More Poetry! – Let America Be America Again

Feeling more cynical than ever these days, but here’s Langston Hughes suggesting that the noble ideas the USA is supposed to stand for are aspirational goals to strive and fight for, rather than a done deal. Keep fighting for what can be, instead of pretending we are something we never were.

Maybe a little too on-the-nose, but a fine poem to read today.

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

The NFL and the Flag

Here are the laws surrounding the display and treatment of the US flag: 4 U.S. Code CHAPTER 1—THE FLAG

Here’s what it says about the display of the flag:

“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

I don’t know how many NFL games have the following moment, but it’s common.

This is the flag being carried flat, horizontal to the ground.

Drew Brees has never spoken out about this flagrant disrespect of the US flag. Nor have any of the other thousands of people who claim to love Kaepernick, but not his methods.

Hint: they don’t really care about disrespecting the flag.

I wonder if the Pentagon is still paying the NFL to be patriotic? Pentagon paid sports teams millions for patriotic events. I don’t remember Brees or the NFL owners complaining about that, either.

Oh, and all those flags that appear on uniforms?

“No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

It’s disrepectful.

Martellus Bennett says it better than I ever could.

And if you read Bennett’s thread and think, “I’d like to read a fucking book!” let me suggest White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. There are so many places to start learning about white privilege and anti-racism, and this is one of those entry points. And, once you finish reading this one, read another, and another.

Wipe is Available

It’s finally complete!

Wipe: A Brief History of Toilet Hygiene is now available as an ebook through Amazon.

And, yes! Selling this through Amazon gives me complicated feels. On the one hand – it was fun to write. I think it’s fun to read. I hope you read it and enjoy it! Writing short works like Wipe is a fun hobby. Even though the editing is annoying, I like everything that goes with a project like this — the research, the writing, the design. This is my idea of a good time.

On the other hand – pitching in to help a sociopathic monster become even wealthier. So, there’s that. My only consolation is that a project like this ebook only puts a few pennies in the coffer. UNLESS YOU BUY A MILLION COPIES.

Regardless, Wipe is available. If you want to support this project, here’s how.

  1. The best is to buy a copy and leave a stellar 5-star review. The Amazon algorithm really likes verified purchases and 5-star reviews.
  2. Buy a copy (but don’t bother with the review). All those pennies add up over time.
  3. Share a link. Let others know, so maybe they’ll buy a copy, write a review, and/or share a link.

And, I want to thank everyone who read various portions of this in draft and gave me feedback. THANK YOU! My friends made it better, and I alone am responsible for its mediocrity.

Attempting to Peer Into the Future

This article from MIT Technology Review popped up in my feed today:

This is what it will take to get us back outside
How to safely easing social distancing while we wait for a covid-19 drug or vaccine.

“Getting to normal, therefore, is not so much about getting back the old normality as it is about getting back the ability to know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

It’s an okay overview, and it deals specifically with a near future where there is no treatment available (assuming a treatment might be available as early as August 2020 or as late as 2021).

What surprised me most is that the AEI report it links to seems reasonable. I’m not sure if I’ve ever agreed with an AEI policy proposal. If the Republican leadership <snarky comments removed>, they may suggest something along the following:

Stay-at-Home Advisories

The trigger for issuing a stay-at-home advisory in a US state is when case counts are doubling every three to five days (based on the current New York experience) or when state and local officials recommend it based on the local context (for example, growth on track to overwhelm the health system’s capacity).

The trigger for issuing a recommendation to step down from a stay-at-home-advisory back to “slow the spread” is when the number of new cases reported in a state has declined steadily for 14 days (i.e., one incubation period) and the jurisdiction is able to test everyone seeking care for COVID-19 symptoms.

I like this because it gives pretty clear triggers for how to manage life over the next few months. It divides the future into three phases. Phase one is where we are now. Phase two is when we start to open things up again, and phase three is when we have a reliable treatment in place.

The AEI report recommends that when we see a steady decline in new cases for two weeks, we can move to phase two.

Phase two still includes “teleworking (as much as possible), maintaining hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, wearing a mask in public, regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and initially limiting social gatherings to fewer than 50 people.”

