This is about a whole life of political opposition and how it stretches into the future and flows back into the past. This alchemy of life principles affects the 1964 to 1970 years when I was too young for most politics. For me in opposition to the dominant ideology politics and pain are closely linked. I am going to write a great deal about pain and about why I felt distrustful of the establishment and at risk in this society where we are all urged to feel grateful for every aspect of the way things are. But while I am writing of the pains of life it is important to remember that it was not all pain. I may sometimes say life in America has been hell but it has not all been hell. In my childhood that is especially true. It is also true that by the end of these years I had begun to learn to ride horses, fish, fly kites and do other things which indicate some helpful adult attention. I believe that much of the pain of my childhood was partly transferred from outsiders pressuring those who hurt me directly. It was not long before I could see good and evil coming from the same people w ho also received lots of evil from the larger world and the rest of America. I also believed than and do now that it was the responsibility of those who hurt me when they hurt me and also the truth that the laws addressing such things were imperfect then and are imperfect now.
Political opposition sustained over a life time is a kind of violence of the mind and certainly this post is about violence to a large degree. But it is not so easy to say what choices foster violence. Our current President began with a Nobel Peace Prize on his way into power.
Violence will be part of the story of my struggle and suffering in this blog post. Beyond all this I also had the more prosaic suffering of simply changing schools. It was during these early years that I already became aware of to what a great extent both my own good and that which I believed to be good were ideas and realities profoundly at odds with the ideas and ideologies I would interact with and confront in the world. This was not only rue in America but elsewhere. Perhaps studying in different countries at a very young age made political difference part of my way of viewing the world. It was this sense of a creeping and pervasive horror embodied in the minds of my fellow human beings. That would become one of the major themes of my life. I also remember very few times when an authority figure, policeman or first responder relieved my distresses. But the few times it happened probably increased my belief that the possibility of a good authority structure was there and deserved support. I disliked unconventional bullies more than licensed abusers of authority in my general view of things. But here too there were exceptions on both sides. For those wondering what my politics are I will leave some breadcrumbs through this blog to find your way, starting here. Because this post is much more about a life in opposition than the politics of Opposition I may represent. Nor does opposition man I just criticize — my proposals for positive change account for most of what I do and believe.
I was born on June 15, 1964. That was the start of this little adventure in pain and my namesake through my father was on the Louisiana Supreme Court at the time. His office was an elected position. I was also connected to a good number of richer and more privileged people than average and some would have seen me as pampered in the view of the distant and poorly informed. Perhaps I was in someways that were real as well. I have been told that I was born with a broken collarbone or otherwise had a broken collarbone shortly after birth. In my mother’s family my older brother whom I never met or heard about until graduate school was given up for adoption. Her brother who would have been the boy nearest my age died who was older than me on that side, allegedly of SIDS, before I was born. I was the oldest granddchild and the next one born died in early childhood. Hydrocephalus is the given reason for his demise he was born when I was a near the end of these years and died in the next set of years on this list. So while many would have seen large houses and significant land holdings and travel I think the presence of vanishing kids defined much of my childhood. A sense that my life was against the odds set in early.
My own response to distress around me is formed by those years and those senses formed as a child. While I have done many things to help the less fortunate I also know clearly in my own mind that suffering and lack can affect people at all strata of society and many people have no idea what another;s life is like or what shapes his or her mind that they cannot see. I am going to write about the death of Allen Bares Junior. I respect that this law enforcement officer put his life at risk on duty many times and was trying to prevent harm when he was killed. But I also knew of him vaguely as one who arrested my cousin Robin. I know that the kind of people he met at death have threatened and hurt Rob and others I know and there has been no relief for these victims who may themselves have a legal blemish or two by the time they are hurt. It is a dangerous and complicated country. I wonder if Bares could have imagined the world Robin has sometimes been harassed by in his life. That cousin has blacked out many of his own worst memories with dope and drink but he has been the victim of a lot of pain others have not seen because he was living in a home of decaying Southern glories and molding treasures of some privilege. But Bares would come face to face with that brutal world which haunts those not protected by uniforms and patrol cars who nonetheless must interact with the most dangerous Americans. Whatever politics we have must deal with some of the realities of crime in our society. There are few simple answers.
Returning to the subject of my childhood, I also struggled physically long after birth and that has never stopped. I was troubled with croup and childhood asthma and breathing often came with difficulty. When I was a small child at my mother’s family’s home, a car ran backwards over me but the wheels missed me, I was once playing in the land around a family home and I was pushed into a swimming pool wearing boots. Also on this side of the family someone burnt my face with a cigarette catching the eyelid and part of the face near it in a substantial burn. But my interaction with my father’s family where I was also alone in my generation for years was also marked by lots of unique experiences one of my father’s brothers broke my arm and this occurred in a context of lots of excessive physical carelessness and once one of my aunts was with me as I was taken into very deep water in the Pacific Ocean as a small child and caught in a crosscurrent I would never have swum in alone. Toward the end of this period I was bitten by a copperhead snake at my hometown Country Club while watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. A drunken relative pointed a loaded shotgun at me in the dark in shadowy rooms of a house far from others who would help and near one who was provoking them to shoot me. One of my cousins who was also a child tried to set off a firework in my hand. These were among many other frightening memories. I went to school deep in London’s Red Light District in Soho for Kindergarten. It was a region where threatening people mixed with the less threatening in a wide variety of ways. In these years I was also bitten and attacked by several dogs in a way which was short of “being savaged” by a dog but was bloody and equally more than a nip. There were good times but despite all this negative attention nobody had bothered to teach me to tie my shoes or ride a bicycle as I entered the age where these skills were useful in getting on in life and along with others. While everyone has a lot of income compared to me today my family did not have as much income as many Americans would but they had large homes, farms, real estate and there were quite a few times when resentful servants and employees and their children and spouses expressed their envy and resentments toward me in a threatening way. It is also true that some of those in this same class of people were my supporters and helpers in a personal and caring way on quite a few occasions. But I do not know what America some people on television are talking about and I have seen the equality they want and it is worse for everyone in some cases. In others it is a great distance from many parts 0f America where social distances may not seem great to visitors but still matter.
I was recently aware of the great sense of unity that the law enforcement community had on the occasion of the shooting death in Abbeville, Louisiana of Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Allen Bares Junior. There were hundreds of officers in town and the point was made to any eyes open to see that three young black men involved in operating as a burglary team who killed the off-duty police officer should not inspire people to start any trends of that kind. This whole event relates to a number of posts I have put out in the past including this one. So violence and danger comes from everywhere around me and it is in that context that my political views have formed. That is why I seek change.
But for me, while I empathize with the family of Deputy Allen Bares Junior in their loss and I felt close to these events of his funeral. But I was also very much aware of the differences between Bares and his situation in life and me and my situation in life. The fraternity of the law enforcement community, the grieving widow and other connections which he enjoyed are different than where I seem to be although I may be connected as well to a network of people it is not the same and is less secure and established in a number of ways.
