hardly worth your time, so I'll just stop here and wish all my truckbuddies a happy, peaceful July.

God knows we can all use a rest after the past month of upsets and uproars in all directions.

Released in September 1970, this was the "official song" of my graduating class in high school - still a pretty tune after all these years.

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