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Monday, July 25, 2016

Encounter on a Suburban Sidewalk

Artwork by Kenton Nelson.
Check out his site; he is amazing.
Surgery coming up tomorrow. Feeling down.

After I broke my arm, my heart, and was diagnosed with cancer, strange things started happening to my body.

The first thing: I couldn't close my hands. I type a lot. I thought it was carpal tunnel. I bought a brace at CVS and soaked my hands in hot and cold water. Didn't help.

The second thing: my eyes let me know how badly eyes can hurt.

Eyes can hurt so badly that the pain wakes you up at night.

I went days wearing dark glasses to hide the constant goo weeping from my eyes.

I went to the orthopedic surgeon who had treated my broken arm. He said that any number of conditions could be preventing me from being able to close my hands. It would take tests and time.

I went to an eye doctor. She said I needed to close my eyes after long stretches at the computer.

More weird, bad stuff happened to my body, but then my sister was diagnosed with glioblastoma and Obamacare screwed up my application badly, leaving me with no coverage at all. Doctors who had previously been willing to treat me at a reduced rate I would pay out of pocket suddenly refused. "You have Obamacare!!!"

And I needed to take care of my sister, so I let everything slide. But eventually I found a doctor who told me: you have a serious illness. It's easy to treat. We need to get rid of another part of your body.

And I really didn't want to do that. But I will, tomorrow.

This is what made me decide to do it. I lost my body hair, which makes me very sad. I liked my eyelashes. I miss them.

I've been going around, looking at people's eyelashes. If they have long eyelashes, I am so jealous. If they have short eyelashes, I remind myself: you are not alone.

Too, I was starting to lose vision, and I really don't want to go blind.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling like worthless garbage because I inhabit this very battered and very flawed body, which was about to have yet another hole in it, another discarded part.

I began doing my morning exercises, hoping I could complete them before the heat downed me.

My apartment, which I do love, is huge. It's in a two-hundred-year-old textile mill. My windows, about ten feet high – I'm not really sure how high because they stretch so high over my head – face south. The building is red brick. No cross ventilation. Very efficient at trapping hot air. In winter I don't have to turn on the heat. In summer I can't put chocolate chips in the cupboard or they melt to a sloppy mass.

When I'm writing, I wear as little as possible, including a sleeveless cotton shirt that I drench in cold water, and then wear, while sitting in front of a fan. As soon as the shirt dries out, I drench it in cold water again, and put it back on. I also listen to "Winter Storm Sound Effects" on YouTube.

Yesterday morning, I turned on the radio and Krista Tippett's NPR show, "On Being," was rebroadcasting her interview with Xavier Le Pichon, a scholar of plate tectonics, and a lifelong, devout Catholic who attends daily mass.

Le Pichon insists on the importance of wounded, afflicted and handicapped people to human community. In fact, Le Pichon, a world class scholar, has gone out of his way to live with handicapped people. You can hear this interview here.

I was so touched by this interview, which I had heard a few times before. Yes, even people who have had to have various body parts chopped out still are essential parts of the human family – even for someone as successful as Xavier Le Pichon.

I got my exercises done, but the heat overwhelmed me. I realized I had to leave the apartment. I plopped my computer into my Kelty external frame backpack and strapped the backpack on. I began walking to campus, where I knew I could find an air conditioned room.

As I walked my normal route along a suburban sidewalk, a woman walking a beagle approached me. I love dogs and always ask permission to pet. The woman was generous and let me pet her dog. The beagle had a few gray hairs and looked pooped by the heat. He or she was grateful for my tireless scratching behind the ears.

The woman looked to be about my age. She looked Italian, as do many women around here, but a different kind of Italian. This was the kind of Italian woman of hillsides of vineyards, and cinematic neorealist classic films, not the kind of Italian woman found in nail salons. She radiated that je ne sais crois that is the signature of a person of great intelligence and integrity who had walked her own walk in life. I don't often encounter such women on my walk to work. I wish I did.

I do walk past the Brownstone, co-owned by Caroline Manzo, of the reality TV show "The Real Housewives of NJ."

The woman with the beagle had to ask. "Hiking in this weather?"

"Well, I love to hike," I said.

"Me too!" She said. "I want to do the Appalachian Trail!"

Something told me that she was about to say that she also wanted to do the trail that I have long wanted to walk, Spain's legendary Camino de Santiago de Compostela. She did.

"…and I also want to walk the Camino…"

"De Santiago de Compostela!" I said, finishing her sentence. "Do it," I said. "Even blind people have done it," I said. "You only live once!" As I exhorted her I exhorted myself. Why have I not yet done the Camino?

"I'm not hiking today," I said. "I live in Paterson."

She didn't recoil. She *was* cool. Many people recoil at "Paterson." They just write you off and stop talking to you, even if their lips are still moving as they walk away.

"Where in Paterson?" she asked. I liked that. Maybe she knew the area and its landmarks.

"Near the Falls. I'm just walking up to campus. I teach up there. My computer is in my backpack."

"I teach, too," she said.

"Oh? What? Where?"

She mentioned an out-of-state college.

"Oh," I said. "So you're not from around here?" But something told me that she was from around here – the Italian look, the familiarity with Paterson, the dog – and that she had left, as many such women do, and was pulled back for some family reason.

