New short story from James Lloyd Davis

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My new short story, “Way Cross, Georgia, 1937” is now available in Thrice Fiction Magazine Issue Number 26.
It’s a different kind of story, hard to describe or categorize.  The style? “Faulkner, Ray Bradbury, and Steinbeck walk into this bar… get drunk… write a screenplay.”
Definitely mumblecore.
Two con men come to an unhappy end in Georgia.
Thanks to RW Spryszak and his friends at Thrice Fiction.

Letter to Virginia – 8/31/2019

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Dear Virginia,

Been a nostalgic week for some reason.  Who knows where these recollections come from, how they are triggered, but there it is… the Sixties.

Although I faked it whenever it suited my purpose, I never was a flower child… you know?  1968… I’d already been to Vietnam and back, tried acting like I’d never been there, since nobody really cared… just wanted to blend in and start all over from scratch.  Did I ever tell you what I wanted to do when I got back from the war?  Don’t laugh, but I was hot to be and really tried to become a photo-journalist… tried going back over there to Vietnam because life back home… life Stateside… was like a vacuum, a round hole and I was utterly square-shaped with very hard edges that simply seemed never to quite fit into place, though God knows I tried.

No… I guess I never told you about that, since I never had the chance.  I left Norfolk shortly after I heard you got married.  Nothing to keep me there, so I left.  Moved across the river to Newport News.  I know you knew I’d been back, but… who knows?

Me?  James the Recently Returned?  He wanted something exciting, something dangerous, something different in his life… but all he got was the sporting goods department at Sears & Roebuck and they fired him… long story.  Not worth telling.

I bought cameras, took pictures… got pretty good at it.  Sent letters to newspapers all over the country, told them I’d be willing to work for them as a photojournalist overseas… in Vietnam or Israel, wherever there was a war because… I don’t know… adrenaline?  Told them I’d work cheap, but nobody offered me a job and after Sears fired me, I pawned all my cameras and guns… and my television set, my stereo.  Took a four-month sabbatical and tried to write a novel.

When the money ran out, I got hungry… so I went to work for the shipyard.

Was living in a tenement then, three-story brick buildings… right across the street from the yard.  While I was living there, I went through about three lifetimes in a year… a crazy year… long story, but it was during one of those lifetimes that I tried becoming a flower child, hanging with a group of people who lived in my building, in a huge basement apartment where other people, kids mostly, down from Richmond and DC would party every weekend.  The group was led by a guy from California, a guy whose name I can’t remember… some rich guy who’d been to Vietnam and was knocking around the country with another guy… from Minnesota, I think.

They were trying to start an urban commune… called themselves “the Real People.”

Long story.  But I didn’t fit in there either.

Two years in Newport News… then Ohio and three or four more lifetimes in a couple of crazy years before I finally caught my breath… Readers Digest condensed versions of a life each… little novellas just waiting for an ending that never quite arrives.  Lifetimes that felt a little like Purgatory, or like waiting for a bus in a Greyhound station that never, ever comes.  Purgatory… Greyhound waiting rooms… they are interchangeable, I think.  You meet interesting people, but you’re forever in transit, like those little eddies of current in a river, that circle and circle and circle for hours before they ever slip back into the mainstream again and get on their way downriver.

Don’t know where you went after you and what’s-his-name got married.  I know you guys didn’t stay together.  I don’t know why.  God knows… he was a pretty good guy.  I knew him pretty well, but your life was a total mystery to me, a book I’ve always looked for, but could never find.

The Sixties.  I’d always imagined you’d get caught up in the whole flower-child thing… but in a good way.  Not the whole drugs and sex and the Green Tambourine thing, the me-me-me culture, but something like that quintessential catcher-in-the-rye rejection of self-aggrandizement, that higher place… a role you seemed born to assume and I know you were looking, always looking… so many did.  Somebody had to find it.  Not many would, but I always thought that if anyone could, you’d be the one.  I hope you did.

Best always… your old friend,

James

 

Creative Commons License Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Letter to Virginia – 8/17/2019

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Dear Virginia,

Haven’t written in a while, but I thought about you today.
I’m reading again that novel we both read in high school, though I can’t remember whether I bought it first and you wanted it because I had it… or whether I saw you reading it and went out that weekend and bought it myself, so I could flash it at study hall and you’d notice… and we could talk about it together in a corner because… I looked for excuses back then, reasons for us to talk about things for which you had such a passionate interest… just for the pleasure of hearing the fire in your voice.
It was an old book then, old and somewhat obscure. I remember the jacket said it was a very big deal in Russia, in Europe… everywhere. Millions and millions and millions of copies sold.
The Gadfly… remember? A novel first published in the late 1890s by Ethel Voynich, not well known any more, but for some reason it experienced a brief resurgence in the early 1960s, so that anyone with half a brain for books… anyone with a capacity for intense intellectual notions had to read it… tried to read it, tried to understand why people said it was important, meaningful, even timely, though it wasn’t really timely… not yet, though it would be soon enough… in the latter years of that decade, in fact.
It was about revolution, a thing we did not yet ever think about, except for the thrill of the concepts surrounding rebellion… like the Victor Hugo book… the Paris Commune, the barricades, the red flags, the romance and the fire of a time we could only imagine… as it was historic, a prop, alien then, at least to us.
Eight years later, you must have felt it as I did, the possibility, the passion in the air, the word itself tossed around like so much excess… excess of guile… an excess of promise unfulfilled… revolution this and revolution that, until the word itself lost all meaning, ended up cynical and droll.
The revolution that was televised, commercialized, marketized, costumed and produced, packaged and seduced, but… before we knew it? They won. The revolution? Our revolution? It went right into reruns.
So… The Gadfly… I’m reading it now… again… because I need to remember what it was like to be hopeful and passionate… and I’ll admit it… I remember so little about it now, and I wonder if I ever really finished reading it. My head was already full of notions then. I’d read so much… more than I had the capacity to grasp, but tried anyway… Dostoevski, Tolstoi, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Voltaire, and I’d just started Don Quixote when I saw you carrying The Gadfly and knew I had to be reading it as well.
So there… I remember now… you had it first, didn’t you?
You had it, so I had to have it as well
God, but we were young.
Impressionable.
Naive.
We went off in totally different directions, didn’t we?
Really lost track.
I hope you’re well.
So damn many times over the past decades… years in which I’ve not seen or heard from you… or even known where you’ve gone, I think about you often, unable to imagine how life might have received you… rewarded you for the visions you had so long ago. I’ve wondered how you fared, if you were happy, if you found the things you wanted, the things you wished for…
Most of all, I miss the things we shared.
So maybe that’s why I’m reading that book again
And thinking about you.

