"In every culture of which we have some adequate historical record, we encounter spiritually radiated individuals with miraculous healing capacities, telepathic gifts (what was once called the 'reading of hearts'), precognitive abilities (traditionally known as divination or prophecy), clairvoyance (seeing objects or events at a distance in space or time), even, believe it or not, apparent literal floating or flight (levitation)."
from The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained, Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey Kripal (2016)
He had the multi-instrumental talent of Stevie.
The devout artistic dedication of Jimi.
The genius of Joni Mitchell.
The soul of Ray Charles.
The funk of Sly.
The religious ecstasy of Aretha.
The royal fabulousness of Beyonce.
The liberated queerness of Little Richard, Bowie, and Grace Jones.
The commitment to Black freedom of James Brown.
The songwriting chops of Chuck Berry.
The star power of Elvis.
The magic of Michael.
He had the fearlessness of punk rock, the sexuality of a mystic in a juke joint, the mystery of a druid who could dance. Prince was all of this and more.
As a teenager in the 80s, when 1999 was either a distant party or the end of the world, Prince was a one-person sonic apocalypse, a purple armageddon that was musical paradise.
As a born-and-bred Tar Heel, I can tell you we take special pride in the fact that our own Michael Jordan--born in Wilmington and mentored as a young skywalker by Dean Smith in Chapel Hill--is the greatest basketball player Earth has ever seen. My family had season tickets to the Heels' games, and I was a young teen watching in awe when MJ was rocking the cradle and rattling rims and skying high on the backboard for a follow-slam. We in Chapel Hill knew his greatness several years before the rest of the world caught on. So I do not entertain comparisons to MJ lightly. There has simply been no one who has equaled his total combination of skill, grace, savvy, finesse, power, swagger, clutch-ness, competitiveness, and championships. Not Magic, not LeBron, not Kobe.
But Stephen Curry is doing something that, in its own way, rivals Michael. He's CHANGING THE GAME. If Jordan took the game above the rim, Curry is extending the game beyond the arc.
Asked about comparisons with Jordan, Curry states, "We have totally different skill sets, obviously. I try to stay in my lane when it comes to that." Unfortunately for the Warriors' opponents, Curry's lane keeps getting farther and farther from the basket. His accuracy from distance is on the order of a paradigm shift, a transformation from "Air" to "Splash."
Tonight we will see the Warriors try to take the single-season win record from one of the greatest teams ever, MJ's '96 Bulls, as well as the final game of one of the All Time Greats, Kobe Bryant. No one has come closer than Kobe to mirroring Michael's moves, even if he never quite attained that Jordan je ne sais quoi. Steph Curry, on the other hand, is nothing like Michael Jordan. And that's why he's the next Michael Jordan.
In the book, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, based on interviews from the nineties, are the following paragraphs in which Chomsky describes the incipient fascist dynamics in Republican party politics at the time, and foretells a scenario with remarkable similarities to the current Trump phenomenon.
"There are other things to worry about too, like the fact that the United States is such an extremely fundamentalist country--and also such an unusually frightened one.... [There is a lot of] extreme irrationality and fear... in the U.S. population.
And that's a very dangerous phenomenon--because that kind of deep irrationality can readily be whipped up by demagogues, you know, Newt Gingriches. These guys can whip up fear, hatred, they can appeal to fundamentalist urges--and that's been scaring the rest of the world for a while... For example, if you recall the Republican National Convention in 1992, it opened with a 'God and Country' rally, which was televised and seen around the world. In Europe particularly it really sent chills up people's spines--because they remember Hitler's Nuremberg rallies, at least older people do, and it had something of that tone. Well, the Republicans were able to insulate the Convention from it that time around and keep most of that stuff confined to the first night, but in the future they might not be able to do that--in the future those people might take the Convention over, in which case we'd be very close to some American version of fascism; it may not be Hitler Germany, but it'll be bad enough....
Actually, I think that the United States has been in kind of a pre-fascist mood for years--and we've been lucky that every leader who's come along has been a crook.... But if somebody shows up who's kind of a Hitler-type--just wants power, no corruption, straight, makes it all sound appealing, and says, 'We want power'--well, then we'll all be in very bad trouble. Now, we haven't had the right person yet in the United States, but sooner or later somebody's going to fill that position--and if so, it will be highly dangerous."
--Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (2002), based on interviews mostly from 1989-1999.