"No," she said. She gestured toward a health care facility that I pass daily. "My mother is in hospice."

I choked up. I am still so not over Antoinette.

I pulled my rosary out of my pocket and showed it to her. My rosary is always in my pocket as I walk.

"May I ask your mother's name?" I said. "I will pray for her as I walk. I will pray for her by name."

She told me. She told me her name as well. "She's very close," the woman said. "This could be the day." Her face, previously cheery, crumpled into sadness. Her face is a strong face and this was a hard thing to see.

"Listen," I said. "I just met you and this is none of my business, but I want to tell you this.

"My sister died of a brain tumor on April 10, 2015. She hated forsythia. I used to tease her about that. I would send her emails with photos of forsythia. She would write back, 'You are torturing me!'

Year after year, as I am walking, I always note as flowers come into bloom. Before Antoinette died last year, I didn't see any forsythia blossoms. As I was walking to work on Monday, April 13, a forsythia twig brushed my shoulder. I looked up and saw the blossoms and said, 'Well played, Antoinette. You made it out of Dodge before the forsythia came into bloom.'

"Within five minutes of saying that, I was walking across the parking lot of the funeral parlor down there." I gestured toward the funeral parlor whose parking lot I walk through on my commute.

"There beneath my feet," I said, "in this completely empty funeral parlor parking lot, was a pristine sprig of forsythia. There was nothing else anywhere around. I've walked through that parking lot five hundred times. That's the only time I've ever found flowers there.

"Your mother may leave you today, but you will discover that she is with you all the time."

I was crying. She was crying.

"I know," she said. "I lost someone close to me in May, 2015. I know of the communion of saints."

She was quoting the Apostles Creed.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic and apostolic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen

"May I hug you?" we hugged.

I asked her what she teaches.

She said, "I teach Catholic ethics in relation to handicapped people. That handicapped people must be a full part of the church. Handicapped people have often gotten the short end of the stick. And yet archaeological finds have shown that handicapped people can play a great role in society. In one find, there was a woman who was very handicapped for years, and yet she was a leader, who contributed greatly to her people."

Oh, I started crying again.

We had moved into the shade by that point.

I realized that it had been a while and this might be the day that she would see her mother in the flesh for the last time.

We said our goodbyes.

"I will look for you on the Camino!" I shouted out, as I continued uphill. 

Donald Trump, Ivanka, and Spousification


Spousification is when a parent turns to a child to provide the relationship a spouse normally does.

Spousification often occurs when there is alienation between the parents. It often occurs in divorce.

It often occurs when the mother ages and loses her youthful attractiveness, and her daughter, in puberty, begins to look like a younger version of the mother the father was initially attracted to. He is no longer attracted to his menopausal or merely aging wife, but his pubescent daughter offers a version of the wife in a pristine and perky, youthful package.

Spousification often occurs when the parents no longer love each other. I heard a lot about it in Twelve Step meetings. One parent would be lost to alcoholism, and often the oldest child would step up and take on the role of the emotionally missing parent.

Children being used in this way often don't object to it. They feel special and honored. The most powerful and important person in their world is paying special attention to them.

Also they really can't object. The most powerful person in their world is ... the most powerful person in their world.

I had a long talk with a woman who was spousified by her father. He lost interest in her mother as the mother aged, and when this daughter entered puberty, he began to flirt with and flatter his daughter. He treated her as if she were his date.

This gave her an exaggerated sense of self-confidence. She felt she really was this very special girl. An adult man treated her like his equal.

She acknowledged to me that she liked all of this while it was happening, but at this point in her life -- she was in her late twenties and beginning her career -- I think she had broken with and begun to despise both of her parents. Her parents violated norms. Her father did it, and her mother let it happen.

She never revealed this to her parents.

Some girls who are spousified acknowledge that they know that their fathers abandoned their mothers because the mothers aged, and these girls acknowledge placing physical beauty in a woman as the highest ideal. They use beauty products and diet obsessively, and dread those first gray hairs.

It can happen to males, too. A father becomes an alcoholic or divorces the mother, and the oldest son becomes the mother's substitute "spouse."

A male I know who was spousified by his mother developed a lifelong rage against being placed in that role -- the husband and father of his younger siblings, when he himself was only a child and needed real parents.

This is not actual incest, which is something else. It's emotional and social, not sexual.

I have no idea if Trump spousifies Ivanka. I do know that the photos I have seen of them together provide food for thought.

I don't think that spousification has any bearing on whether one should vote for Trump or not. Harry Truman was famously close to his daughter, and I don't think that had any bearing on his presidency.




Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Star Trek Beyond" Possibly about Terrorism

"Star Trek Beyond" is standard-issue Star Trek. There are lots of costumes that aren't all that convincing. There is lots of danger that an evil genius might destroy the universe. There is lots of chasing and gizmo-tinkering that saves the universe at the last minute. It's all completely implausible and runs on arbitrary rules, but that's nothing new for sci/fi or fantasy movies.

The special effects of outer space and human habitation of it are higher quality than in the old TV show, of course. Starbase Yorktown is a series of rods radiating out from the center of a transparent sphere. Humans inhabit these rods, all of which appear to have their own gravity. There is no garbage in the streets and everyone is young, beautiful, and healthy, which is kind of creepy if you think about it too long.