In this blog post there will be many references to the sudden deaths of others. In time I may die suddenly but I find that I have had lots of trouble dealing with increasing woes over time which was never a surprise. I have become accustomed to increasing limits on my life over decades and declining opportunities in many ways. But on Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 8:08am I posted a Facebook note which was more resigned and pessimistic than most and I announced that I had applied for disability status. I was not sure then what my web presence would be going into the future. That was not my top priority right now but it was an issue.
“I have a telephone appointment with the Social Security Administration Monday August 27, 2012. I need a lot of rest these days and there five calls to remind me inclded one that woke me from one of the better sleeps or naps I have had since I went to the emergency room on August 7, 2012. I have lost some weight since then and have spent a good bit of money on copies and various kinds of postage as I seek to make a Social Security claim. I have been walking and doing other forms of rehabilitation therapy that I have learned from decades of dealing with all sorts of chronic ailments and lingering injuries. I have paid very little and more than I could afford to the hospital for the bill that did not get to me until weeks after it was mailed. Since then things have progressed in the usual American ideological tyranny of doing things unjustly with great conviction to the point that I cannot address the debts of my one hospital visit in many years at all. I asked them to send my mail to the post office where I get my mail and not to the home address where I almost always have a horrific experience. Then I did many other small things until it became impossible even to to try in this country so often horrible to me. This physical adjustment and its associated consequences may be my last adventure in life and it is certainly not the way I would choose to end the journey.
But it is not the worst way either. I still at long intervals and in much diminished intensity feel the metaphorical fingers of death in my chest and left side. But physically, I am feeling a lot better. I feel that will struggle on for quite some time and while I do I will write about change. Sometimes I am not that unhappy. My life has brought me many adventures I would not have had if all had gone as I had planned. I am grateful for those adventures as well as the few clear victories I have had in the fray of life.
I was a big fan of John Denver’s early work and like a lot of his fans not so much of the songs that came many years after “Rocky Mountain High”, “Annie’s Song”, “Poems and Prayers and Promises” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” had faded from the charts and record store shelves. But there is a part pf one of his later songs that impressed me which I quote or misquote here from memory:
When You asked how I’ve been here without you I’d like to say I’ve been fine and I do. But we both know the truth is hard to come by And if I told the truth, that’s not quite true
Some days are diamonds some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones
Some days are diamonds some days are stones.”
Well Allen Bares Jr. whom I did not know Jess Spiehler, my last remaining grandparent, and some other people I knew here and there have died, including the last sibling of my father’s mother, since that incident and not I. I have not gotten completely well, gotten Social Security disability nor died. My father has come a lot closer than I have arguably. But I still feel closer to the end since that day in August. In this blog post I have layers of connecting back throughout my life which are cited in various ways. But the connections go several layers deep. In this note I am drawing on various other sources i have written in the past in part to reduce my efforts here. I do this to some degree with the blog-style obituaries and other biographical sketches. I pull together material from this blog and add new material to produce a piece that is new and distinct but not entirely so. In this plagiarizing of myself I will be recycling below some material from earlier Notes on my Facebook Timeline. That is most likely to be from “Risks Remembered, Touching the Time for Turning Four Dozen Years Old and Longevity” other notes which have been more autobiographical in nature. I hope I start to feel better than I currently am feeling. I have been in recovery and rehabilitation mode before and I am now.
My incident on August 7, 2012 was not technically a full-blown heart attack, probably because I detected the early signs, Mom woke up and drove me to the hospital and got good care at the emergency room. When they put me on the monitor I was showing some pronounced symptoms, they gave me nitroglycerin, put a tube in my nose with drugs to increase oxygen flow and pumped oxygen in — when the process built to the spasm which is where death and permanent injury occur my body was dropping into an artificial state and it is only a little bit of a metaphor to say that the worst of the storm rolled over me with less harm when i lost consciousness. I think I was spared most permanent results, there was great pain and semi-paralysis all along my left side the next day and I am still recovering. Probably there was some permanent brain damage I continued to have moments of distinct confusion for weeks that were different than before but I seem to be almost back to to pre-crisis function and am more fit now. Yet there are times since which are different than any times before. However, I was already experiencing plenty of bad physical times before this. I definitely lost some weight, toned up and have gotten more regular sleep since the incident.
What was my life then prior to the incident? Well I will spend a bit of time on those years before my most recent readjustment. I came back from China, wrote an article for a cultural newspaper I had written for before many times and took a job with an assisted living agency caring form my brother Simon who is handicapped. Then Hurricane Rita came and I was injured. I will probably revisit these events but since than and until my visit to the emergency room I was never really able bodied or fully well.
The 2006 to 2012 years brought me to the pre-crisis position in 2012 which does not need its own category.There have been more nephews and nieces and some good times with my brothers and sisters and parents. I described earlier the work I have been able to do between hours in bed or on a couch in home-made therapies. I will not go through that again in this paragraph. However, I have mostly noticed how may of they physical injuries of the past have come back in varied forms to collect a new toll on my health, time, energy and happiness. My health since I returned from China to the United States has revealed new troubles and woes to me bit by bit. My role in Family Missions Company founded on work that consumed me for decades was miniscule before I went to China. When I got back but before my heart problem many demands were as bad or worse from the many people I served but my roles and recognitions diminished even more. My experience of American life as a whole was ever more hellish. I am not sure my health matters much to me any more since so much of my life is about being out of contact with so much and aspiring to so little that requires vigorous good health. It was in these years that my cousin Severin Summers was killed in Afghanistan. I had the opportunity to remember a long conversation I had with him about the ideas and commitments of military and more or less civilian people in combat and in other kinds of more or less justified violence. I remembered him carrying the cross at his grandmother’s funeral. It has been a strangely huge experience I would not expect anyone to validate or understand because Sev and I were not close by any standard that makes objective sense. I have blogged about Sev on occasion including in a post for Memorial Day of this year. Sev left this life through violence while the picture of health. His death also was marked by the great fraternity of the United States Armed Forces. He made different choices than I have made and had different experiences. Like those who buried Bares his brothers in arms saw him laid to rest. Acknowledging in both cases without saying so that the system they all serve was an imperfect assurance of safety.
My life is altogether about the struggle against great odds. To the extent that it is barely about anything else most of the time it has been about that but so are many other lives. In my hometown we have a fair number of Vietnamese immigrants and some have slipped back to Buddhism who once were Catholics. Others have lost all real sense of a religious home. While I am a Catholic Evangelist I do not have much animosity for Buddhism but I do know how much the Vietnamese Church has sacrificed. Fortunately we have a Vietnamese Mass and the image of a Vietnamese martyr. But we still have many challenges to meet there and in many other areas of life here. Liệt sĩ may mắn của của Việt Nam.