Lockdown America, by Christian Parenti (1999)
The “War on Drugs” inaugurated by President Richard Nixon—with its devastating consequences on American families for over four decades—is not only racist in its enforcement and effects. It was designed to be racist from the very beginning. It is racist on purpose, by intent.
This was the shocking revelation that erupted this week in journalist Dan Baum’s April cover story for Harper’s magazine. Baum describes a 1994 interview with Nixon advisor, John Ehrlichman, in which Ehrlichman makes the following admission:
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Despite the casual brazenness of the confession, and the sociopathic depravity it displays, this did not come as a surprise to the communities most affected by the pervasive, systemic racism of the legal/judicial process and the mass incarceration state.
My first reaction upon reading of the new Ehrlichman quote was this: Disgusting. Immoral. Fascist. Heart-crushing. But why is this being treated as Breaking News when another Nixon aide, H. R. Haldeman, said the same thing years ago? I went to my copy of Christian Parenti’s, Lockdown America (1999). Yep. There it was. Haldeman admitting the exact same thing as Ehrlichman:
“[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”
--H. R. Haldeman (quoted in Christian Parenti’s, Lockdown America, p. 3. This quote is an epigraph to Chapter One, and does not have a footnote/source.)
Now, three former Nixon officials have jumped in to dispute the “new” quote from John Ehrlichman and to dismiss its premise. In a joint-statement, former Nixon officials Jeffrey Donfeld, Jerome H. Jaffe, and Robert DuPont contend that Ehrlichman was just joshing. (Because ruined lives and shattered families are a real knee-slapper, right?) Ehrlichman was “known for using biting sarcasm,” they state, and suggest, “it is possible the reporter misread his tone.” “Most importantly,” these officials claim, “the statements do not reflect the facts and history of President Nixon’s approach to the drug problems.”
These former Nixon officials want us to ignore the clear words in front of our face. They claim that the admission by Ehrlichman was misconstrued and is off base. But then why did H. R. Haldeman say the same thing?
So far, the corroborating quote from H. R. Haldeman has been missing from the reporting on the “new” Ehrlichman quote. The consistency between the statements from Ehrlichman and Haldeman is a crucial piece of evidence. It should underscore the newly revealed interview with Ehrlichman and cast doubt on those who dispute the accuracy or importance of what he confesses.
The mutually reinforcing quotes from Ehrlichman and Haldeman amplify a shattering truth that communities of color having been communicating for decades: the “War on Drugs”—and the hyper-incarceration of Black, brown, and Native youth—are contemporary expressions of the US‘s foundational white supremacy. The legal and judicial systems are institutionally racist. All people of conscience must join together in a unified movement to end systemic racism in policing and sentencing, before the next generation of broken lives and grieving families.
"Beatrice, then, is another name for inspiration--romantic, aesthetic, moral, and religious. She inspires passion, vision, virtue, and, in the supernatural order, love of God. How she did it was Dante's secret--and hers. Of the fact and its effects nearly all the poet's works bear witness."
--Gerald Groveland Walsh, Dante Alighieri: Citizen of Christendom (1946)
I strongly encourage everyone to go see Michael Moore's powerful new film, "Where to Invade Next." It's heart-breaking, enraging, and ultimately hopeful.
I've often said that traveling to another country and/or entering another culture is a crash course in cosmology and worldview. One comes to recognize that what one thought of as "reality," or "the way things are," or "how things are done," is, in fact, just ONE WAY of perceiving and acting.
Moore uses this to maximum effect, traveling to other countries to shine a DEVASTATING light on current US society--what we've gotten used to, and what we've allowed ourselves to become.
Whether it's issues of work in Italy, school lunches in France, education in Norway, free college in Slovenia, historical memory in Germany, or women's leadership in Iceland, the film hammers the question of whether we have to be living the way we are.
I'm sure there are critiques of Moore's presentation, but the issues and questions raised by this film are tremendously important.
"Wherever we find Indians and whenever we inquire about their idea of God, they tell us that beneath the surface of the physical universe is a mysterious spiritual power which cannot be described in human images that must remain always the 'Great Mystery.'"
--Vine Deloria Jr. (1972)
One of the major spiritual questions of our time for white people is not 'can we embody compassion and love while remaining in denial about racial oppression?' but rather, 'can we embody compassion and love while fully acknowledging, directly confronting, and engaging in the struggle against, racial oppression?'
A billion years from now, circling some indigo star, perhaps speaking a language unrecognizable to us, a human child will be taunting another child or adult to the tune of 'nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah; you-can't-get-me.' I swear that thing never dies.