The main characters perform their old tricks: Kirk is recklessly heroic, Spock is logical, Bones is crabby, Scottie messes with dilithium crystals, Sulu pilots the ship and is shown reuniting with his newly-minted male partner and daughter, and Chekov gets to joke about how a Russian invented something, a Cold-War-era joke that younger people won't understand at all, but that will give Baby Boomer Trekkies a chuckle. Of all the traditional cast members, Chekov is given the least to do. This is rather sad since Anton Yelchin, the actor who plays Chekov, died in a freak accident in June, 2016. There is also Jaylah, a space girl who looks a bit like Darth Maul. In TOS, Kirk was the most heroic. Not so here; everyone shines equally. Every participant wins a trophy. This insistence on making every character as heroic as Kirk lessens the differences between the characters and makes the interplay between the ensemble less fun.

The plot involves an evil genius who wants to destroy the universe, and the Enterprise crew stopping him.

Star Trek plots are always examined for possible societal significance. This plot may be a reference to The West v. Terrorism. In the beginning of "Star Trek Beyond" Kirk narrates a world-weary monologue. Life is too placid, too predictable. He needs a new challenge. This may be the scriptwriters, including Simon Pegg, who plays Scottie, voicing the post-WWII-era West becoming too comfortable. The villain of the piece, Krall, wants to re-introduce pointless violence and hate into an all-too-comfortable universe. Or maybe not. This is Star Trek; feel free to come up with your own interpretation.

The one character change in this reboot that saddens me most is Uhura. I loved Nichelle Nichols' Uhura. I loved her because she was an accurate depiction of a woman in a man's world. I also loved it that she was black. My family were immigrants and her minority status was an inspiration to me. She was a communications officer, the kind of job a woman would typically have. She was in the background, as women often are in men's stories. She was someone I could embrace, relate to, and be inspired by.

In the reboot, Uhura is not really African American. Zoe Saldana is a light-skinned Hispanic. Uhura's difference has been toned down. And Uhura has become a leader, an action hero, as karate-happy as Captain Kirk. Conversely, she spends a good amount of her time playing a stereotypical role assigned to ethnic women. She is the hot, exotic temptress who will lure cold Spock into a love relationship. The original Uhura's sexiness was never exploited in this way.

"The Infiltrator" 2016: Gripping, Great Performances and Production Values



"The Infiltrator" is a gripping, intelligent, fast-paced cops-and-robbers movie with a dream cast and high production values. I was on the edge of my seat for almost the entire film. The top-notch performances by all involved, but especially Bryan Cranston, really sucked me in. That "The Infiltrator" tells a true story of a brave, resourceful, and heroic public servant, Robert Mazur, makes it inspirational as well as entertaining.

It's the early 1980s and Colombians and others are exporting millions of dollars' worth of cocaine into the US. US Customs special agent Robert Mazur takes on the persona of Bob Musella, a Mafia-connected money-launderer. He offers his services to the Pablo Escobar cocaine drug lord. The Escobar gang takes him in and he and other Operation C-Chase agents take down the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the seventh largest bank in the world.

Mazur is masked and driven through Colombian jungle where he is forced to participate in a grotesque voodoo ritual. He and his fake fiancée, Kathy Ertz, (Diane Kruger) are invited into the private homes of extremely wealthy and discriminating criminals, and he and Kathy form genuine personal relationships with them. Mazur's partner, Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), gets a man killed and has a brief breakdown afterward.

Indeed this is a very violent movie. At one point Mazur is conversing with a fellow undercover agent and without any warning the agent is shot to death with blood spattering everywhere.

"The Infiltrator" doesn't offer any innovations on cops-and-robbers. Many other films have treated South American drug kingpins, Mafiosi, and undercover agents.

Too, the movie never asks the question that must be ramming through the viewer's brain. "Why the heck are we doing this? Why are we spending so much money trying to prevent drug addicts from doing what they are going to do, anyway? Why are we allowing criminal gangs, who are as violent and sadistic and without conscience as any terrorist group, to have so much sway? Why don't we legalize and regulate and tax drugs and let Darwinian laws take their course with the addict population? Why don't we let Uncle Sam reap the profit of human weakness, rather than criminals?"

"The Infiltrator," unlike the 2000 film "Traffic," never asks that question.

PS: I am a proud Polish-American and so is Robert Mazur, whose father's family is Polish, and whose mother's family is Italian.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ted Cruz: Now This Is a Man

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I don't have a TV because I think TV sucks the soul out of the body. Google it. I'm confident that there is a peer-reviewed study out there proving just that.

But there are things I wish I could watch: the Academy Awards, The Tonys, and political conventions.

Last night my internet connection stayed on long enough that I could watch the entire Ted Cruz Republican National Convention speech live.

Oooo baby. Every now and then you get a sense that you are watching history. The screen practically burst into flames. Heidi Cruz actually had to be escorted out of the convention center by security.

Trump supporters are spinning more desperately than Melania on an exercise bike after Donald tells her she's putting on weight.

Trump supporters are braying as obstreperously as they can:

TED CRUZ IS A TRAITOR

TED CRUZ IS DEAD

I REGRET EVER VOTING FOR TED CRUZ.