States should return to phase one “if a substantial number of cases cannot be traced back to known cases, if there is a sustained rise in new cases for five days, or if hospitals in the state are no longer able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization.”

Phase three begins with a vaccine or other effective and widely available treatment.

The AEI report was co-written by Trump’s former FDA commissioner Scott Gottleib. Don’t agree with him on many issues, but he did a few things while running the FDA I thought were reasonable. He had an op-ed in the WSJ on Feb. 4 saying that a pandemic in the US seemed inevitable and the administration needed to act immediately. Politico ran a piece on him a month ago if you want to know more.

Never thought I’d point favorably to a policy proposal from the AEI, but this one is worth checking out.

Mindfulness Chicken

In the spring and summer of 2019 I was burned out. During the summer I scheduled some appointments with a therapist, and she helped! I recommend it.

One of the issues that fed my emotional distress was constant rumination. Something would upset me at work and my mind would review and argue and cogitate ceaselessly.

She recommended several mindfulness techniques, but none really connected with me, so I made up my own. The mindfulness animal.

I scraped a lot of animal names from Wikipedia and now I have a daily animal. When I find myself ruminating about something upsetting, and I catch myself (which I’ve gotten pretty good at), I say “Stop. Think about…,” and then I think about the animal.

For example, today’s animal is the porcupine. If at some point today I find myself fruitlessly ruminating about something that’s bothering me, I’ll say “Stop. Think about the porcupine.” And then I’ll ask myself a bunch of questions about porcupines. Where are they from? Where are they indigenous? How big do porcupines get? Does anybody every harvest quills? Could I harvest quills? What could you make out of porcupine quills? Do the babies have quills? etc. until I break the rumination.

Some days this is easy enough, and I’m able to quiet my mind. Other days It’s nearly impossible and I spend a lot of time working to break the rumination.

A few weeks ago there was something my mind just wouldn’t let go of. The animal for that day was chicken. I ended up singing a repetitive chant-song to myself of “Mindfulness chicken mindfulness chicken, mindfulness chicken, mindfulness chickennnnn, and then repeat.

Perhaps not perfect, because I was still obsessively thinking about something, but thinking about mindfulness chicken was much, much less upsetting that whatever else it was that was agitating me.

Anyway, this year I’ve been learning how to draw/cartoon, and last night I drew the Mindfulness Chicken. Below is yesterday’s effort. I think I’ll probably do another this weekend and work on the text (letters shouldn’t be in a box!) and font (needs to be sharper). But, I sure do love that chicken!

I got my chicken drawing from this series Lynda Barry has been doing for the last week or so. You can check out some of her short cartooning videos at her YouTube page.


If every grocery store clerk were told – I’ll give you your exact same wage for staying home OR you can continue to work. How many would continue to work?

They aren’t heroes, they are workers working under threat. They are compelled to go to work. If they lose their job, they lose their paycheck. If they lose their paycheck, they can’t pay rent, or buy food, or look after the health of their family, or pay for school.

I mean, I’m glad they’re there, but let’s be realistic about what compels them to be on the ‘front line’.

About Those UTampa Students…

Let’s dial back the vitriol against those University of Tampa students to, like, maybe zero.

University of Tampa spring break was March 9 to March 13. On March 12 the CDC was still reporting no community-transmitted cases of COVID-19 in Florida.

If a responsible student wanted to make a responsible decision, she would probably be directed to the CDC, which said travel was safe, just be reasonably precautious. If they asked the University president, or the Governor, or the Mayor, they probably would have been told the same thing.

If they asked their professors they might have heard, “Well, I’m going to New Orleans,” or “I’m going to Barcelona,” or “I’m going on a cruise.” All things I heard professors say before UT’s spring break.

We also don’t know what those students were doing during ‘spring break’. Not everyone gets wasted at the beach. They might have been working together on their marine biology project. They might have been traveling back to the same home town. They might have gone camping in North Carolina. And, sure, they might have been swapping spit in a dance club.

What’s more upsetting is that a non-trivial number of UT’s outsourced labor force was laid off yesterday. Many those people who clean the buildings, take out the trash, and cook the food are now without a job; many of whom live paycheck to paycheck. That’s not on the students. And that’s getting no viral status or snarky comments. And what’s being done to those workers is far worse than anything any of those students did.