The Holy See estimates the number of Vietnamese martyrs at between 130,000 and 300,000. John Paul II decided to canonize those whose names are known and unknown, giving them a single feast day after three groups had been beatified. A representative sample of only 117 martyrs — including 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spanish Dominicans, and 10 French members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (Missions Etrangères de Paris (MEP)) — were beatified on four separate occasions: 64 by Pope Leo XIII on May 27, 1900, eight by Pope Pius X on May 20, 1906, 20 by Pope Pius X on May 2, 1909, 25 by Pope Pius XII on April 29, 1951 All these 117 Vietnamese Martyrs were canonized on June 19, 1988. A young Vietnamese Martyr, Andrew Phú Yên, was beatified in March, 2000 by Pope John Paul II I am not sure that is good or bad. They may have deserved more feast days or there may be a strength in unity. The tortures the Vietnamese martyrs underwent are considered by the Vatican to be among the most terrible in the history of Christian martyrdom. The tortures included using drugs to enslave the minds of the victims, hacking off limbs joint by joint, tearing flesh with red hot tongs, and on a massive scale branding Christians on the face with the words “ta dao” (左道, lit. “Left (Sinister) religion”. Besides torture of individuals families and villages which subscribed to Christianity were obliterated.
The Vietnamese Martyrs fare categorized easily into groupings, those of the Dominican and Jesuit missionary era of the 17th century, those killed in the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and those martyred during the Communist purges of the 20th century. These neighbors of mine are one of countless reasons why I cannot stand to see America squander capital it cannot afford on the wrong view of migration and culture and politics. I believe I have a better set of ideas and I struggle for a better future.
I am looking at the book and the movie from a particular point of view. It is not an entirely original thing to view The Great Gatsby as standing for “Wealth as an Exploration of the Deeper Qualities of Life”. Fitzgerald was unusually interested in money and wealth compared to most writers. Jay Gatsby and Daisy are more than merely moneyed people but they are not less nor other than moneyed people. Class concerns are not reducible to money concerns but are not separate from them either. While F. Scott and Zelda dealt with money issues elsewhere in successful works this novel stands above the others. The Great Gatsby is probably F. Scott Fitzgerald’s finest and is greater in scope than any other of his writings that might be as fine a novel. This book offers what many find a damning and almost all readers find an insightful view of the American moneyed sets in the 1920s. A great deal of the very complex historical truth is woven into this wonderfully evocative American classic.
Hemingway was very interested in writers with whom he himself was contemporary. He was more interested in Fitzgerald in this regard than in most other writers such as Baroja y Nessi and Gertrude Stein who also came in for serious review by Hemingway in print and conversation. Hemingway said of Fitgerald as a writer that, “His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings”.
This is a post written for anyone who wants to read it but it is very much addressing American ideas and issues. It is very mush rooted in an American history more rich and diverse than most people think. One political triumph I have seen recently that I had almost nothing to do with but did support shows how ancient America and this land of Louisiana actually are. You can something about that recognition of an ancient archaeological site right here. It is also called Poverty Point and poverty is a bit of theme in this blog post.
America may be the nation with the largest economy for a few more years but it is also the nation that survived the Dust Bowl, the Civil War and many economic crashes and natural disasters. An American life can be one complicated by adversity. I think our politics must address all the realities of our lives as individuals and a society.
So poverty and ill health have something to do with my view of the world no doubt. In general my view of my health is that it has been degradced by a compounding effect of numerous insults ( or damaging acts or occurrences of limited impact) to my health. These insults include:
being bitten by a copperhead snake as a child
repeated hospitalizations for sunstroke.
Several broken bones throughout childhood and adolescence
near death from multiple insect poisonings
numerous traffic accidents including a head on collision with a car while riding my bicycle
a probably normal number of other diseases and injuries common in America with some neglect. There are other factors such as these which could be discussed in private with some people but will not be done here (and no, none of these secrets are sexually transmitted diseases — as far as I know I have never had any and I have been tested for many things that should have shown them over the years). Several who have taken my x-rays have said on occasion they have found real arthritis including chiropractors. But nobody has given me an official diagnosis. The truth is I have worn out generation of braces, slings and used countless back-plasters and remedies to get this far.
I have shown that I have suffered perhaps .But these are not the signs of direct evidence of a life lived in the struggle for socio-economic renewal. Perhaps the recent post on my life in Asia here and here show some connection between this life and politics but it is not a clear connection. Compared to Martin Luther King, Adoph Hitler, John Brown, Mao Zhe Dong, Thomas Paine or many others I seem to have done nothing for politics. Direct evidence of a life lived in at least a quasi political opposition is hard to come by. One reason for the small footprint in pure politics is that I believe in a broad reform to make politics broader and more full and rich of a human endeavor than I find it to be in America today. I have discussed connections and while I have been writing this I have also written e-mails to other people including to an old college companion. With last names edited out my most recent e-mail said:
MeTo Dino P.Today at 10:06 AM
Dino,Thanks for all of that. I hope get started on organizing and eventually using them. I also realized Tom Howard (not even sure that is his name) was the bearded guy who father had some kind of missile defense job and who had our whole road-tripping group at his house. I get the feeling he was less close to most of us than average but he definitely was in the group. I mainly bring him up because I was making a list before — and of course I would be happy to have his email if you have it. I have nothing for Matt or Terry. I do not remember a Gerry C. right now. Is KCJ Jack K.?I do have several e-mail addresses for Mark and he and I met down here last year in early October when he was doing some research at LSU. He bought me dinner to discharge an old debt on a bet and I made arrangements to have him put up at a friends house for a couple of nights. Their family has been vacationing in Rome.I assume you know Maureen K. is very sick. Unless there is a miracle we will all have to decide if we can make it to her funeral fairly soon. I mean it could be years but not a lot of years unless she beats some very long odds.All of our correspondence assumes that the world as we know it will endure. I am not sure it will.Beyond all of that I think the country could run into some serious crises soon greater than anything since the 1860’s. You and I have discussed politics a bit fairly recently. Here is a synopsis of what I see: We are straining resources without solving any of the long term needs, debts of injustices which plague our constitutional arrangements. We have effectively lost our agreement to limit internal conflict in the key ways we all accepted whether good or bad. Our border and our military are in distress. We are reaching the point of engendering maximum international hostility. Nobody trusts us as diplomatic actors. I fill in the details on my blog but this is not sustainable.In addition to everything else the largest areal staging base where every European and British Commonwealth air force in the world can deploy to sweep south is on our Northern border. Russia has a massive build up to sweep East across Alaska and Latin America is readying massive resources for a united sweep North. With the right responds most of this will sink back into the shadows indefinitely and we can try to gain ground. But these are our friends. Our enemies are drilling and organizing all around the world to bring us Jihad and vengeance. No offense to you paisanna but I am not sure Pelosi can grasp all of this and I know damn well that the GOP hawks can’t. We are running out of time to wake up. If we do wake up then there will be some bitter medicine to take on the road to recovery.Peace and Good,Frank
I am thinking of (slowly) cleaning up my FB feed. Trolls are already gone. NEXT I’m afraid I will be easing-out folks who pour forth silly “respond to this!” jpegs. Like “Type a word that starts with…!” Or “ grab an object to your left to fight a vampire!” Or “What was your first concert?”