I'm using all caps because that is how Trump supporters communicate. I really should throw in a few misspellings and malapropisms and racist epithets.

Don't fall for Team Trump's spin.

Ted Cruz is not a traitor, he is not dead, and I wish I could have voted for him.

I'll tell you what Ted Cruz is. Ted Cruz is a man.

Donald Trump is dumpster trash. His supporters are dumpster divers who have swallowed trash.

Ted Cruz stood up there and was the lone voice who pointed out that the emperor is naked.

Cruz didn't do it when it was getting to be safe or easy to do it. He didn't wait for the right moment to ask, "Have you no decency sir?"

Cruz exposed Trump and his supporters at the crest of Trump's power and popularity, at the ground zero of their fantasies.

I'll tell you what else Ted Cruz is. He is smart and he is complex. His speech hushed the crowd and drew tears. He wove the current events of the day – cop killings and black-white tensions – into the fabric of how Donald Trump bullied Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi Cruz, and his father, Rafael Cruz. Cruz spoke of transcendent love and forgiveness.

No, he didn't say "Vote Trump," but anyone with a three-digit IQ could hear that theme in the speech, the theme of "If you think it's good for America to forgive Trump for being a hate-mongering liar, then, yeah, vote for him. I won't hold it against you."

I heard that. What the crowd heard was "Vote your conscience," and at *that* the Trump supporters booed. They are nothing more or less than the types who would give the thumbs down the gladiators, eager to see blood spurt from human flesh.

Trump supporters, America is at the crossroads: immigration, terrorism, decay of the values America is found on. At this crossroads, you, Trump supporters, you foisted on us the single worst presidential candidate in American history. You have hurt your country and that hurt is not going away in a long time.


As I sat there, electrified, listening to Cruz's manfully courageous and astoundingly tender speech, a speech shot through with Christian values, an articulate speech, not the verbal diarrhea that dribbles forth from Trump, I thought, "This could have been our presidential candidate. And he is not. Because the voters chose a flaccid bag of lies of and hate, a clown who dog whistles neo-Nazis. America, you have the candidate you deserve." 

Blocked from Facebook

Source
Yesterday I was in the midst of using Facebook. All of a sudden, I received a message saying that I could not post any more because my computer had malware. I had to download Facebook's anti-malware.

Your Computer Needs to Be Cleaned

It looks like your computer is being affected by malware. We’ll help you fix the problem to keep your account secure and prevent malware from spreading to friends.
Malware is software that tries to steal personal information and causes problems when you use Facebook. Clicking or sharing links that contain spam can give your computer malware.

I googled this message. I found many posters saying that they had received the same message, downloaded Facebook's anti-malware, and screwed up their computers thereby.

I also found messages from people saying that they had downloaded Facebook's anti-malware, and nothing changed. They still could not log on to their Facebook accounts, and they still received a message saying that their computer had malware.

So, I did not download Facebook's anti-malware. Rather, I ran Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes said I had no malware. I also ran a scan with my anti-virus package. Again, nothing found.

But Facebook would not let me log on.

I went to a different computer. At first, I was posting just fine. Then, suddenly, I received a message saying that I could not perform certain actions because my computer had malware.

Strangely, I could post messages and photos.

I could not, however, post links. I could not "tag" another Facebook user. I could not "share" a post.

I use Facebook enough that this was a matter of some import to me, so when my workday was over around five, I drove ten miles away and tried three different computers at a public library. In each case, I received a message that "your" computer and "this" computer has malware. Interestingly, at that same library, another user was using Facebook without any difficulty.

I drove further still, tried another computer, and got the same message.

I tried to contact someone at Facebook. I rapidly discovered that you can't contact someone at Facebook. It is, my google search informed me, impossible to contact a live person at Facebook.

Also, because of the block Facebook put up, I could not access Facebook's help page.

So, I am effectively barred from using Facebook.

I'd previously been banned for a short time for posting a photo of English soldier Lee Rigby in uniform and holding his adorable toddler son. It was a lovely father-son photo. Facebook found it offensive because it might offend Muslims. I wrote about that here.

I don't know if the bogus malware message is merely a glitch, or another way to keep people off of Facebook who say things that Mark Zuckerberg does not like. I generally reject conspiracy theories but one does wonder.

Since I can't access Facebook, I can't say goodbye to any of my Facebook friends. I can't delete my account. I can't do anything.
Thanks, Mark! Given that you are one of the richest men in the world, I can see why you can't afford to hire a few customer service representatives who'd address how you screw people over.



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Black Lives Matter, Rich White Liberals, and Human Sacrifice



Black Lives Matter, Rich White Liberals, and Human Sacrifice

Black Lives Matter Doesn't Just Inspire Murder. It Demands It

This piece appears in FrontPage Magazine here.

I want to tell you five stories, each rather minor in itself. They lead, I hope, to a larger point.

First story. In 1992 I was attending a social gathering in Berkeley, California. The guests were largely white and middle class. I was especially fond of "Tom." Tom was a SNAG – a sensitive, New Age guy. I was confident that if I went to Tom with any problem, he'd say something compassionate and endearing, and then we'd both tear up and hug. Tom's ancestors had arrived in North America before the US was even a country. I'm a child of Eastern European, Catholic immigrants. Tom was economically comfortable. I was struggling. WASPs like Tom fascinate and intimidate me. I did feel that he had more of a right to be an American than a newcomer like myself. I deferred to Tom.