Your old friend,
James the Least

Creative Commons License Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Night Letters to America – 8/11/2019

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The purpose and the spark of a humane and civilizing influence is some ineffable quality for which we strive… and its existence serves as foundation for all of our religions, our liberating philosophies, our governing documents, our laws, our visions and our dreams.  We labor above all to attain first, but thereafter to retain that quality in our culture, in our lives, if not for ourselves, then for our children.  Call it innocence… call it grace… call it joy… it springs from a desire for peace and safety.  It thrives in love and it is the goal of every good gesture, every act of courage and every evolving, intelligent impulse within our social constructs, a product we will call… for the sake of definition, an observable innocence of mind.

Innocence is a delicate and a finite resource, however, difficult and… at times… impossible to regenerate once it has been destroyed.  It can be mimicked, but only at the cost of what is true, since every time we produce some false sense of security in safety, it requires the dismantling of innocence in proportions dictated by some unwritten metaphysical law.

The “right to bear arms” in the twenty-first century is the perfect example.

One of many justifications used to oppose the regulation of firearms in America is the manufactured illusion that an armed citizenry creates a safe and secure society, requires the same sort of delusion, though on a global scale, that drove the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the decades following World War II, each nation arming itself to the degree that each could destroy its rival and the entire population of the world many times over and in so brief a period of time, the very notion of this competition was called a “balance of power” through the capability of “mutual destruction.”  The cost of this tenuous purchase of national security was a generational nihilism that essentially destroyed the innocence of its participant nations and robbed all neutral parties of their own safety and security and the incessant ignition of small proxy wars in the Third World.

Let’s put that horrendous example into the perspectives that have evolved through the auspices of the National Rifle Association and their benefactor, the gun manufacturers of America.  Based upon a premise within the vague wording of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and fueled by money supplied to them by gun manufacturers, the NRA has become one of the most powerful propaganda agencies, marketing influences, and political lobbies in the entire free world, convincing a huge swath of the American population that they need to live like their pioneer forebearers, who, at least in popular fiction, were surrounded by hostile populations of men and beasts… a dark force in a lawless frontier that perpetually threatened not only their fortune, but their lives.

In the name of this… heritage… they have convinced Americans and bribed their politicians to vindicate the notion that our freedom, our “heritage” and our personal safety demands that every American has the right to bear arms without regulation, license, or constraint.  The result?  One hundred Americans die on any given day by way of gun violence.  Think about that… one hundred people… human beings, men, women, children.

What does that look like?  One hundred people.

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

Every one of the Xs above represents a human being murdered by a gun… one hundred Xs, a fair representation of the sum of any one day’s average slaughter by guns in America.  However, it is not a fair representation of the victims themselves, nor the broad expanse of grief, hardship and loss that each death implies.  These Xs stand for people… individuals with lives that affect others.  They represent mothers fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters all… baby girls, baby boys, sweethearts, friends, lovers, the innocent and the not so innocent, but each one of the was a living human being one moment and a nameless cipher in the news a day later.

For me?

X = Charlie

He died, according to a police report, on 06/25/1991.  His death caused by ”… a single gunshot wound to his head while sleeping.”  Charlie was the youngest of four siblings.  He was my brother.  He was 35 years old and apparently on the upswing after hard times.  Hopeful.  His parents, my mother and father, were forced to do that which any parent shudders to imagine… to bury one of their children.  He was loved by many people, and by everyone in his family, each one devastated and unalterably affected by his sudden and violent death.  But it’s one thing to bury your brother after the devastating effects of some disease… quite another in the wake of a senseless murder by person or persons unknown, a random crime with no apparent motive, no witnesses, no suspects.

One hundred violent deaths every day of every week of every month of every year in America causes a rippling effect touches the lives of others, such that each single death must surely effect at least a hundred others, friends, families… a hundred times one hundred lives affected in the wake of a death by gunshot.

What does that look like?

I won’t waste the space just to give you a visual representation of 10,000 Xs, but I think you can imagine page after page after page… and I’m willing to wager that most people in America have lost someone to gun violence in their lifetime, but how many more who are wounded, physically and mentally traumatized.  The numbers reach incomprehensible proportions.

Today?  Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and occur in places where none would expect… classrooms, movie theaters, concerts, festivals, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples… anywhere people collect and expect to be safe from harm.

America is a war zone.

How did that happen?

It would take volumes to describe the perfect storm that has culminated in this age of violence and insecurity, where no parent can be certain that their child will not be killed on any given day in a classroom… where no one can be certain that their prayers in any church, any synagogue, any mosque, any temple, any sacred place of worship will not be suddenly and violently interrupted by the sound of gunfire.

When do we say, “Enough.”

Not this time… apparently.  Here it is, but mere days following the murder of 22 people and the injury of 24 more in a Wal-Mart in El Paso by a lone gunman armed with a military assault rifle and, the news cycle changes, the outrage takes a back seat to the suicide of a storied, sex trafficking billionaire, whose life has launched a hundred rumors… and whose death has launched a hundred more.

And so it goes.

No one will long remember El Paso.  Who’s fault is that… if not yours and mine?