Please, this is no judgment on you! It’s your time, spend it as you like. Also, I won’t banish folks overnight. This will come slowly, as I shake my head and grumble. (Yes, like an old grouch muttering “get off my lawn!”) But my FB needs are different. Also, I have a waiting list beyond my 5000 FB friends limit.
If you find you are no longer getting my friends feed, feel free to “follow”! I wish you all well and here’s hoping for civilization.
I responded to this general comment about the state of expressing the ideas that may make up a venue for an opposition or for any political platform in these words that follow:
I would hope we both choose to keep this connection, I have enjoyed the David Brin Facebook friend connection. It may endure or not but I know that things become complicated in making those decisions. Back when I got on FB I administered a lot of groups around the world and arguably that made my profile a better nexus for all kinds of information than it can be today. I chose to shut the groups down when the structure changed and I do not regret it really.
I had some great conversations with your friends back in the day, When you posted about the space elevator design from Japan for instance. But every few months I play with the idea of shutting down Facebook and keeping in touch with family elsewhere and everyone else at http://franksummers3ba,com
Honestly,with friends on FB in the thousands (even very low figures like my 1000s) this becomes a bit page-like without some of the old structures. But thanks for the years of friend feeds. It has been a long time since we chatted and so I won’t be surprised if it does not last forever.
Then I have worked very hard in the hours when I was not resting at a subsistence position for room, most board and a borrowed car on my parents compound for the last seven years after really becoming diasbled from injuries in Hurricane Rita which left me unable to walk well for more than a month. But however, bad such a choice may have been I hoped to recover and find work. My mind was still strong and I could prove it. Although feeding dogs, washing tens of thousands of dishes, moving tons of garbage and catching horses was what I did to earn my pittance I had other outlets where I could invest my mental capital and hope for the best and could prove I still had some capacity there. But this new event has sapped my strength and resilience at a new level. Yet if I were rich, popular and successful I could probably keep working with my good health insurance, ego boosted resistance, caring spouse and other such things. I am in fact long in decline and have reached the point where a recent shock has left me with stroke symptoms and I am at the end of my rope in so many ways, I really need the help I insured for hoping it would be in retirement at a full age. That there may be for some others choices and ease which are not relevant to my case leads me to seek access to what may be able to get from my social security premiums, I have paid FICA to about twenty employers where I have done much less than a majority of my work and I will have to cash into that to make it any further as a responsible citizen. I am turning to Cngressman Charles Boustany Juinor M.D. ‘s office for support as well as to a Social Security lawyer I have known for years for support even while I struggle to do this on my own. I was going to tag Congressman Boustany in this note as he used to be my Facebook friend but what Facebook tells me when I click on his name is ” This account has been deactivated. Only you can see Charles on your friends list. You have the option to unfriend Charles”. I do not pretend that the issues are simple, I honestly believe America owes me more than it is able to pay but that is true of several people I know and that does not absolutely and certainly mean I should get this social security benefit and the medicare that comes with it. We will see what happens next. I already received a quick disapproval of claim and with my travel have to say to a few doctors “please help me establish my medical record if you can”.
Nothing much can be said about those efforts except that they fit with the context of the rest of my life and my experience pretty well. I since have had my life get worse and my health problems persist in many ways. I also have tried and failed to comply with the requirements of Obamacare. But this post is not mostly about my health although my health may be one of the major defining and limiting factors in this whole mess. The mess which is largely my life.
I think America and the world are ready for a change in American government. I just do not know that my efforts will have much impact on how that change takes place and what it leads to over time. But one does not seek such changes over decades without getting one’s hands a bit soiled. I have been deep in the muck of our society many times and I see that also in political terms. Prior to the 1996 to 2000 years of my life I got a Bachelor’s and a Master of Arts Degree. I studied a lot of law political science and history although I never got a law degree I studied a lot of law. I have been through a lot of bad times but through a divorce some legal entrapments, legal maneuverings, crimes I could not prosecute and my own faults I really came to see America as probably to bad of a place for me to allow for any hope of a decent working to reform the system in a conventional way.
These years were the years when I suppose my life really became mentally hell in the sense that I accepted the idea of a whole series of outcomes in which I would find no really appealing major points between the present and a possible death of old age. Yet while that mental depression was going on there was redemption too in a seemingly apolitical aspect of life where I found new joys in nieces who were born in those years and had become part of my life. Yet in them and in my brothers whom I tutored and other things I did I found an outlet for continuing to provide subtle political education. I had enjoyed having nieces by marriage who rightly or wrongly I lost by divorce but these were the children of my oldest sister who, being younger than I was starting a family. During those years I had less interaction with violence than some periods but the work I did was still pretty edgy, I did drive people to jails, hospitals and bus stops. I did help people talk to abusive spouses and creditors. None of these people felt extremely secure or hopeful in America and all felt exposed to violence from known and unknown sources. I used the money I earned from these straining activities to pay for a business distributing books, prints of art pieces, greeting cards and jewelry to the public and vendors all around the state, the country and the world. It was at this time as well that my parents and mostly my father basically gave me some land I would basically give back to him before going to China. I did a lot of productive work on the land but like everything in America I was amazed at how mired in misery and futility the experience mostly was. This farm and that redistribution business while voting for regular candidates by major parties may not seem political but it formed me and I had a political word or two to deliver now and then,. The 2001 to 2005 years began as I and the country went through the tragic events of 9/11 and the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the heroic fight on United 92. Those years also saw Hurricane Lili badly affect the school system in Abbeville which affected my work. This period would see me work and live alone in China.I have blogged a good bit about that and I encourage you to seek the posts out and pages but the guide to my time in China and this period in general is right here.
The end of this period of years would see my health take another dive. It would see me involved with recovery from Hurricane Katrina and then going through Hurricane Rita and leaving injured to go to San Diego and then down into Mexico to stay with my sister and her children. China was a great experience and so was getting to know a generation nephews as well as continuing my relationship with my two oldest nieces. Oddly enough in some ways I am doing things now I never did between late 2005 and 2012 but I have new physical limits. The good thing is that since 2012 except for killing snakes and ants which bite me or try to in clearing the new yard where I live with my parents my life has been more peaceful than usual. Peace has been marred by concerns about a series of crises in the country and the world. This kind of violence continues in the recent Bares incident. It also relates to the constant reports of violence. But probably people I care about are experiencing violence and I am simply not around enough people to be affected in any way any more.