Our gathering was meant to be low-key and personal, not political. Tom was the first to speak. He spoke with authority. "I know this is not why we are gathered here today,'' he said – rather, he announced. We hushed and listened carefully. "I think we need to devote some time to talking about what is happening in Los Angeles. I know I really need to talk about this, and I'm sure others do, too."

We all nodded. We wanted to hear what Tom had to say.

In 1991, Rodney King led police on a high-speed chase. He had been drinking. By driving under the influence, he was breaking parole for a robbery conviction. Once police caught him, they beat him. The beating was captured on camera. In April, 1992, police officers were acquitted in the use of excessive force against King.

After news of the acquittal was announced, riots broke out in LA. Rioters targeted Korean immigrant shopkeepers. Latino-owned businesses were also targeted. There was armed struggle between shopkeepers and African American looters.

One of the grisliest moments occurred when white truck driver Reginald Denny was tortured by rioters. Denny's skull was fractured in ninety-one places. This was all broadcast via news helicopter.

The following happened a quarter century ago, but I can still see it in my mind's eye. I was seated across a table from Tom. Sun shone through a window behind him. Tom said, "I am so happy to see what is happening in LA. Finally, the people are rising up. I am with the people." Tom insisted that the riot was not a riot at all, but justifiable self-defense, no different from the American Revolution. Actually, morally superior, because the American Revolution was all about slavery and oppression of women.

Others in the room voiced approval.

My world cracked – or a previously existing crack widened, and would continue to widen. If Tom had announced that he had come from Mars, he would not have become more alien to me. Our friendship died at that moment.

Reginald Denny, an innocent working man, a truck driver, was all but martyred, merely for his skin color. Korean and Hispanic shopkeepers had left their home countries, labored dawn to dusk, scrimped and saved, put everyone in their family to work, and opened businesses in neighborhoods someone like Tom wouldn't even drive through. My heart was with the working man and the immigrant strivers. My anger was at those who hurt them.  

"But Tom. Reginald Denny wasn't a slave-owner. He was a truck driver. The Koreans and Hispanic shopkeepers just arrived in this country. You can't hold them accountable for slavery." I didn't say this out loud. I was frozen by shock and incomprehension.

Second story. In the early 1980s, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. "Melanie," one of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers, was a shy, slender woman. She wore oversize granny dresses and no make-up. She spoke so softly you had to lean forward to hear her. She was raped by a man who broke into her home as she slept. She was white; the rapist was African.

One of our fellow volunteers expressed regret that it "had to happen to a nice girl like Melanie" but "It's inevitable. Read Eldridge Cleaver." Cleaver had written of rape as an "insurrectionary act" against white supremacy. Use of the word "inevitable" rendered the rape as something like gravity. "Inevitable" removed all agency from the rapist. He had to rape Melanie, just as a dropped rock has to fall to earth. No decision-making or guilt is involved in gravity and other inevitable acts.

This attitude nauseated me. Melanie was sweet as a kitten; she had sacrificed the comfortable life her beauty and her Ivy League degree might have granted her, so that she could help poor children in Africa. No matter. She was white; her skin color trumped her individuality and rendered her merely a drop of water in a wave of white supremacy.

Rumors flew – rumors that I heard but cannot verify – that Peace Corps had threatened Melanie with financial penalties if she spoke about the rape or even sought medical or psychological treatment that might draw attention to it. Peace Corps didn't want anyone tarnishing the glowing recruitment posters of volunteers gaily interacting with grateful "host country nationals." The New York Times and the Daily Beast would eventually cover similar accounts of Peace Corps' mistreatment of victims and cover-ups of rapes.

Third story. In October, 1995, I was shopping in Bloomingfoods, a health-food co-op in Bloomington, Indiana. Suddenly one of the clerks, a very pretty white girl, a Hoosier and an IU student, began dancing, clapping her hands, and hugging her coworker, a bearded young man. She told me she was celebrating the news: O. J. Simpson had just been found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and a waiter, Ron Goldman. She was ecstatic that a black man had beaten the white racist American system.

Fourth story. In 1994, I was a grad student at Indiana University. I received word that my father was dying. I told my boss. She said I could not leave; she was about to host an important conference and she needed me to type up the programs. I did leave, and missed four workdays. I returned. My boss began to harass me. I reported the harassment to a dean. The dean asked me to testify against my boss. An IU official, "She is a psychopath. She ruins people. Everyone is afraid to come forward because she is a black woman and everyone is afraid of being called a racist or a sexist."

My father had just died. I was on a new campus, taking a full load of graduate classes, and reporting to regular meetings with the most important officials on campus, to repeat, again and again, ugly events that wounded me greatly.

When I spoke of this with friends, they immediately expressed sympathy – for the professor. "Amanda" said, "Well, you know, back in slavery days, they didn't get to take time off when their father died." More than one campus official said to me, "Yes, I know she does things she shouldn't do. But we need diversity on this campus, and you people should keep your mouths shut." Please note the plural: "you people." This campus official knew that this woman had harmed others. And we should all keep our mouths shut, for the sake of "diversity."