 

Creative Commons License Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

I hope you will become a regular reader and I heartily invite you to comment below.  I love your feedback, even when it’s criticism.  It makes all the trouble worthwhile and it keeps me honest.

 

What can I do? They own the media…

 

It is bad enough when bigotry and ignorance prevails in the nation of your birth… worse Untitledyet when the institutions that serve it are corrupted… when they become the authors of deception.  Last night on Fox, Tucker Carlson stated that white supremacy is a hoax perpetuated by Democrats.  He said, “They’re making this up.  It’s a talking point, which they are using to help them in this election cycle.”

Fox News dominates cable and the networks. Consistently, more Americans watch Fox News than any one of the other cable or broadcast networks. Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have a bully pulpit for their corrosive, dangerous lies. Theirs is a huge audience and this is the kind of propaganda they feed them on a nightly basis. Is it any wonder that so many Americans have no concept of what is happening around them? This is the very reason that an amoral, bigoted, utterly incompetent, and dangerous criminal sits in the White House today.

Someone asked me today… “What do you do to stop it?”
This is what I do:  wherever I can, whenever I can find the time… I seek out the truth, write what I find, and I put it out there on the internet, the only place where ordinary Americans can possibly be heard beyond the confines of their social influence.
And so can you.

The power of disinformation, the strength of a lie resides in constant repetition within an unchallenged venue. The greatest weapon against it is truth. Just as it is in violent warfare, the battle for dominance between truth and a lie depends upon the power and the strategic application of the armament involved. If the lie enjoys a position of power, then truth is an insurgent… and it must be everywhere at once and unrelenting.

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“If the truth shall kill them, let them die.”   Immanuel Kant

It’s not really death for such a one as this… call it transcendence

d3d5f99cb910d8a66bbac7348a4da827635af288Every writer knows the truth about words… that of themselves and in their studied form… they are limiting, vague… that they can be chains that hold you back. A writer like Toni Morrison is able break the binds and strictures of language in such a way that the words become a liberating force within the reader… permitting a depth in simplicity that could never be otherwise achieved except within her flawless style. Such a writer is rendered thus immortal.

“No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That’s a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything.”
Toni Morrison

Night Letters to America – 8/1/2019

From the Merriam Webster Dictionary online…
night letter (n): a telegram sent at night at a reduced rate for delivery the following morning.

Presidential Grandiloquence – Part One

When I think of the American presidency, I think of slogans and of epochs.  The duration of each administration’s sway upon the nation could be termed as an epoch, historically… a period of time that is often defined by the character and stated ideals of each individual President inevitably framed by slogans.  More often, however, the slogans are lost and their idealistic definitions are tempered in remembrance by the realities surrounding each administration, by facts rather than by the carefully chosen words they use to define themselves.

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Bob Daugherty, AP Archives

For instance, the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson attempted to characterize itself with florid descriptions of his signature achievements in civil rights and social justice legislation, an idealistic political agenda branded with vaunting, and not necessarily inaccurate labels.  We cannot fault such ambitious programs as the War on Poverty and The Great Society, but all pretense comes to a crashing end and his happy place in history took a back seat to the stain of his one and horrific misadventure, the war in Vietnam, a can that had been kicked down the road by two previous administrations, but an issue he chose to tackle in the worst manner possible, with a war that was never actually declared, but was viciously and violently waged for a decade, killing over 55,000 Americans and untold hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.

unnamedHis successor?  Recent revelations disclose the fact that Richard Nixon sabotaged Johnson’s peace initiatives by brokering a secret deal with North Vietnam before he was President as he rode to victory on the phrase, “Peace with honor” which was, in retrospect, a monument to cynical mendacity.  But then, Nixon was no stranger to the perversion of truth.  In fact, he earned a second term on a symphony of “law and order” with horns and percussion, played with verve and passion to his beloved audience, “the silent majority” of Americans who were dismayed by political and social upheaval over the war that Nixon had prolonged with his deception.  But no one quite imagined how cynical it might be for Nixon to run on a platform that invoked law and order until they learned that the thrust of his entire administration was marked with such incredible violations of law and disruption of order that his corruption and crimes eventually forced him to resign in disgrace.  Only a pardon by the next and quickly forgotten President Ford kept him from serving a justified term in a Federal prison.

jimmy-carterJimmy Carter’s presidency is difficult to characterize, since an honest man is not generally as glib in the realm of self-aggrandizement as the average politician, so he was more often defined by his critics and particularly by his successor in rather vilifying and dismissive words.  Nonetheless, Carter was possibly the most forward thinking President in terms of a national energy policy, a political agenda that recognized the growing dangers of indiscriminate and  poorly regulated use of fossil fuels and the very real cost of dependence on foreign oil.  But like Obama in his second term, however, Carter suffered from an animated opposition by a Republican-controlled Congress during his first term, a fact that essentially crippled many of his initiatives.  The death blow to his administration was certainly not of his making… a hostage crisis in Iran following a popular Islamist revolt.  The uprising was the result of an American led coup and regime change in the mid-1950s and the hatred of the revolution for the USA was fueled by subsequent, generous American support of an oppressive regime.  The hostage crisis was such an embarrassment to the nation that someone had to take the blame.  Carter became the perfect scapegoat.  His campaign for a second term quite collapsed when our military attempted to rescue the hostages and failed, the result of a peculiar regional weather event and an unfortunate accident in the wake of it.  Carter’s Republican opponent in the election, Ronald Reagan, took advantage of both the incident and the ongoing, ever-present embarrassment, the loss of national pride… and won handily.