Returning to the huge police presence in Abbeville and the death of Deputy Allen Bares Jr. one know Americans need and realize they need government and law enforcement. At times like this the police receive wide support. But America owes more than most great powers to the contributions of people who have struggled completely outside the law or along its edges. The dirty cop of some movies is in fact often seen as the one who seeks to bridge the gap between the law books and reality. But sometimes America faces the kind of violence that killed Deputy Bares. Then compromises and the like seem very far away. All the school shootings, theater shootings, school stabbings, terrorist attacks and the like may have complicated roots but most of us just want them to stop. We have seen images of cities burning around the world and that includes London. We all know that some of those dealing with trouble are bound to be keeping the fabric from ripping apart and we know our social order as written out is not doing such a great job. my political sensibilities reflect that reality too.
There was a movie that came out recently which captured some of that tension with the underworld in American history better than most. That movie was the Baz Lurhmann film The Great Gatsby. How I came to feel that major political change was needed in our country is a long story to be pieced together out of many parts of this blog and other writings and images. But let us continue with economic reflections, I think that I have had and continue to have a fairly unusual relationship to wealth and money. I am interested in American and other views of wealth when expressed in the arts of fiction and film. Movies life Blow, Scarface, The Godfather, Wall Street and Trading Places have all dealt with the connections between varied crimes and money in ways much more explicit than the way in which The Great Gatsby deals with these issues. We know Jay Gatsby is a bootlegger but neither his crimes nor the problems he may have with the police really happen “on camera” even in the novel. The more securely rich people in the novel drink a great deal of prohibited booze but Gatsby must have a grander house in the less fashionable West Egg because he is associated with the underworld. His extravagance is in part to get along with the influential people at his parties and avoid their prying eyes in the part of his life we do not see either. In an America dependent on sweatshop labor abroad, millions of undocumented workers in the USA and with un-taxed industries from drugs, to internet sales of all kinds to much of the sex industry we have to ask if the equivalents of East Egg respectable rich people today are living in more or less of a fool’s paradise than the characters in The Great Gatsby.I have known lots of people rich and poor as well as people on both sides of the law and as I see our deficits soar and our social cohesion in trouble I do wonder about America’s relations to the people both like and unlike Gatsby in our own world. I am very far from being a Jay Gatsby myself but can relate to him in a number of ways as I imagine many can.
Gatsby doubtless acted violently outside the law but mostly worked hard to provide products and services virtually all the Americans he knew wanted to buy which the law prohibited. He tried to create cultural value and opened conduits for negroes, Jews, working class folks and the elite WASPS of his adopted region to interact in a magical Jazz world. In the end his efforts were perhaps doomed. But this man seems a contrast with crime as Allen Bares Junior experienced it recently. I do not know all the facts. But putting together what I have heard Deputy Bares was the kind of officer who looked around at what was going on for many years whether on duty or not. He was cutting grass and checked into the activities of a group of young black men he did not recognize in the neighborhood. It is alleged that they were burglars operating in a systematic way and on becoming aware they were being investigated by a possible law enforcement officer one of them shot and killed Deputy Allen Bares Jr. This picture shows the funeral procession to burial.The world is a rough place and I am not a cop nor did I know Deputy Bares personally nor the accused. But truth is that this is a story with plenty of tragedy. The funeral was in the church where I was baptized, made my first communion and was wed.
In recent events on the border we see a different kind of social energy to assist the less privileged than the Gatsby type of energy. I think Obama has empowered this other kind of social energy more than almost any other president and there have been many who did empower this kind of assault on law and order. Before the film came out I previewed and more or less recommended it with a blog post which said in part:
Leonardo Di Caprio and Carrie Mulligan will be seen in a new film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in a few weeks. God willing, I hope to see it. I like the Robert Redford, Mia Farrow portrayal quite well. Yet I hope to and believe that I will like this Baz Lurhmann directed film even better. I like reading Fitzgerald well enough. I am also a fan of movies and watch quite a few but this one is perhaps closer to the heart of some of Fitzgerald’s insights than many of his works were. There is less fantasy and more realism than in some of his short stories… Fitzgerald’s works and his relationship with Hemingway are among the defining products of modern American culture. The Great Gatsby is also a work which brings up the period of Prohibition and also the parts of that period which connected with the last glow of the Gilded Age. Perhaps an argument can be made that the Gilded Age which created the Newport Mansions which really are transported to and amalgamated with the most fashionable New York country homes on Long Island to create the odd blend of Robber Baron and Bootlegger in the evocative residence where the fictional Gatsby lived, the Prohibition era in which he lived and theperiod in which Fitzgerald wrote form three acts of a continuous Jazz Age inAmerica. So the story has some kind of real historical resonance. It is also about wealth in America. I want to spend a little time in this blog post discussing these aspects of the work and what it means to me…
For me it is important that whatever politics I espouse for America grows out of American life and culture and responds to American problems and concerns. For me that has not always been an easy path and my writing of all kind reflect that sometimes harsh experience. I have been blessed with a number of good things in my life but I truly believe that I can look back on my life with clear eyes and see that I have moved through layers of pain, grief and suffering for a long time. I have moved through layers of darkness and evil for a long time and through layers of joy and enlightenment as well. My life is like that of other who can see the world and life in moral terms. However, only a few such people feel the need to turn to political issues in all these matters. For those who do turn to politics not all are willing to limit our politics to a place in a larger and freer human condition that includes an inner and a private dimension for all citizens. But I am more weary and wounded than some and I really think I have done about as much to maintain vigor and energy as I could ever reasonably have expected myself to do in my life. Some of my weariness has come form political efforts in the largest sense — a struggle against great odds.
I have maintained a variety of personal connections and ties and blog about them. But as well as being a Christian I have some contacts all over the world who are not Christian. Although I am a proud Southerner, I have ties with the Franciscan University of Steubenville and other places in the country. It was at Steubenville that I began some discussions about politics in America that are ongoing today. It was there that I met the mysterious Dino P. who can reveal his surname if he wishes to in a comment. We were in Ahim Adonai Household together. That fraternity continues to exist today. Dino recently contacted me about something less horrific than World War III.
Bill, Ed and I and our wives are getting together in Ocean City, MD on Saturday, July 19. We would love to see you if you are interested. I have invited Kevin, Rob and their husbands as well as Mark and his wife. I am not sure if anyone is able to meet in MD, but if you are, we will be there.