One final story.

On July 7, 2016, a Black Lives Matter supporter murdered five police officers in Dallas, Texas. One victim, Patrick Zamarripa, was an Iraq war veteran. His Mexican mother spoke of his death in Spanish to Telemundo.

I mourned Patrick Zamarripa's death on Facebook.

"Max," a Facebook friend who is a well-to-do white male, would have none of it. "White supremacists have been fomenting race war for centuries. Perhaps you didn't notice. But then it's only race war if the darkies object," Max wrote. "Police brutality" was responsible for the Dallas deaths. Officer Zamarripa was part of a "race war" against black people, possibly motivated by "subconscious bias."

What do all these stories have in common? In all of them, people who happened to be black did bad things. If the perpetrators in these stories had been white, we would have no problem identifying their acts as evil, hurtful, anti-social, and possibly pathological. We would face no public censure for sympathizing with the victims of these acts. We would not say, "Melanie is a lovely person and it's horrible that she was raped, but…." There would be no "but." 

Tom, the Peace Corps higher-ups, the Bloomingfoods clerk, Amanda and Max all have a few things in common. All are very unlikely to be targets of violent crime. Tom lived in the Berkeley Hills, where the median home price is over a million dollars. The country directors in Peace Corps lived within a compound surrounded by a ten feet high wall topped with razor wire; they were accompanied by twenty-four-hour security. The Bloomingfoods clerk was a hippie Hoosier, growing up in one of the whitest, most rural, and lowest crime areas of the country. Amanda and Max are both white-collar professionals.

I think they have a few more features in common, as well. I think they see America as a land polluted by ineradicable sin. Please note use of the word "sin" and not "error." Please note the word "polluted," not "flawed." I think, unconsciously, these good white liberals see human sacrifice as the best expiation for America's polluted state.

Human sacrifice used to be practiced worldwide. Humans recognized that there was something just not right about existence on planet earth. Worms eat apples. Hail destroys crops. Deformities mar newborns. All life's glorious miracles that hint at perfection are tainted with something from which we recoil. Rather than discovering, and addressing, the factual cause of wormy apples, societies the world over applied pre-approved myths to their woes. Some predictable villain did some predictable bad thing. A ritual, including human sacrifice, would set things to right. A proffered human life would temporarily propitiate the powers that be, and the survivors could enter a grace period.

In modern times, human sacrifice in the classic sense is regarded with disdain, but analogous behaviors have certainly erupted. The 15th – 18th century witch craze was promulgated by agricultural communities beset by the Little Ice Age, crop price increases, the wars of Reformation, and plague. The burning witch was meant to purify and restore the community to previous norms of fecundity and order. It shocks people, but it really shouldn't – the Roman Catholic Inquisition played a significant role in ending the witch craze. Priests like Friedrich Spee and Alonso de Salazar Frías recognized that the witch craze violated authentic Christian theology.

Some interpret Islamic honor killing as a form of human sacrifice. A fragile, mythical commodity – a family's honor – is damaged when a female has unsanctioned contact with a male. Only her blood, spilt when a family member murders her, can ritually "cleanse" the non-existent substance, family honor.

Who was chosen for human sacrifice? Those without power. Typical victims included children, slaves, and war captives. When reports of human sacrifice emerge from modern-day India, victims are often Dalits, or untouchables, the lowest, most disempowered caste.

Note that there is no record of a permanently efficacious human sacrifice, no "once for all time and never again" sacrifice, unless you want to include Jesus' crucifixion. In all other human sacrifice, the world is never set right for any longer than a ritually determined cycle of time. When that period has run its course, the ritual must be repeated. Ritual time never moves forward on a linear trajectory. It always moves in circles. The past is never released or transcended. There is no progress.

That human sacrifice was so widespread indicates how deeply it reflects the "logic" of the human mind. The logic of human sacrifice is completely divorced from actual facts and cause and effect. Human sacrifice occupies a space that completely rejects any real attention to real facts and real potential solutions.

The process worked like this. People encountered a stimulus that disturbed them. If a cow went dry in Early Modern Europe, the solution would be to burn the next door neighbor, a poor and isolated elderly beggar woman whom no one liked. Everyone knew that the post-menopausal woman's barrenness could infect cows and make them go dry. Everyone knew that when a poor person gazed upon those with good fortune, the envy in their "evil eye" sucked out good fortune. When a boy disappeared in Kielce, in post-war Poland, the solution was to stone Jews to death – after all, everyone knew that Jews make their matzah from Christian children's blood.

Today's lynch-mob trigger might be a social media video of a man bleeding to death in the driver's seat of a car while his female companion stridently hammers out a narrative that exculpates her companion and indicts a man she alleges is a "Chinese" police officer. Everyone knows that cops are white supremacists and put on the uniform every day just chomping at the bit to murder an innocent black man.

Viewing such a video, no decent person would not be moved. A careful person committed to truth wants an investigation by legal professionals.

But not everyone is so wedded to patience and facts. A more emotional, less patient viewer itches for the immediate, cathartic rush one can receive from a timeworn myth. The hunger for an immediately satisfying narrative demands villains, victims, and punishment. The lynch mob is unshakably convinced of its own righteousness. It insists on a certifying seal of religious scripture and ritual. For thorough satisfaction, an exchange must be transacted. Mythical gods have their hungers, too. We feed them what they want, and we receive what we desire from the gods – a sense of being cleansed of our pollution. Again, this sense of ritual purity is always temporary, always just until the next ugly upheaval and the next necessary sacrifice.

