Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Sundries, 36

1. Another incarnation of the TA (Traffic Asshole) ... You're waiting to get out onto the main road. You're sitting in a mall driveway that has one entrance lane and two exit lanes--one for right-turners, the other for left. You want to turn right, but the TA in front of you is straddling the two turn lanes. No room to get by. Lots of room, though, for creative cursing and crafting of flawless homicide plans.

2. The lead story in today's New York Times Book Review dealt with some recent books about Lincoln--and about his 1865 assassination. The headline: O Captain! Some of my recent WRA students would recognize that--the Walt Whitman poem "O Captain! My Captain!"--one of Whitman's poems about the death of Lincoln. (Link to the entire poem.) Some may remember it, as well, as a poem that figured prominently in Peter Weir's 1989 film Dead Poets Society (with Robin Williams as a charismatic boarding school teacher). Here's a link to an "O Captain!" moment in that film.

Anyway, this morning ... Joyce and I were reading the Times in Open Door Coffee Co. (our new Sunday morning hangout), and when I saw that headline, I started reciting the poem (one of the ones I've memorized)--not loudly; I did not leap upon a table (not that I could anymore!), but softly, to Joyce.

And when I finished (I messed it up a little, had to start over), we started talking about something I've noticed over the years. I have memorized 140 poems (which I rehearse several times every week to keep them in my ever more forgetful brain). But I rarely recite them. Here's why: People don't want to hear them. (Joyce excepted.)

I can't tell you how many times I've launched into something memorized because of the nature of the conversation I'm in, only to see rolling eyes, looks of impatience; some folks even interrupt. So I don't do it much anymore. (Just for Joyce, who loves me and listens.) Even other members of my family don't really want to hear them.

This morning we talked about some reasons people react as they do. She suggested it's like showing family pictures. No one really wants to see them. I mean, others like knowing you have a family, but they don't want to look on your iPhone to see the latest seventy-five images you've stored there. And they don't want to hear about your vacation, either--or see the pictures of it.

I can think of some Darker Reasons, I guess, but I think Joyce is probably right (she usually is).

Although I'm still memorizing them, I release them into the air only rarely these days. Like Christmas. My grandsons and I take turns--at Christmas dinner--reciting stanzas from "A Visit from St. Nicholas." I love it.

3. I'm bemused (not amused) by the capacity for rage we have in this era of social media. Someone with whom you disagree (or someone whom you despise) says something you dislike, and suddenly it's as if he or she has boiled babies and served them with barbecue sauce at a tailgate party. This week, President Obama made a fairly innocuous statement about how many people have performed awful things under the cloak of religion. Here are his words:

Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

Of course people have done such things. Read a little world history. Google "witch trials." Google "Jim Jones." Google "Hale-Bopp Comet and Heaven's Gate." Google "religious atrocities." (I just did: I got 13,000,000 hits.) And on and on and on.

But when the President said that, the social media lit up like the Fourth of July, and his political enemies condemned him in the most ferocious terms. (These folks seem to have an unlimited capacity for outrage.)

The same thing happens on all faces of the flawed political diamond, of course. Mitt Romney mentions the forty-seven percent; Sarah Palin says something odd (again); Mike Huckabee goes off on Beyoncé. The liberals go crazy on Twitter and Facebook ...

One result of this, of course, is that politicians are learning never to speak extemporaneously--to deviate from a very vetted and insipid "script." To do so is to invite waves of opprobrium to wash over you--and perhaps carry you out to sea. Where you will see a ship and cry, "O captain!"

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