MeTo Dino P.Jun 28 at 11:33 PM
I do appreciate the invitation. It may be that this will start a precedent and eventually I will end up at something descending from it. However, I think it is extremely unlikely that I will be able to get away in July. I am already committed to a vacation in August where I will be paying much less than my share proportionately and am deeply committed to the people and truthfully it will be hard to allocate the time or the money to go. But I will.I think that something could change for future reunions but really it has been hard to do those things since 2006 especially and even before. Having traveled a great deal I travel very seldom lately. But despite all I have written there is a miniscule chance some things will click on my side and honestly I could do things on short notice as easily as ever so I would just get myself nearby and try to contact you folks then.But for now expect that I will not be there. I am committed to nursing an aging vehicle, helping transplanted plants get through the summer and trying to maintain family ties which are hard to put on hold more than once in a summer. But I know that chances get slimmer of us all ever getting together.By all I would really mean:You, DinoBill S.,Rob,Kevin,Jack,Steve,Brian,Ed,Andy,Mark,John,maybe Dominic andFouad as well asmyself.I imagine “everyone” means something different to each of us. Graduates take precedence and founders and in an ideal world we might visit new guys but I know we are always talking about some fragment of someone’s everyone. Even if you think about my list Terry and Matt and about three others were on the edges more than Jack or Dominic but had something to do with it. Also the Catholic Charismatic Renewal was what kept us on some kind of same page. I suppose few of us are really into that in the fullest sense. I participate a bit even now but not like I did then.But I think part of the idea of any fraternity of young men is to keep you honest as you get old. Kevin and Rob have to be honest about what SSM was in their heads then, Mark has to figure out how his path relates to those days and so do I. Just by staying in touch it gives you a certain step toward personal authenticity.I did not think things were all that perfect or I would not have left. But I do not think they were meaningless either. The truth is that those days were a crucial part of a journey that has not ended yet. I don’t know what will happen next and I am not sure how we all remember each other. In my case I think a lot of what I am now relates back ( I brought people to Louisiana, I spoke about regional stuff and China is closer to the Philippines than to Iowa). I thought that Kevin and Rob might end up with very different lives but I was not shocked they were homosexual. Mark and Steve and I have stayed in touch and it has never been perfect.On the one hand I probably would get more out of the visit than many others because my life has left me with an unusually high sense of the value of reconnecting. On the other hand, I was only there a year and a half compared to four for some guys and it was a smaller fraction in the journey of my young adulthood.God Bless your efforts Dino,FrankPS I am aware I may be forgetting a name or two because my head hurts, it is late and I am not consulting any lists. You guys were the closest I ever came to that ideal of close fraternization of young compatriots from across a large number of regions in a big country which has been a vital part of making America work. I am glad to have spent the time and hope our roads will cross again.
Whatever opposition to Gay Marriage being forced on Louisiana and other places may amount to as an additional factor in my life it is only part of a long history of political alienation. But I have not only been alienated I have had political successes I cannot take space to discuss here. In addition, my whole life has not been about politics nor will it ever be only about politics. I am someone who has many things to look back on with satisfaction in my life. Many people have in their lives evidence of a contribution or other I have made and my accomplishments on paper in official records are substantial. I have also made many marks, although some have not endured, in creating material changes in the world and also in preventing damage to the world.
It is true that I have a sense of accomplishment, but I am not successful in the American sense of the word. Other than vested credits in the Social Security System which can be worth as little as the minimal death benefit because my spouse divorced me about twenty months before she would have become permanently eligible to receive a spouse survivor benefit and while I have supported many children partially I have no children of my own. My death benefit could be even less than that if it is not collected. I am someone with almost no personal assets which can be found by a thorough paper search and not many more with a more thorough accounting borne of speaking with me.I live in an America that has a largely false history being taught that as scholar of history I cannot applaud. I see the Louisiana State Legislature retroactively protecting oil companies from suits and BP using the courts to get back money from the pittance it paid out for its sins in the Macondo leak and I see horrors in the drunken insane right to match the horrors of the drunken insane left. what i do not see is much reason to hope.
So all of this reminds us of why Americans are sometimes alienated from all but the underworld. It makes us look again at the lens of Fitzgerald on America. Gatsby cannot win but he does help himself and some others rise above despair and grinding poverty in a world where one is allowed to hope that is possible. One thing I would have us think about is Gatsby firing his servants. In the book they are replaced by secretive underworld servants and in the Redford movie he leaves them blankly out and gets by with caterers and guests mostly. What about the struggle for jobs such as the servants had? As Americans watch Downton Abbey as well as contemplating migration and work laws do we have a plan for making class relations work in our confusingly complex and blurry social order? Now the crisis on our southern border is reaching spectacular proportions. But years of effort that were not undertaken cannot be replaced by a few rash decisions now. We have much to do in understanding our own social order.
Besides servants and immigrants and those close to the underworld America has done a poor job reaching for justice for the aboriginal peoples and territorials in our Union. It so happens that my childhood was one where I was a child who spent some time with Navajos and American Samoans. The 1970 to 1975 years would find me spending some early part of that time with an eye-patch from an injury that threatened my sight. I would discover that for me going to school would repeatedly mean getting into fights that I felt I could not avoid. In every block of years in my childhood I got into fights and I cannot remember any individual years when I did not. Nor can I say my last physical fight took place as a child. In these years I suffered another broken arm. This arm injury was caused by a playmate. In addition this was a time of many injuries of more happy context that resulted in the scrapes and bruises coming from learning in a variety of sports and also outdoor leisure and work occupations. I also had happy memories and many of the best times I shared with my father are of him teaching me to shoot, hunt, fish and ride horses in those years. It was late in this period that I learned to ride a bike and also a “minibike” which was was a small motorcycle. It was in these years when I had many injuries on outdoor adventures on the farm including stepping on two nails — one with each foot. These were on a hidden board sunken in a swampy lake where I often hunted, fished and collected berries and bait as well as varied memories. I never was very happy in school and often was very unhappy. However, it was also in these years when I first knew the experience changing schools which is painful and exciting, this was first a transfer to a school in New York and then back to Louisiana. The America I know was formed by the campgrounds between my Southern home and New York as well as by New York’s museums. parks and open air theaters. Many good times happened there. That is one reason I believe in the importance of public spaces and decent infrastructure.
Later, my America was involved in the good and bad of transferring back to school in Louisiana from New York of having to give up almost all my childhood possessions and traveling to Tonga to begin school in a very different system and culture. Shortly after arriving in Tonga I was stung terribly by a substantial part of a swarm of flying and stinging insects. Then while there I was stricken with Dengue fever. A very painful disease which frequently killed children and the elderly, Dnegue struck me when my parents were too sick to give me much care. On my way out of Tonga on a very remote Island I had another very serious health crisis where I was stung by a poisonous centipede and poisoned by a natural poison in the food at the same time. I certainly did not receive an extraordinary degree of health care. Then after leaving Tonga to begin homeschooling in American Samoa and the continue in the area around Navajoland in New Mexico as well as in Navajoland. Then my sister Sarah was born and from there we went about traveling for a long while and that included my being the only adolescent enrolled in the Spanish language school I attended in Cuernavaca, Mexico. That was the start of new times which led eventually to the man I am and have been since about the time I met Dino and many others as a young man.
