Dying is Easy. Living is Harder.

© Terry Richardson

I dreamed a few nights ago that I had been tasked with destroying the entire world.

 

It was on my calendar, scheduled for one evening after dinner. I spent that day at the mall. Not shopping, just sitting in the atrium, surrounded by potted plants and watching people come and go. Killing time, you know. Fighting boredom.

 

I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it. I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t. Time would tell, I figured.

 

At the appointed hour, I was ready. Someone handed me the detonator for the doomsday device. It looked like the key fob to your car. I won’t keep you in suspense: after a brief delay, I pressed the button. It was what I was supposed to do. The fact that the bomb existed was sufficient proof that setting it off was not unthinkable. In the end, I guess, it seemed easier to press the button than not to press it. Not pressing it? I’d need a reason for that. I didn’t need a reason to blow up the planet. That was my task. It’s what everyone expected me to do.

 

Nothing happened, however, when I pressed the button. I pried open the remote control and looked inside. It was empty.

 

*****

 

Suppose I ask you to come up with a metaphor or image to capture how you feel every morning when you glance at the headlines. Or when you allow yourself to reflect on everything that’s happened over the last several months. Drowning in a cesspool, maybe?

 

For me, it feels like being lost in a thick fog. Occasionally I glimpse the outline of another person. I rush to her. Touch her on the shoulder. She turns, and I can see the expression on her face. It’s the expression of someone who’s suffering. Someone in great pain. The next person just glares at me. He’s enraged, though I don’t know why. Mostly, all these mist-shrouded strangers have blank looks. They’re deep within themselves. They’re lost in this fog, but the miasma is not just outside them. It’s inside, too.

 

That’s what it’s like for me. (more…)

We Shall Overcome

Today, it’s virtually impossible to believe that this actually happened. But it did. It happened on March 15, 1965, in a Texas twang, and it elicited a standing ovation in Congress. A standing ovation for the words, “It’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”

 

A standing ovation, for God’s sake.

 

 

C. Vann Woodward, “What Happened to the Civil Rights Movement,” in The Burden of Southern History (1960, rev. 1968):

 

Only Now

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Only Now

by W. S. Merwin

 

We thought we would recall the single place
we had set out for and forget the rest
but it is the going we remember
it is the way that comes along with us
and with no one else now and the place
we set out for was not there even then
it had already been forgotten there
yet we remember the river we crossed
the stone bridge and old trees where it left us
and the small bluebird above us with its
hidden nest to which it was bringing back
what it had found where did we go from there
nothing we saw then ever had a name
and the river flowed on behind us.

 

from Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)

The Rural Face of White Supremacy

The Rural Face of White Supremacy: Beyond Jim Crow

From the concluding chapter of Mark Schultz’s excellent The Rural Face of White Supremacy: Beyond Jim Crow:

“As Hancock [County, Georgia] more fully entered the commercial market, it largely left behind the complex, intimate world. It became more systematic, more conformist, and more public. Now people in Hancock inhabit a cultural world long familiar to most Americans. Segregation, the consumer culture, bureaucratic government oversight, and decisions made by the managers of distantly owned paper-pulp companies have shoved aside the cultures of personalism, localism, and semisubsistence that had marked Hancock through the first half of the twentieth century. Much that had characterized rural Hancock and made it a place apart from the national currents passed with World War II” (p. 223).

The Rural Face of White Supremacy was researched and written over a sixteen-year period, during which Schultz conducted interviews — often multiple, lengthy interviews — with more than 180 people. For readers familiar with the American South mostly from films such as Gone With the Wind and Twelve Years a Slave, and from general knowledge of the most memorable incidents of he Civil Rights Era, The Rural Face of White Supremacy will be eye-opening. (more…)

When Death Visits Eden: Fish Kill on the Ogeechee River

Like Photographs From a Dream I Once Had

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Images © Suzanne Moxhay

Deconstructing ‘La La Land’

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Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache. Here’s to the mess we make. She captured feeling, sky with no ceiling, the sunset inside with rain.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are ultra-rich and globally famous because once upon a time, they dreamed and they dreamed big.

 

Sure, early on, when Ryan and Emma were nobodies, they experienced rejection. They failed. People doubted them. They suffered humiliation. They had to do menial work. They got plenty of advice to, you know, just “grow up!” They came really close to selling out. They came really close to quitting, to moving back to Squaresville.

 

But in the end, at the decisive moment, Ryan and Emma believed in themselves. They held on to their hopes. They persevered. They were true to themselves and to their art. To their craft. To their dreams.

 

Did Ryan and Emma have to make sacrifices? Sure! Of course! Naturally! For example, back in the early years, before Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone broke through, before they made it, there was Cute Girl and Adorable Guy, respectively, with whom Ryan and Emma lived lives of quiet anonymity in low-rent apartments in quaintly seedy neighborhoods, and frequented charmingly retro diners, and wandered through amusement parks and under-appreciated public spaces like parks and old museums. Obviously, holding on to their dreams meant, in the end, having to let go of Cute Girl and Adorable Guy. Which is not to say that they won’t always have their memories. And there are certainly consolations, e.g., money to burn and the kind of celebrity that makes a person feel like a god or goddess among mortals.

 

So, if you yourself don’t make it big like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone did, you’ve got only yourself to blame. Obviously, you gave up, you surrendered, you didn’t truly believe in yourself. You didn’t work hard enough. You lost because you’re a loser.

 

La La Land — sure to be the Trump family’s favorite film of 2016.