ReaganBerlinWall130612Ronald Reagan?  Where can I start?  The apostle of “trickle down economics” who invoked an image of an old, disproved, and rationally absurd economic theory that favors corporations and the wealthy as “engines of the economy” declaring corporate success as “a rising tide that lifts all boats…” Riding this absurd metaphor like a boogey board, Reagan proceeded to dismantle America’s post-WWII prosperity by shifting the burden of all taxation to middle and lower class Americans… by destroying the influence of labor unions… by giving tax breaks to the wealthy… by reducing “unnecessary” programs of social welfare… and by de-regulating commerce… thus creating a new American aristocracy and initiating economic trends that have given us the greatest disparity in wealth and income since the Gilded Age.  Yet, even today, both Democrats and Republicans invoke his style with reverence as some sort of political benchmark for the ages.  Unfortunately, that benchmark proved to be built upon such unstable foundations that it became a formula for failure.  It has been the cause of unprecedented economic disparity and its philosophy can do naught but foment social inequity, based as it is on a lie… but let’s move on.

George H. BushThe first President Bush, the product of a more florid era of political rhetoric, had a particular gift for the iconic phrase… with such poetic entries as “a thousand points of light” which program was, essentially, another way to give awards to rich people who have so much money they can spend a little bit of it on poor people.  The theory is that philanthropy, the largesse of wealthy people can ultimately supplant the need for social welfare.  But the phrase that actually got him elected “Read my lips…” when he declared “…no new taxes…” is the phrase that eventually brought him down in his attempt for a second term because reality forced his administration to reconsider and he… you guessed it… raised the tax rate.

clinton-saxBill Clinton came in behind Bush on the merits of such sentiments as “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Clinton “…didn’t inhale.” And, he “…never had sex with that woman.”  In fact he was, as my sainted grandmother would put it, “…so full of it…” one has to wonder how he ever got away with as much as he did.  I don’t know what to say about Clinton, since this Democratic president, though adorned with the mantle of a liberal freely given him by his peers in spite of his apparent and obvious predilections to conservatism, managed to move the Party of FDR and the New Deal into territory once held by Republican elites.  How did he do it?  Charm and charisma?  The ability to smile and to tell us an absolute lie while doing the exact opposite of what he said?  Perhaps, but his legacy is written in the growth of policies that imprisoned more non-violent offenders and for such interminable periods of time that their lives were essentially destroyed.  Prison populations soared.  The war on poverty was lost in the Clinton administration through “workfare” programs and tough, even brutal attitudes toward crime and punishment.  And though his administration did more to oppress black people in America than was ever publicly acknowledged, his ability to play the saxophone and the audacity to wear sunglasses while doing so on television, earned him the erstwhile label, “America’s first black president.”  Charming.

bush_cheney-620x412The second Bush, pictured here in proximity to the toxic Mr. Cheney, was chosen by the American Supreme Court rather than by the electorate… the result of difficult and obscene mismanagement of the election in the crucial State of Florida where Bush brother Jed was Governor.  Little Georgie Bush had run on the notion of his Christianity against Gore, the Vice-President under Clinton.  The sitting President’s support of Gore was more or less withheld, since Clinton’s sexual indiscretions had finally caught up with him and made him politically toxic.  Bush was hardly charismatic, even a bit “unclever” when speaking in public and, for the life of me, I cannot remember much about his rhetoric on the run up to the election… though there was some talk about “compassionate conservatism” supposedly based upon the fact that Bush was a “born again” Christian.  However… in America and, to my recollection and personal experience, compassionate Christian evangelicals tend to be a rather judgmental group, given more to compassion within their own ranks than toward the public at large… but that’s not relevant here, is it?  Either way, following the 911 attacks, George H. W. Bush’s little boy, George was given unprecedented license by a too-generous and overly patriotic Congress and he used it to take America to war in Afghanistan to go after the Taliban, which harbored Al Qaeda, which was the group that planned the attack.  Then, for reasons known only to God, the Holy Spirit and Dick Cheney, Bush decided we had to go to war with Iraq, which had no connection whatsoever to Al Qaeda or the attacks on 911.  Following a subsequently relentless attack on Iraq, punctuated and propagandized with televised displays of “shock and awe” scorched earth military attacks… when Bush had utterly broken the governments and infrastructure of both Iraq and Afghanistan, such as it existed, he led America into a huge debt spiral from the cost of both wars and subsequent unaudited defense contracts which attempted to put the countries we had destroyed back together again.  When he saw what he had done… and in spite of the huge national debt… Bush decided to give enormous tax breaks to America’s rich people because… well who the hell knows why… but his Presidency very nearly caused a second Great Depression… which it was, although nobody was willing to admit it, so we’ll pretend it was not a Great Depression, but a really bad recession… even though most Americans who weren’t rich have yet to recover what they lost, but the rich people got richer, and they own all the media, so…   Anyway, we can’t really blame Little Boy Bush for the problem since, from what I hear, Dick Cheney was in charge, but hey…

Then came Obama…  But let’s save that for next week when we will continue to deconstruct everyone’s favorite president.

Creative Commons License Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

I hope you will become a regular reader and I heartily invite you to comment below.  I love your feedback, even when it’s criticism.  It makes all the trouble worthwhile and it keeps me honest.

“What? Another damned literary magazine? Are you quite mad?”

Short answer?  Absolutely.

Although it’s just an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while and never really considered it a personal priority, I’m actually getting serious and presently researching the possibilities… even looking into the actual costs involved in establishing a writers collective that would be centered around the production and publishing of a regional quarterly literary review and… possibly… an annual foray into book publishing… anthologies, perhaps, or even novels.

Logistical support for this venture would be limited, physically, to Northeast Ohio, specifically to the area in and around Cleveland and Akron, however, technology enables participation from virtually any location these days. Accordingly, if those who wish to be involved in the collective possess the necessary skill set and the equipment required, their location doesn’t really matter. 

In a month or so, I will have the draft of a business plan that would summarize the scope of the project and provide an outline of the specific literary perspective for the quarterly journal.

If anyone is interested in getting involved, send me an email and I will put your name on a list to receive the prospectus when it’s ready. You need only give me your name and what manner and level of involvement you would consider (i.e. editor, columnist, essayist, writer, fiction or non-fiction, graphic arts, etc.)