Sarah and her family live near where I live although I do not see them as often as I would like. We have had a long history since those days and I have had much joy in the company of she and my other siblings. We also have shared our bad times. But the time I spent being a brother and an uncle is a great comfort to me. I look out on a world of troubles and write about it to an old college friend and I know that times may get worse but rejoice in years of joy I would never have known without my sisters and brothers. They still make me proud most of the time.
I am tired now but as I see these dark days stretching ahead of me and storms on all horizons I keep plugging away. The world is full of people and I talk to them. Thus Dino And I stayed in touch and before he sent me the email addresses mentioned earlier he responded to my note which just above these words in order of quotes from correspondence;
Dino P.To MeJun 29 at 6:48 AM
We were trying to figure out how we all could get together. Many of us have changed, and I am trying to find a third way in which we all could share our lives once again. It is a difficult thing to do because for some, we are the judgmental Christians, and for others, we want to ensure that our witness is authentic. I am not sure if it will ever happen on a large scale; perhaps, we might have a better chance on smaller level.
It was good to hear from you.
Dino would actually send another note reproduced just below these lines as an afterthought. But his words made me think about our time at school. He and I worked together at Steubie U. Were were both working in public relations. I was very part time. We both had an avowed interest in making money despite working with nonprofits and my desire for both theological study and ministry. Talking about all the futures we had in mind was one of the ways we passed the time in the household.
It seems like a good idea to choose a path in life which is more likely than not to create a sense of accomplishment and provide for the needs of daily life. Dino and I and others sought such things as we believed would help us to find such a path. But of course some of us are greatly predisposed to conflict political opposition is a kind of sustained conflict. I suppose that I am one of those people more than Dino or any of the others I knew then who sustains a struggle for change based on conviction and passion. I have done and I continue to do many things besides seek out conflict. In fact even today I stay pretty busy with activities not directly related to any kind of political or social agenda in an activist or confrontational way. I do a lot of lawn care and gardening and I do a lot of work to increase the support I am able to give to family members.
Few people would consider F. Scott Fitzgerald a political writer. In fact two series of Young Adult films and novels popular right now are much more openly revolutionary. One is based on the second novel I read on Kindle — Veronica Roth’s Divergent. The other is the Hunger Games based on the books by Suzanne Collins. I think these are more revolutionary times than Fitzgerald’s because he expresses real discontent. I like the two books I mentioned and consider them art and the movies quite good. But Fitzgerald is producing fine art in my view. Whatever Fitzgerald is saying it is how he says it which matters most. Typical of Fitzgerald’s prose Gatsby is able to use well-crafted language to convey details of setting,character and plot without getting lost in a great deal of excessive language,the books and stories which are sometimes about elegance are also often elegant. But elegance is never the primary manifestation of wealth inFitzgerald’s works. He really did enjoy the society of the wealthy and enjoyedspending money. But he found the compulsions of excess in his own life and his wife’s life. Fitzgerald’s books are not usually called cinematic but he had acinematic vision and worked much of his career as a Hollywood screenwriter. He claimed in an autobiographical piece tohave made a good bit off of movies as early as 1920 and he saw it as part ofhis publishing income on which he depended. He and Zelda were notorious for notsaving money and living in as high a style as their income would allow.Famously they went suddenly from making 20,000 dollars a year to making 36,000dollars a year and with an enormous desire to set money aside found that theystill saved nothing for the future and simply indulged a more expensivelifestyle when money came in and so it is not surprising he was not financiallysecure.
This personal way of life joined with the national economic situation in such a way that by the summer of 1937 was broke had a lifestyle that consumed lots of money and had made him very dependent on lots of alcohol. Facing these problems while in debt and discovering he could not readily dry out or control his own partying lifestyle he was ready to try something new. So he was going where money had come from before when F. Scott Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood. He worked in the huge army of people little esteemed by the Hollywood elite who were the screenwriters. Fitzgerald was not alone in this trip to the California coasts and the work of writing for movies.Others who did their time in Hollywood were William Faulkner, Donald Ogden Stewart, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Nathanael West and the British novelists Anthony Powell and Aldous Huxley. The move helped most of these writers but none found it the supply of long-term easy money they were hoping for. Di Caprio and Mulligan have probably not seen many of the movies on which Fitzgerald labored during his two and a half years as a screenwriter. These movies included titles such as ”A Yank at Oxford” and ”Madame Curie.” In the early part of the last decade the University of South Carolina acquired a great deal of what remains of what Fitzgerald produced. There collection reveals something about the productivity of this man who never achieved real capital security in 2,000 pages of material — sketches, treatments, drafts, polishes, rewrites — much of it in soft-penciled longhand. This is called the Warner Brothers Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald Screenplays, is part of the Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection at the University of South Carolina’s Thomas Cooper Library in Columbia. Jay Gatsby with his war record, time at Oxford, chains of drugstores and fabulous home is not just a thug with money and is not quite part ofthe class with money in America which Daisy is born to even though American class systems are more porous than those in Europe. Fitzgerald could relate to Jay Gatsby in analogous ways although his novel’s protagonist does not seem to have troubles with fiscal solvency or alcoholism.
Dino P.To MeJun 29 at 7:17 AM
Do you have the emails of Jack, Terry, Matt and Dominic?
One can’t read your emails quickly. I think that you are right in that being in contact with each other forces us to remain more authentic. One can’t divorce their past from their present. We are one person with one history. While our lives, paths and relationships change over the years, the core individual remains the same.
And that individual has been touched by the Holy Spirit, and we can’t forget that. God won’t allow us to despite any choices that we might have made.
Yes, on a smaller level I keep up the conversation and so do others. On a smaller level I strive to be honest and also just and good. On a smaller level I seek to find a way. But my life has not been a superlative success of interpersonal relationships. I am long divorced, childless and on an average day for many years I have awakened feeling less than great from a physical point of view. I am an unpublished novelist, a Christian mystic, have known impossible love affairs and have a political goal far from realization. But I must be a bit a bit of a lump because I still live much of my life concerned mostly about ordinary things. I have not had a great overarching objective in life of that type and intensity which sort of deadens the pains of life while the goal and one’s strength to hold to it endure together. I do have some large goals but not to that numbing intensity. Perhaps I am a git more like Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby than the romantic heroes of sagas or the saints of mystic poetry. Gatsby was a bit like his author and after all compared to most of humanity Fitzgerald and I would seem to have quite a bit in common.
Jay Gatsby is like Fitzgerald to in that he is not conventional in many ways but is deeply in love with a woman he finds hard to have and hold as he moves forward in the life of a man. The fictional man and the author see other men keeping their women more easily and comfortably than they are able to and yet Zelda is not so much like Daisy and neither is the love of a sometimes desperate marriage really much like a long affair which for decades amounts to little more than a man desperate for a love remembered. But Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald are often tied to Southern interests unlike Jay Gatsby who owes little to Dixie but Jazz itself. Fitzgerald saw the Southern struggle for particular visions of love in context and not always did he see it in a way I agree with at all. But Gatsby is the fictional representation of the greatest American context for the lovers, jazz musicians, gangsters and sort-of-planters and their women who made up most of the South in Fitzgerald’s mind.
In the Luhrmann film Tobey Maguire of the Spiderman franchise of a the last decade had a significant role played in the Redford version by an actor America has since come to know in Law and Order. The new movie was better at respecting that the novel’s events are interpreted by an actor playing a character who is really outside the love story and not playing the protagonist because the novel’s essence is the Gatsby filtered through the consciousness of the narrator of the story’s events. This young Wall Streeter Tobey Maguire played is Nick Carraway The worldly and yet oddly naïve Gatsby is one we see in the view of a young Yale graduate, who is both more a part of Daisy’s world than Gatsby and reminds us of all that is middle class about a world Gatsby sees somehow from below and above but does not enter. But Carraway is also completely new to Gatsby’s connections in the world of bootleggers, gamblers and gritty clubs as well as separate from the world he describes as the home of his cousin Daisy and her set. It will be the Spiderman sense of alienation that we will have as an introduction as Nick, upon moving to New York rents a house beside the extravagant mansion of and the party-throwing millionaire Jay Gatsby. It may be that the relationship between Gatsby and Carroway is not so vastly far from the one that actually exists between Tobey and Leo offset – I really don’t know.The differences are not so great but there are apparent differences in income and glamour and they must know each other. The Luhrmann film has Carroway recovering from alcoholic collapse as he writes of Gatsby. His social critique of the capitalist orgies of American history is perhaps more sober and careful than that of the Obama administration. But I have turned out to be less of a Carroway and more of a Gatsby than I thought would be the case when I first read the novel. I never got my law license, never used my insurance license and thrown out more often directly into the biggy muddy puddles of the world. Poorer, sicker and less criminal than Gatsby I am like him in being more isolated, engaged and secretive than Carroway. Like Gatsby I too am trying to change something and labor under the burden of a great challenge.
While his parties and other qualities make him an unlikely Christ figure Gatsby is a great sufferer too before he dies. Jesus Christ also went to quite a few parties. The connection is not so implausible as all that. There is another movie about suffering that came out even more recently and which has an American context and raises Christian issues more openly and directly than Gatsby.
I liked The Fault in Our Stars. The novel, based on a lot of life experience was also the first book I read on Kindle. I saw it with Mom today at Lafitte Cinema in the midst of doing a bunch of other things. It may not be for everybody and I feel the same way about the book. I could write a more detailed review hinging largely on the metaphors Green employs. Maybe I will later but at least it deals with many of the great issues of human life, tells a good story and is a good solid piece of YA film based on a good solid piece of YA fiction. Like Gatsby’s great parties the cancer kids of The Fault in Our Stars have the celebrations afforded by Make a Wish Foundation thinly disguised behind a fictional title. Many moralist would openly deplore Gatsby’s parties and would secretly condemn the custom of spending money on granting the wishes of kids with terminal diseases. My particular system of morality and accounting has some respect and a high degree of tolerance for both the parties and the wishes. Relieving pain is not all good but done well it is a great enough good to stand up and be acknowledged.
In the fictional world created by F. Scott Fitzgerald every Saturday, Gatsby throws a party at his mansion and I think this movie will do a better job of capturing the extravagance Fitzgerald intended than any previous version has.While they are unlike the near perfect success of the early Gatsby in his world, the Mexican cartels may not be quite as able to throw the best parties in L.A. Di Caprio has probably been to a few with large drug lord ties. But on the lawns and floors of the West Egg mansion all the great, the good, the beautifully young and the very fashionable of that part of the world come to marvel at Gatsby’s extravagance. One is also reminded of American innocence in the relatively mild suspicions put forward by guests about their host when they speculate on his murky past. In Green’s story tow six kids have sex on a trip to Europe. But in both cases we are reminded of Jesus’s critique of too rigid a morality of the wrong kind. Mercy is a great moral good. Pain abounds in the world as well.
This is not a gangster movie because the love story with a woman outside the underworld is at the heart and is the fabric of the whole literary experience. As we see what happened when the Tsarnaev family failed to mesh well with our society we must be aware of all the ways people are trying and not trying to fit in around the country. Fitzgerald does not lie to us about how strong American class is and yet suggests confidently that money alone will not buy security in the elite. That may not have changed much.Higher income taxes and more government programs for the poor have changed some of the conditions surrounding the central plot. In addition, America has changed in many ways that make it a place the Jazz Age would not recognize. But still we can see in this story much of ourselves. For those who do not know it I will not disclose much of the plot itself. It ends in something near tragedy and there is real badly flawed love and not just unrequited desire involved but beyond that read the book or see the movie.
So I am likely to keep living seeking a new political discourse that suits me and America. It is likely to continue to be a kind of struggle.One of the realities of life is that the public discourse has a strange and somewhat tenuous connection with the lives of the many people, families and groups who live in the places and polities where that public discourse is taking place and is thought to be accepted. The messages of the regimes, religious leaders and artists in a society get translated by many people and social factors before their somewhat less than obvious effects are felt in the lives of many of the people. In my childhood milieu there were survivors of World War II, the Korean War and the War in Vietnam flowing back into society or still working to deal with memories of tremendous violence which were growing dim already in the minds of many. There were violent Black activists loosely caught up in the Civil Rights movement and violent White Supremacists seeking a chance to respond to the challenges of a new time. There were a variety of police and organized crime figures. While the images may not have been graphic by today’s standards television explored many issues of violence. But in the midst of all this I knew that I was in a culture struggling to reach some understanding of violence and that the realities of the Cold War were a big part of that struggle. While the idea of a nuclear holocaust was always part of my imagination as soon as I began to think about the world as a whole it was not the focus. I cannot remember all the details and did not know enough as a child to have been an effective witness if I had been brought into a law court in those days but I was aware of specific instances of violence and homicide involving people I bearly knew in ways that left a far greater impression of horror upon me than the large context of possible world extinctions for humanity and other species. In my childhood I had already traveled a lot but as I continued to both travel and to study other cultures and epochs in history I have seen that homicide and violence have varied greatly but have had a very large impact on almost all societies at almost all times.
I am not at all sure how much longer I will live. Nor for that matter how I will die but one thing has become clear: I will at least write against a great deal of what is around me and wish till my dying breath that I could do more to change things. I have a lot to write about my own connection to things in America today and why I view them as I do. But I am likely to spend my life in opposition to a great deal of the established order. Nonetheless, I seek to live a peaceful and orderly life.