I think that those I mentioned above who could not bring themselves fully to sympathize with victims of criminals who happened to be black may be motivated by the mindset of human sacrifice.

If I am correct, folks like Tom, perhaps not even consciously, see America, not as a country with problems like any other country, problems that it can fix through investigation, documentation, lobbying, legislation, and elections. That is, folks like Tom don't see attention to actual, concrete facts as being at all helpful. Rather, folks like Tom understand the world mythically, in a manner utterly divorced from facts.

America is ritually polluted by an ineradicable stain of white supremacy. The only solution to America's ritual pollution is seasonal human sacrifice. Someone's life must be destroyed in order to bring America back in tune with implacable, supernatural forces. This sacrifice will serve until the next turn of the ritual wheel. When it is again necessary, another sacrifice must be performed, again to cleanse ritual pollution. This process can never end, because ritual pollution can never be permanently removed.

Tom's mythical mindset's utter divorce from concrete facts is notable in every aspect of human sacrifice.

First, consider the utter lie of the word itself. "Sacrifice" implies giving up something valuable. Folks like Tom speak of "sacrifice" to even the score between blacks and whites. In Tom's worldview, whites must sacrifice something to blacks. But folks like Tom need never sacrifice anything. Tom has lived out his entire life at the top of the social totem pole. It is poor whites and others who must sacrifice, and who are sacrificed. They are the scapegoats who take on the sins of the tribe. Those sins die with them, until the next ritual season.

Korean and Hispanic shopkeepers damaged in the Los Angeles riots, a truck driver, a Peace Corps volunteer alone in an African village, a first-generation, white ethnic, low-income graduate student, a waiter, a cop guarding a demonstration that is part of a nation-wide, presidentially sanctioned wave of anti-police hysteria, all have something in common. They are all ideal human sacrifices. They can be hurt with impunity.

As in all ritual, masks and costumes representing archetypes and scripts working out mythical drama take absolute precedence over factual, authentic, and spontaneous speech by individuals with real, idiosyncratic personalities.

Consider the very words "Black lives matter." This script denigrates every non-black American as a heinous racist incapable of seeing value in the lives of black people. "Black lives matter" announces through its chosen title that it must educate these heinous bigots in simple respect for human life. No white person can respond to the "black lives matter" script without being denounced as a racist.

In December, 2014, Smith College president Kathleen McCarthy apologized for emailing the words, "All lives matter." In June, 2015, Democratic presidential candidate Patrick O'Malley apologized for speaking the words "All lives matter." In July, 2016, Ian Astbury, lead singer for The Cult, while delivering an onstage rant denouncing racism and "dumbasses with guns," shouted, "All lives matter." Astbury was forced to tweet, "I sincerely and deeply apologize to everyone I have offended … Thank you for enlightening me that this phrase is offensive. I shall never use it again." One must repeat the creed without any changes. Deviations are blasphemous and will be punished.

Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds' companion Philando Castile was shot to death by a police officer on July 6, 2016. Reynolds was rapidly elevated, through mainstream press accounts, to Stabat Mater status. The Washington Post was unstinting in its hagiography. As of July 9, one website estimated that donors, often siting Reynolds as an ideal mother, had pledged a quarter of a million dollars to her.

A video emerged of Reynolds smoking marijuana in a car with her daughter, and bumping and grinding to hip-hop while positioning the camera to emphasize her breasts and crotch. The daughter looks pained. In another video, Reynolds threatens to "cut a bitch throat." When a toddler falls, she shouts at him, "Get up, nigga."

No, the point is not that Reynolds is a bad person or that she deserved to watch her companion die. We all wish that that had never happened. We are all flawed people; we all have sworn and lost our patience with children.

This is the point: Reynolds is, like you and me, a flawed human being, not a plaster saint. The media is working very hard to turn her into a plaster saint, not a human being. Note the difference in her clothing, make-up, hair, and speech in her previous videos and in her current public appearances. This manipulation of reality serves Black Lives Matter mythology, a mythology that is getting police officers killed and causing widespread tension and division.

Even as the media mythologizes Reynolds as the perfect mother, it leaps on any factoid to prove that police officers are murderous white supremacists. Daily Kos trumpets that Jeronimo Yanez reported that Philando Castile matched the description of an armed robbery suspect. Yanez said Castile had a "wide-set nose." Those three words: "wide-set nose," are waved as proof that Yanez was a murderous bigot. Darren Wilson described angry, threatening, and very large Michael Brown in these words, Brown "had the most aggressive face. That’s the only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked." Those words alone were enough for Jamelle Bouie to pump out a lengthy article at Slate crucifying Wilson as an unregenerate white supremacist. Bouie's was just one of many articles making the same leap. No media outlet will ever assign an archetypal identity to Reynolds for "Get up nigga" spoken to a fallen toddler, or her threat to "cut a bitch throat."

The media is selling us two myths in place of reality: Yanez as an obsessive, murderous white supremacist, and Reynolds as a pure martyr. We have reason to ask what other lies the media is peddling.