I’m not looking for investors, but if you have a few million laying around and you don’t know what to do with it, you could consider underwriting the project and earn yourself the gratitude of the writers and artists who may decide to get involved and maybe even a full page dedication in the first issue, but hey… your name on page one and artistic gratitude, along with $5 might get you a fair cup of coffee and a donut… or maybe even an eclair, but not much more than that.

Anyway if you think you might be interested in getting involved with this project in any way at all… send your email to me at:

jameslloyddavisalf@gmail.com

There’s no guarantee this thing will ever get off the ground, but if there is enough interest, it might be worth the effort. Of course, even if it did get underway, projects like this are a dime a dozen and they tend to fall flat more often than not, so there is that. But hey… if you believe in writing and the arts, what’s to lose?

At least you can’t say I promised you the moon.

Night Letters to America

UntitledFrom the Merriam Webster Dictionary online…
night letter (n): a telegram sent at night at a reduced rate for delivery the following morning

Back in the days when Western Union telegrams were a common method of communication across great distances, much of what needed to be said took more than the few words condensed and clipped into phrases that were applied to the text in order to save the sender money.  The sender paid for the service at a rate of so many cents per word with a minimum, usually of nine to twelve words.  These telegrams would be sent immediately and delivered by phone or by hand.  When a customer wanted to send more than just a line or two, they could pay a cheaper rate per word, with a minimum of about 25 words.  These longer, less expensive telegram were called Night Letters.  They would be held overnight to be sent the following morning in the early hours when traffic on the wire was light and were delivered the following day.

Before I began writing full time and while I was working in the daytime, I wrote whenever I could, usually when my wife and children were sleeping, sometimes long into the night.  It was difficult to write something like a novel and sometimes, when I was forced to work long hours in harsh physical conditions, I was too tired to take on a large project and wrote what could be called vignettes, short pieces that were complete and not reliant on sequential, periodic progression, not unlike the pieces we call flash or micro fiction today… vignettes that I sometimes referred to as night letters.

They kept me going, progressing as a writer, developing perspectives and a style that I would have lost had I entirely abandoned the idea of writing… the hope of becoming a writer… which is itself, these days, an abstract notion in terms of a profession.  More of a calling now, than a career, since few can make a living at it, commercial success being no great measure of quality in literature, but of value beyond its artistic appeal.  The art has taken a back seat to the value of writing as either a tool of influence in the marketing or political arena… or as one of many inputs to a cinematic product.  Even literature for the sake of literature as art is ordered and licensed in a rigid, somewhat cloistered academic construct.

To be sure, I am glad that I kept the practice going throughout my life and, eventually, I enjoyed some small success in publishing shorter works in literary magazines worldwide and, today, in addition to ongoing efforts to succeed as a novelist, I have written many essays, composed in those hours while others are sleeping… night letters.

Beginning next week, I will attempt to produce one serious essay per week and post them on my web page.  I’m calling them, Night Letters to America and invite you to read them and comment, as your feedback is helpful to me always.  I will announce on both Facebook and Twitter when the series begins and whenever there is a new posting.

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Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Socialism, American Style – The Book

If you’ve been reading here, you know that I have been writing a series of essays, titled Socialism, American Style, essays that are more of a voyage of discovery for me,,, an attempt to find a uniquely American approach to the concept of socialism. Although I’ve put the essays temporarily on hold, I have continued to work on the concept.   last week, while doing some research and writing down my thoughts, I had an idea, something a little different, which may or may not be one of those big ideas you just happen to stumble upon like someone groping their way through the dark… a flash of light, maybe, a serendipitous thought that starts with a question…

In the United States, certain trends in the political realm have resulted in what can only be called a conservative bias in both political parties, marked by corporatism and autocratic tendencies, the result of influences that are subtle, even invisible to the electorate, but which lead to an untenable condition of economic and social inequality that feels as though we are going backwards, not forward into any recognizable semblance of a better world.

For instance, a firm cultural bias toward specialists, so-called “experts” has become increasingly evident in government. Technocrats, we call them, or we did at one time. Today? Their role is less visible, but their influence?  More profound.

Both parties love them and employ them regularly in roles that often usurp those which our Constitution reserves to our elected representatives. They save legislators time and effort by providing their “expertise” in writing legislation, so our Senators and Representatives don’t have to do the work of research and needn’t try to understand the complexities involved. Unfortunately, these technocrats also bring their predilection for satisfying their industry’s own special interests and their corresponding professional biases to the task as well.   The common welfare of the American people will always and thus be of little… if any… consideration for cause in the drafting of legislation or the writing of policies affecting the corresponding commercial interests of their unelected authors.

“What’s good for Goldman Sachs is good for America.”

Accordingly, we have people from the insurance industry composing legislation like the Affordable Care Act… lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry composing the language and provisions for Medicare Part D… or “experts” from the alumni of Goldman Sachs and other financial organization recruited by the Executive branch to write the policies by which the same institutions will be regulated.

fox hen house.aspx

“Morning, ladies. My name is A. Faufox McChicken and I’m announcing my candidacy for Congress.”

Fox in the henhouse metaphors, if you will, are entirely relevant here.

So… if both political parties are thus corrupted, determined to serve the interests of commerce and corporations over the common welfare of the average American… and we, the people, are limited by tradition to only two relevant political parties… both of which are dominated by wealthy families, corporate donors, lobbyists and special interests, what is the answer to our dilemma?

Third parties have seldom been successful in modern times and efforts to reform both parties from within only seem to further advance the creep of autocracy in the inevitable reactionary blow-back. And the public is further frustrated in attempts at reform by very subtle campaigns of genetically modified “populist” movements influenced from abroad and from within… and, again, by profoundly powerful special interest groups with buckets of cash and opportunistic, amoral leadership. Witness the Tea Party.

So… here is the question I posed to myself last week:
If not a Third Party… what’s the answer?

Now? I think I have it… the answer. A new idea. A way forward where there seems… at least to me… to be none. A totally different approach and maybe even a unique solution. Now all I have to do is find a way to adequately communicate its construct. So… for now? I’m suspending the essays and working on what will probably be a project the size of a book that will attempt to offer a solution to our very present and frustrating political impasse.

Conventional-Steel-Fabrication-450x194Watch this space.

Mueller speaks !!

I watched and listened. This is both a report and an opinion…

It was enlightening to finally watch and listen to him today after two years of silence and to observe that Robert Mueller walks and speaks with an unexpected air of humility. For some reason, I expected more gravitas and the baritone certitude that some men in high office seem to exude… accordingly, his demeanor makes him more believable, the voice of an intelligent, reticent, and capable observer.
Three things he seemed especially focused upon that I could discern as important matters to relate were these:
1. Indictment of a sitting President was and is NOT allowed under DOJ guidelines and thus no indictment… nor even an accusation against the President was ever going to be part of the process or the report, but Mueller re-iterated that if the President could have been exonerated of wrongdoing through obstruction, the report would thus state, however it did state that he could NOT be thus exonerated.
2. “…the work (the Mueller Report) speaks for itself.”
3. “…there were multiple systematic efforts to interfere with our election.”
God only knows what the pundits will make of Mueller’s statements… I’ve more or less stopped listening, but the greatest take away can be summed up in the following three statements:
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
When you do… and if you read it with an open mind and an understanding of the law, our Constitution, and the moral imperatives of governance… you will come to the logical conclusion that immediate impeachment of President Trump and all of those in government who have enabled him in his wrongdoing is not only justified, but essential to the preservation of our Republic.

 

I suppose the greater tragedy in events surrounding the Mueller report and the incredible maelstrom of misinformation that surrounds what may or may not be contained therein is that not only the American people, but such a large number of their representatives in Congress have not read it and spend more time demanding to know what is not included in the report than in actually discovering what is.
Read it for yourself and see if you do not agree with me when I say that “Even the redacted version presents as clear a case of obstruction of justice as any sentient human being needs to impeach the President. It only needs to be read.”
Read it and then contact your representatives and tell them that Trump must be impeached now… today.

Read it here:  DOJ Mueller Report in .pdf file

You can view the press conference here:  Mueller Press Conference 5/29/2019

 

The Green New Deal in a readable format and a video…

For the purpose of clarity and for my own use in comprehending the content, I copied and pasted the text of the legislation for the Green New Deal (House Resolution 109) into an MSWord .doc file and reformatted the language in less daunting form so it can be read more easily (hopefully).  It contains the same language, but in a smoother context, one that I find renders it less intimidating so I could actually make sense of it.

I thought I would pass it on to you, so hopefully you’ll take the time to read it.  Granted, it’s not much in the headlines these days, given the feud and fuss over the de-fanged and blacked-out Mueller Report, which, it turns out, is quite an indictment of Trump as it is… but rest assured, the people who rolled out the Green New Deal are not about to give up and neither should you.  The problems it points out are not going to vanish and the solutions it presents are bold, viable, and absolutely necessary for the future of us all.

I’ve included links to both the original text and my own format below:

If you like to read legislative text in the raw, (some people are like that) go here:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109/text

But if you are legislatively challenged and want to read the MSWord outline I created for easier reading, go here:
Click here to read the Green New Deal in plain English format

Feel free to copy it and pass it on to anyone who might benefit.  The more people who are aware of what it actually says, the less chance there is that Koch and Exxon funded think-tanks can fool us by trying to put out disinformation.

I’ll be writing more about it in the future, but I thought that this profoundly interesting and even engaging introduction to the content of the program might be worth a look:

Mobs, momentum, consensus, and the race to be the first to cast a stone…

Senator Elizabeth Warren is calling aloud for impeachment and a Republican group is buying advertisements on Fox that call for accountability.  The media, of course, is aflame with indignation… somewhat slow to arise, but welcome nonetheless.  How sad that it took so long for the “I” word to surface with any substance behind it, if indeed, the mob sounds and pitchforks can be considered substance,  Yet, even now, before any of these leaders have surely had sufficient time to read, much less digest the entire Mueller report… and before they have seen the likely most damaging information that the frog-faced Trump-friendly philistine Barr has seen fit to withhold from intelligent eyes, they are ready now, after more than two years of obvious and in-your-face criminality and corruption, to finally call up the posse, to saddle up and ride.  Sad that it took so long for our Congress to finally grow a spine.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy they’re so motivated now, dismayed perhaps… knowing that such lynch mobs sometimes lose their steam… knowing that the courts could now become the new and crippling blockades to action… knowing that the candidates and the righteously indignant whoevers will then point to and blame the judiciary as the new stumbling block to justice… knowing that this is but the beginning, so far from the end of it… assuming that Trump is no Nixon, having neither the wit nor the will to resign, but will fight this to the bitter end.

In the meantime, he will continue to fragment and dismantle what remains of our Federal government, a task that pleases many of those who now decry and defame him with newfound zeal for integrity, born-again passion for justice.  And by the time the mob starts to gather, it’s not really about integrity or courage… is it?  Life goes on and Pence is waiting in the wings.  The cure could be worse than the cancer.

Me?  I wanted the man impeached from day one, but I’m still reading the Mueller report and I don’t have a staff to do all the reading and write me a summary… and I never really trusted the media, so I’ll get back to you later with the substantive stuff.

For now?  Save me at least one very big stone that I may guiltless in good conscience cast with all righteous indignation and wrath.

Nancy Pelosi vs Franklin Delano Roosevelt… will the real Democratic Party please stand up !!

In a 60 Minute interview that aired on Sunday last, CNBC reports that Nancy Pelosi said, “I do reject socialism.  If people have that view, that’s their view.  That is not the view of the Democratic Party.”  All due respect to Nancy Pelosi, de facto leader of the party in minority that ascended once again to control at least the House, sailing into control on the winds that filled their sails… winds of change that emanated from progressive Democrats and other activists within her party determined to reverse the trends of economic inequality, corporate control of politics, and right wing hegemony, including candidates who were willing to openly identify themselves as democratic socialists… but, perhaps she’s not listening, or even knows the electorate as well as she believes.

It’s obvious, however, that the Democratic Party, the same Party that gave America its longest running, wildly popular President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is no longer the party of the New Deal, nor the kind of party that could so embrace the common good of all its members, giving Americans a legislative agenda that offered us Social Security, the WPA, the FDIC, the National Labor Relations Board, the Glass–Steagall Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Tennessee Valley Authority and countless other bold social programs designed to lift our nation up from the economic collapse in 1929 that was caused by the unparalleled greed of irresponsible bankers, financiers, and monopolistic industrialists.  These programs were vilified by conservatives in their day as a dangerously anti-American socialist agenda which, even in the current conservative climate, are today accepted as inevitable, necessary, beneficial programs that are every bit as American as Mom, the flag, and butter crusted, cinnamon infused, and sugar topped, sweet apple pie.

Nonetheless, and for years now, particularly during the past four decades… since conservatives in both parties canonized Ronald Reagan and began to sing his profane little tune of corporate welfare and the mythology of trickle down economics, Democrats have moved increasingly to the right with their economic policies, suffering a major tectonic shift, claiming territory once held entirely by Republicans, during the Clinton administration.

To be sure, these neo-liberal Democrats retained those “radical” ideas that were inviolable in the minds of most Democrats, like equal “opportunity”, abortion rights, women’s rights, and other fashionable causes célèbres that identified them with a liberal brand, but only in so far as they did not compete with a conservative economic agenda that favored the heavy corporate donors who were so enamored of Clintonian Democracy.  These neo-liberal disciples of the apostle Billary now control the DNC and operate the strings of the corporate media like puppet masters in a Punch and Judy drama in which they assume the role of “Not Trump” as opposed to, say, the Party of Economic and Social Reform. So… where does that leave the progressives in the Party?

What does that bode for the future, when the leadership of the Democratic Party has no desire to aid or entertain the “green dream” of so many of its younger membership, now clearly the more active, not really interested in neo-liberal politicians who pat them on the head and tell them to get in line and accept the same sort of incrementalism and corporatist theories that have made paupers of the majority of working Americans.  Big labor pays Nancy’s freight while corporations spend millions in an effort to make unions illegal.  And our college-educated minority?  They are, too many of them, in debt and in servitude to their student loans for life… like most Americans who try to get ahead… saddled with crippling debt and no clear path to the elusive, if not mythic, American Dream.  Our aged are in danger of being priced out of medical care, in spite of Medicare… and they will be for the unforeseeable, and for some, very short future… for as long as pharmaceutical companies act like mafiosi with medications that should be as inexpensive as clean water, which is less expensive and much less clean than it was forty years ago… and in some areas?  Toxic.  Does any of this sound familiar?

But why talk about distressed populations?  They were abandoned long ago for lack of political clout, worthy now of little more than lip service.  Nancy Pelosi says in effect, if not with the words, “Let them eat cake.”  Does she imagine herself so correct that she no longer listens?  It’s time for the Party of FDR to go back to its roots.  Let’s hope that it’s not too late.  If the Democratic Party of today seems impotent now in relation to Trump?  Where will they stand next year when they demand more loyalty of the electorate than they’ve ever given us in return.

The parallax view from here….

“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency.’ … That is how it started in Germany.”  Thomas Mann in response to accusations by the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a communist.

74a72e9d61ef6e8fb175031b4318632dThe novelist who gave us a classic novel, The Magic Mountain, was an early and fierce critic of Adolf Hitler and the poisonous culture of the Nazis.  Because of his public, even fearless words against them, he was forced to flee his native Germany in 1933, eventually finding refuge in the United States where he became a citizen in 1944.  Yet, even in America, he found himself similarly threatened and hounded by the forces of McCarthyism as he publicly protested and wrote against the oppression of American writers and intellectuals during the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that amounted to nothing less than fear mongering persecution, eventually leading to blacklisting and even to prison sentences as in the case of the Hollywood Ten.  As a result of his public criticism of yet another fascist movement, he was finally forced to leave the U.S. and return to Europe.

The McCarthy era was a low point in American history, proving beyond doubt that the fears of those Americans like Sinclair Lewis, who in 1935 imagined the seed of fascism could find fertile soil in the American psyche, were more than prophetic,  The House Un-American Activities Committee and the later McCarthy hearings in the Senate demonstrated that “it can happen here” and it did to the extent that the foundations of intellectual oppression and propagation of fear was laid.  All that was lacking was the proper demagogue, a role that McCarthy tried desperately to fill.  Thankfully he was thwarted.  The saving graces of our nation at the time were the decency and strength of its leadership, as exemplified in people like attorney Joseph Welch who challenged McCarthy at the Army hearings, and the power of the free press, the courage of journalists like Edward R. Murrow.  The eventual shaming of the demagogues who very nearly destroyed the character and intent of our Constitution was inevitable, but not before they exacted a terrible price on their victims, literally destroying the reputations and careers of thousands of people on the basis of lies and baseless accusation, creating an environment of fear and mistrust.

All of that seems now to have returned and we are once again faced with the ugly specter of fascist intent and unprecedented demagoguery in the person of Donald Trump.  Time and again, this amoral, despotic individual has proven himself invulnerable to every criticism, moving by incremental steps toward autocracy by pushing against the moral and institutional constraints that we always believed were inviolable.  He toys with Congress, attacks our courts, vilifies his critics, challenges and ruthlessly mocks the authority of anyone in our government who tries to oppose him.

On any given day, one could point to any one of a dozen of his actions as a dangerous precedent, the sort of behavior that would eventually bring down any previous politician… and yet, it almost appears as if he draws strength from every cry of “foul” that comes his way.  What is it that makes this man invulnerable?

Has he so wearied his critics with his lack of shame that they simply give up in frustration?  We know well enough that for all his faults, his enablers are willing to forego any appearance of personal integrity for the rewards they receive when he satisfies their corrupt intent, giving them the license they’ve always craved in pursuit of autocracy.  But now, even his greatest critics within the government seem impotent, utterly restrained from meaningful action against him.

Is it possible that they too see opportunity in the phenomena he’s unleashed?  Are they afraid of him?  Or merely and similarly as jaded as his enablers. The answers may not come from a normal perspective.  Perhaps they will come from a parallax view, an unpopular and skewed perspective from the fringes of our society, from a perspective that may no longer exist in our contemporary culture.  Perhaps it will come from the distance, from the past, from the echoes of what we once held dear but seem, somehow, to have lost.

Where is our Sinclair Lewis?
Where is our Thomas Mann?
Where is our Joseph Welch?
Where is our Edward R. Murrow?

Or have we become the very force that feeds the beast we fear, if not through outright support, then with silent acquiescence?  Is this present circumstance the sum of our failures, the substance of our corruption as a nation?  If we hope to survive, we’d better find out just what it is we have lost and regain it.  And soon.

Time is not our friend.

The next revolution will be televised… but will it survive the competition for ratings?

National priorities are too often shaped in a centralized fashion and in circles of focus and influence that entirely eliminate the application of a democratically discerned and representational administration of the will of the majority.  Too complex?  Simply put, then, we have allowed a culture of autocracy to usurp and assume not only the responsibilities of the self-governed, but the lion’s share of the economic benefits we have produced through our collective productivity.
Not unlike the same brand of top-down priorities that compelled the first Americans to write a firm letter to King George telling him to take his taxes and a hike simultaneously, while acting as though it was quite within their rights to govern themselves bottom-up without that divinely inspired autocracy the crown represented at the time.
At the time, it was one hell of an idea, and remarkably successful.  A fluke, perhaps, due to the fact that all the crowns in Europe were too busy competing with one another in global warfare over this and that trade dominion in other backwater continents and had not the time to care about a few British bumpkins in Boston and Philly… ordinary farmers and tradesmen with delusions of democratic grandeur.
We got lucky. Look what happened to the French.

They did not fare so well by half for all their fundamental revolutionary esprit.
Perhaps that’s why, as a nation, we eventually got soft, insulated as we were from the tyrannies and terrors of European conflict… until such time as our war profiteers saw profit to be had in our involvement, plunging us all into so much overseas warfare that we somehow got the idea it was our raison d’être, that we were the anointed defenders of… what? Freedom?
Under that curious brand we became the world’s unpaid mercenaries, this uber-militaristic nation with some apparent national will to martial all our nation’s resources toward maintaining a military power unparalleled in our time, quite at the expense of our own common welfare, in order to wage incessant war for this or that “ally”… though less, if at all,  in the name of some idealistic purpose than for commercial access to and control of such needful commodities as oil which belong to poorer, weaker nations… warfare in the name of profit… though we are quite in denial of the true reasons… and for the sake of what? Appearances? Hard to tell, but in so doing and by continuing to allow it, we’ve managed to create for ourselves an ever more parasitical autocracy than mad King George could have ever hoped to effect.
Maybe it’s time for another Philadelphia Brand course correction.
Maybe it’s time to write another letter… an email, perhaps, but this time with a lot of BCCs.  Not to the people who supposedly represent us in the seat of our government, but to all the CEOs of all the global corporations that own them and pull their various strings.
What, after all, do we really have to lose? And… who knows? Like those earlier Americans, we just might get lucky.

Racing toward a different kind of world with apathy and elan… America descending

I’ve written about this before in other venues, been criticized for the analogy accordingly, but I truly never better understood until recently, if at all, how the German people allowed such a bizarre, motley crew of bigoted fanatics, political extremists, and the outright criminally insane… how they allowed such dangerous, posturing fools as those surrounding Hitler to march them so proudly into self-destructive trends with such obvious intent from the outset.  One need only read Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, which was published in two volumes in 1925 & 1926 to understand how he might respond in the 1930’s and 1940’s as a leader of the German Reich.  The predictability was stunning.

AFP_L72YNBy the same token, one need only observe the people surrounding Trump… to have listened to everything Trump was saying before he was elected to the office of the presidency of the United States in order to not only know how he would respond to the power given him, but to accurately predict that he would seek to abuse the office, broach the legal limits thereof, and to personally enrich himself from a position of authority in our government.

Nonetheless, early and numerous critics of his amoral and despotic style notwithstanding, who among the red-hatted throngs that followed him from the start could possibly predict that Trump would so easily discern the corruption around him and use the profound lack of integrity extant in American politics today to his advantage in dismantling the very government and its Constitution which he is theoretically sworn to uphold and protect?  Certainly they cannot still be blind to his character… or, more properly, his lack thereof. Do they even care?  And if not, why not?

So many American people, like the Germans before them, seem to need and to love a strong man who will soothe their fears concerning uneasy perceptions of threats from within and without.  For all their denial… for those, at least, who do not say such things aloud for fear of criticism… his message is unwavering and infinitely clear.  It’s a very dark message.  Is it now the message of America?

I’m reminded of the Bible verse, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

I have no doubt that the critics of Hitler, those who were not fooled by their fears, could easily discern the subliminal truth in the evil of his message.  Were they happy enough to shrug their objections aside when the German economy rebounded as it re-armed itself with a mad sort of pride in its growing invincibility?  Is that why they let him continue?

They did, you know… let Hitler continue.  He could never have done what he did if they’d truly opposed him when opposition was possible.  Is that what’s happening here?