There are many such incidences. Michael Brown was a "gentle giant," not the strong-arm robber a security-camera video revealed him to be. Trayvon Martin was a winsome tot in a Hollister t-shirt, not six feet tall and capable of smashing another man's head into sidewalk. Alton Sterling is repeatedly identified as "father of five," not as a registered sex offender with multiple battery offenses, including previously physically fighting with a police officer while armed with a gun.

No, no sane or decent person celebrates or justifies the deaths of any of these men; in fact I wish every one of them were still alive. Rather the point is that, as part of the ritual, these men have undergone a sort of taxidermy, a sort of second death at the hands of the mainstream press. They are not allowed to be who they really were. And what they really were were unique human beings with individual stories. Inclusion of the real facts of their real lives would show that their deaths were more different than similar, and that their deaths do not offer an overarching justification for the murder of police officers.

In traditional human sacrifice, participants often wore costumes that signified the roles they were assigned. These tragically deceased black men all must wear the vestments of virginity and a mask signifying complete blank slate intellects. They must not be adults who made their own choices.

Police officers must all be ogres and white supremacists, including, bizarrely, Sheriff David A. Clarke and Dallas police chief David Brown, two black men who are both dismissed as Uncle Toms. Merely dismissing Chief Brown as an Uncle Tom is not enough to those who don't like how this good black man and proud police officer confuses their narrative. Brown and his family have received death threats from those who insist on unambiguous mythology, with helpless black victims on one side, evil white racist police on the other, and no confusing mixture between the two imagined, mutually exclusive casts of characters.

The degree to which Black Lives Matter is divorced from facts is evident in reactions to Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds' video. Her video shows the aftermath of a shooting. The video does not show Philando Castile being shot. And yet person after person insists that the video shows a police officer shooting an innocent black man who has done everything to comply with the police officer's directives.

Verquisha Powers stated in a fund-raising announcement that Reynolds and Castile "were pulled over for an alleged broken tail light. The officer approached the vehicle and asked Phil for his license and registration. Phil informed the officer that he had a registered firearm and that the information was in his pocket. The officer requested Phil get it, and when he reached towards his pocket the officer shot him 3-5 times in his left side/arm, killing him. The whole thing was recorded live on Facebook." This statement is false. None of this is in the video. It is, rather, what Reynolds claims in her narration over her video.

A YouTube user titled his posting of the video with the headline, "GRAPHIC Facebook LIVE Video Shows Black Man SHOT & KILLED By Police In MINNESOTA!!" Again, the video shows no such thing.

Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown Law School, said on NPR that "Last week started with horrific images of two African-American men doing everything the police told them to do and still being shot dead at point blank range. And none of this is new. African-Americans have never received equal justice under the law and police have rarely been held accountable … Of course, we saw the same thing just a few weeks earlier, the Latino and LGBT communities were targeted in Orlando." Butler is not telling the truth. We did not see Castile doing what the police told him to do. Further, Butler's attempt to lasso the Orlando jihad massacre into a white supremacist war on "Latinos and LGBT" reaches new depths of shameless exploitation for the purposes of racist hate mongering.

Many choose not to view videos depicting graphic violence. Many believe what commentators are saying: that a black man was pulled over for a broken tail light, complied with officer's instructions, and was shot to death for no reason other than pervasive police white supremacy.

There is, of course, another way to see the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police. One can recognize that each of those deaths was unique, and not part of a wider white supremacist conspiracy. No supernatural strand of pollution connects Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, and Alicia D. White, a black woman officer indicted in the death of Freddie Grey, and Jeronimo Yanez, a possibly Mexican-American police officer who shot Philando Castile. One can acknowledge that in each case, officers' actions will be investigated by teams that will certainly include African Americans, and those found guilty will be punished. One can also recognize that educating all citizens in compliance with police officers' directives is correlated with survival of an encounter with police.

The rational mind will acknowledge that America is exceptional not for racism or injustice, but for its resistance to both and its commitment to equality. Place America in context with India, and its caste system, or Mauritania, where slavery is openly practiced, or China, where the individual's needs and desires serve the group, and the Muslim world, notorious for its low literacy and publication rates, its gender apartheid, deadly homophobia and its rampant use of draconian punishments, and America's exceptional nature is undeniably clear.

Harvard scholar Roland G. Fryer Jr.'s study, "An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force" gives the lie to Black Lives Matter mythology. Heather MacDonald, a Stanford-trained attorney and Manhattan Institute fellow, is the author of The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe. She has published accessible articles like "The Myths of Black Lives Matter." The problem with Fryer's and MacDonald's work is that it is based on facts. It does not satisfy the deep mythic brain or its sense of compensatory bloodlust.  

The primitive, rush-addicted, mythic hatreds of those who view the L.A. riots as a righteous freedom struggle, and Patrick Zamarripa as just another white supremacist carrying out an unchanging, white supremacist war against innocent, defenseless blacks will never be satisfied with rational thought. They will never see individual facts unique to a given situation resulting in the death of any African American in any encounter with any police officer, and they will always feel a primitive, unconscious need to see the blood of some human sacrifice – preferably someone relatively low on the social totem pole – splash across what they see as a permanently ritually polluted landscape.


Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete