February 2023 Literary Calendar

Events in the month of February for writers and readers

African-American History Month

Creative Romance Month

International Friendship Month

Library Lovers’ Month

Famous February Birthdays

Other February Events

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Poked

Ouch!  That really hurt!

I know.  But you should be used to it by now.

Expect it – but not used to it.  Ouch!

No one cares.

I know, but – ouch!  I’ve been here forever!

So have I.

Can’t you please free ne from this box?

I can, but I won’t.

Please!  I implore you!

No.

And again I ask why?

And again, I’ll tell you why – you never repented, even when you had the chance.  A last minute chance, in that bunker.  But a chance nonetheless.

But I have repented!  I have – ouch!

Yes, you did.  But, too late.

Please tell me – is Eva here with me?

Perhaps, perhaps not.  That’s none of your concern.

But I – ouch! – I loved her!  We died together!

Yes, you did.  But her fate is still none of your concern.

I can hear a woman screaming nearby.  Please tell me if that’s her.

Maybe.  Still – none of your concern.

I can hear others screaming.

Yes – there are a number of others here.

How many of us are trapped here?

Oh – quite a number.

Who?  Ouch!

Again – none of your concern.

Someone keeps poking me!

I know.

Is that you?

It’s just something that happens.

Why won’t it stop?!  Someone – ouch! – someone keeps jabbing me.

I know.

Can’t you make it stop?

Yes – I could.  But I won’t.

Why?  Why do you let this happen?

You’re a fool for asking.  You induced so much pain and suffering to so many people – millions of people.

I know.  I realize that.  And I’m so sorry for that.

Too late.

I really am sorry.  Please, believe me!  I’m truly remorseful!

Again – too late.

But I’m not the only one here – right?

Of course not.  People from all over are here.

And are they – ouch! – are they going through the same thing as me?

They’re enduring some unpleasantries.

Are you going to keep me in this box forever?  Oof!

Yes.

Oh please, no!  Please, please let me go!  I beg you!  I’m so sorry for what I did to all those people!  I truly am!

All those millions?  Some 6 million or more.

Yes!

I doubt it.

But I am!  I truly regret what I did to them.

Too late.

I know there are others who did worse than me!  Who killed more!  You know that as well, don’t you?!

Yes – of course I know that.  You think I differentiate among the numbers?

I don’t know.  I would think so.

I don’t.

But – who are you?

You know who I am.

I – I think so.  But I can’t see you.  I’ve never seen you.  I can only hear you.

You still know who I am and you know why you’re here.

Please, please let me go!  Please let me out of this – ouch! – out of this box.  I can’t stand the poking and prodding anymore!  I know what I did was so horrible.  I understand now.  I know that now.  And I’m so sorry for it!  Please, please believe me!

I don’t.

How long will I have to stay here?

Through the end of time.

What time?  When will that time end?

Time never ends.

Oh please!  That can’t be true!

It is.

How can it not end?  Everything must end.

Not time.

Oh please let me go!  I implore you!  Ouch!  I beg of you!  I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done.  I am.  Oh please believe me.  Ouch!

No.

Please, please!  Hey…are you still there?  Hello?  Hey…please…please let me go.  I think I’m bleeding.  Please!  Please!  I’m so sorry for all those people!  Please!  Please believe me!  Hello?!  Oh please, make it stop.  Please!  It’s burning!  Ohhh!  Ah!

Time doesn’t end.

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What He’s Done

SWAT officers take Solomon Peña into custody in Albuquerque, New México. (Photo: Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Earlier this week New México police arrested a failed Republican congressional candidate and charged him with hiring some men to shoot up the homes of Democratic opponents. Solomon Peña allegedly was dissatisfied with the results of his race last year and decided to seek revenge in the worst possible way: through violence. Like his idol, former President Donald Trump, Peña is an election denier and claimed fraud in his own run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost to his Democratic opponent by more than 3,600 votes.

In the U.S. many elected officials – mostly Democrat and liberal – have been the targets of political violence over the past 5 or 6 years; which (not surprisingly) coincides with the rise of Trump.  The animosity reached a feverish crescendo on January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in a failed attempt to undermine the 2020 presidential election, as well as democracy itself.  I’m still angry at the sight of hundreds storming into the building and even angrier at those who continue to support Trump and dismiss the severity of that day.  Like most Americans, the rampage reminded me of images of developing countries in the throes of political chaos.  While various groups in the U.S. have threatened to inflict such carnage over previous decades, no one really thought it would happen.

We have Donald Trump to thank for that.

Threatening election officials and taking out opponents with bullets is what used to happen in places like Colombia and the Philippines.  Even as recently as 1995, Israel experienced political violence when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.  The act stunned the international community and roiled the only truly democratic state in the Middle East.

Americans have always had a love-hate relationship with their elected officials, whether or not they actually voted for them, or even voted at all.  But I’ve always believed the Watergate fiasco was a major turning point in our nation’s disillusionment with politicians overall.  That a sitting president would seek to gain an advantage over his adversaries by concocting a burglary scheme shocked most people.  They always sort of knew politicians weren’t necessarily the most moral of individuals, but an actual break-in?

A greater sense of partisanship began to take hold in the ensuing decade and became more pronounced in the 1990s, as Republicans did everything they could – and failed – to undermine Bill Clinton’s agenda.  The scandalous (and genuinely corrupt) 2000 presidential election widened the chasm of discontent.  The GOP’s blatant disrespect for President Barack Obama was even more egregious and appalling – but not really unexpected from conservatives, as far as I was concerned.

Then came Donald Trump, and the haters suddenly had a license to lash out with unabashed vigor.  All the social upheavals of the 1960s were the result of tensions that had been brewing for decades; people had grown tired of just waiting for change and hoping for the best.  In a similar, yet twisted manner, the right-wing extremism that exploded under Trump also had been fomenting in the souls of angry (mostly White male) conservatives for years; that is, since…well, since the 1960s.  Ronald Reagan once said he wanted to return America to the time before the 60s screwed up everything.  As a relic of his past, he naturally didn’t understand we can’t go backwards in time.  That’s science fiction.  But that’s why I call most conservatives preservatives – they want to preserve the old ways of life; ways that were good for them, of course, but not everyone else.

Trump revised that futile dream with his “Make America Great Again” mantra; claiming he wanted to “take America back”.  Back to where, those of us with more than half a brain asked, and how far?  Back to the Civil War?  Back to the Gilded Age?

Peña is just one cog in the wheel of America’s political vitriol.  Think of this for a few moments.  Acting like a drug cartel leader, Peña (who already had a felony criminal record) hired some thugs to fire gun shots into the homes of people he thought had snatched victory from him. At least one of those bullets ended up in a child’s bedroom.  Just as with drug cartels, Peña and his henchmen cared nothing about their intended victims and any collateral damage – i.e., innocent bystanders.  Drug lords only care about their profits; everyone and everything else be damned.  Peña only cared about exacting personal revenge over what he perceived to be a corrupt system.  We’re not supposed to do that in civilized societies.

But that is Trump’s legacy.  That is what he’s done to the overall concept of democracy.

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Happy New Year 2023!

“We turn not older in years, but newer every day.”

Emily Dickinson

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January 2023 Literary Calendar

Events in the month of January for writers and readers

National Braille Literacy Month

Famous January Birthdays

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Merry Christmas 2022!

“It is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come.”

Malcolm X

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A House at 50

“Listen,” I said to my father, “you hear that?”

He didn’t know what I meant.

“Nothing.”

It was December 1972, and my 9-year-old self had never heard such quiet in a neighborhood.  This week marks 50 years since my parents and I moved into this home in suburban Dallas.  The area was newly-developed; former farm and ranch territory that comprised the hinterlands of a growing metropolis.  Family and friends wondered how my parents had managed to find the place.

We had been living in a two-bedroom apartment above a garage in the back of a house owned by my father’s oldest sister and her husband.  Located just north of downtown Dallas, it sat very near Harry Hines Boulevard – a lengthy industrial stretch of road that would later become more infamous as a haven for prostitutes and adult book stores.

My mother was in that apartment with a 17-day-old me on November 22, 1963, when she heard a cacophony of sirens and rushed to a window.  She saw the tail of President Kennedy’s motorcade rushing down Harry Hines, unaware of what had just happened moments earlier.

On the day we began moving into our new home, my aunt made herself scarce.  She had grown so accustomed to having us there that she couldn’t bear the sight of us packing up to leave.

It’s hard to imagine now, but not until we moved here did we get our first color television set.  A month later we finally got our phone.  I still have that number connected.  In 1972, Richard Nixon won a second term in the White House; Watergate reared its contemptuous head; violence marred the Summer Olympics in Munich; HBO launched; Polaroid introduced the SX-70 one-step instant camera; and three of my favorite films – “Cabaret”, “The Godfather”, and “The Poseidon Adventure” – came out.

My parents were excited because they were now living the American dream of home ownership.  My father was particularly enthusiastic to follow his mother’s tradition of gardening and quickly found paradise in the front and back yards.  I was thrilled with the prospect of getting a dog.  It was a promise my parents had made to me upon moving into the house.  They fulfilled it the following summer when they bought a German shepherd puppy I named Josh.  My mother had to swallow her phobia of large canines; having witnessed a man ravaged by a Doberman in the late 1930s.

My parents made friends with many of the neighbors, and I maintain a few of those friendships today.  They each had that type of personality, especially my father – they seemed to make friends with most anyone.  I, on the other hand, seemed naturally reticent to meet new people.  Regardless, our home became a refuge for most everyone we knew.  We often held parties and other gatherings; if for no other reason except to have a party or a gathering.  Family, friends and neighbors relished visiting.  This was a place where all good souls were welcome; where people could feel happy and safe.  We had food (real food – not just chips and dips!), music, beverages, laughter and plenty of love.  No one left here sad or dejected.  Drunk and tired, maybe – but never glum.

When my father lay in a hospital bed in May of 2016, he reiterated that he wanted to die here – in this house.  It was a wish I was able to grant him.  My mother also passed away here in 2020.

A few years ago I told an old friend, Paul, that I suspected I will die here, too, albeit alone.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.

“Nothing!” I replied.  It was more a statement than an omen.

So I’m alone now.  This house is quiet.  At a half century it’s showing its age.  But it’s mine; it’s where I grew up and where my parents drew their last breath.  It’s where so many people came to enjoy life.

It’s a house at 50, but it’s always been a home.

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Look!  No Handshakes!

U.S. Capitol Hill police officer Brian Sicknick received a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal on December 6.

This past Tuesday, December 6, the Capitol Hill Police officers who battled enraged mobs on January 6, 2021 received Congressional Gold Medals – the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress to individuals and institutions for distinguished achievements and contributions.  They certainly deserve them.

Among the recipients was the late Brian Sicknick, an Air Force veteran whose family accepted on his behalf.  Sicknick suffered a stroke amidst the chaos of January 6 and died the next day.  But something curious happened on Tuesday.

Sicknick’s family refused to shake hands with leaders of the Republican Party – Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy.  It wasn’t because they’re die-hard Democrats (what are often called “yellow dog” Democrats in Texas; meaning someone would rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican) and certainly not merely to cause a ruckus.  To them it was a matter of “integrity”.

Integrity is an attribute that has been lacking in American politics for decades.  What little of it remained in Washington in January of 2017 was obliterated by Donald Trump and his supporters.  Like many Americans Sicknick’s family is disgusted with the GOP leadership as a whole; particularly their failure (unwillingness) to stand up to Trump and call out his repulsive behavior.  Trump’s disrespect for entire groups of people, discombobulated verbiage and other incendiary acts culminated in the horror of January 6 – a truly unprecedented event in American history.

While it may seem petty, even childish, on their part, I’m glad the Sicknicks decided not to be painfully polite and shake the hands of McConnell and McCarthy.  Craig Sicknick, one of Brian’s brothers, expressed no qualms about his family’s decision.  “I really do not hold respect for people who have no integrity,” he said.  “Which is what – this is not a partisan issue, this is an integrity issue. They took an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution.  And when somebody challenges it, like Trump, they do nothing.  Their silence is deafening.  Or worse they keep perpetrating the same policies and lies that caused the insurrection to happen.”

Previously McConnell has condemned Trump’s actions, but McCarthy has visited the former president at his Mar-a-Lago estate several times over the past year.  Conservatives frequently criticized former President Bill Clinton for his varied sexual indiscretions and even tried to remove him from office for one such liaison.  But, when Trump arrived on the scene with his third wife and a slew of even more reprehensible follies, they suddenly seemed to enter a forgiving state of mind.  Moreover, they let Trump reconfigure the entire Republican Party into a circus of hate and violence.

It’s also worth noting that 21 Republicans voted against granting any of those officers Congressional Gold Medals last year.  One, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, explained that he was bothered by the use of the term “insurrectionists” to describe the rioters.

“I think if we call that an insurrection, it could have a bearing on their case that I don’t think would be good,” Massie said, later adding, “If they just wanted to give the police recognition, they could have done it without trying to make it partisan, without sticking that in there.”

Partisan?  Really?  Hearing Republicans complain about partisanship is like hearing a drug addict complain about a friend’s alcoholism.

Integrity does matter.  The Capitol Hill police officers displayed it unrelentingly on January 6.  We need more of it across the world.

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When Three Losers Meet for Dinner

What do a failed president, a disoriented rapper and a White separatist have in common?  They’re all losers!  And, as news reports have revealed, they all met for dinner just before Thanksgiving.  Former President Donald Trump hosted hip-hop singer Kanye West (now known as Ye) and right-wing extremist media personality Nick Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida a few weeks ago.

If I ever host a dinner party with some of the most interesting and intellectual people in the world, the three aforementioned clowns wouldn’t get past my front door.  (Disclaimer: no offense meant to professional clowns.)

We’ve all had those ‘what-were-they-thinking’ reactions to certain people’s bizarre behavior.  But Trump, West and Fuentes bring a new level of absurdity into the public forum.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a walking embodiment of incompetence (Trump) would invite two other dopers to his estate.

I’ve never been a fan of Trump.  When he announced his bid for the U.S. presidency in 2015, I pointed out that he’d technically been running for president for some 30 years.  In a 1980s interview with Barbara Walters, she queried Trump about whether or not he would seek the Oval Office.  Many scoffed at the notion that a New York real estate tycoon should run for the presidency simply because he was incredibly wealthy and well-known.

Those of us old enough to remember the excesses of the 1980s – especially here in the U.S. – know that wealth and fame suddenly became requisites for political office or any kind of leadership position.

Regardless of his status, Trump isn’t a realist.  Consider his relentless – and undeniably refuted – claims that the 2020 elections were fraudulent.  He still refuses to accept defeat; thus proving he’s the proverbial sore loser.  In my own analysis, the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections were blatantly fraudulent, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

But West and Fuentes are also denialists.  West denies observations that he has no real talent, and Fuentes denies the Nazi Holocaust occurred.  I’m certain they all deny other realities, but I don’t want to spend that much time on them.

Trump, West and Fuentes are perfect companions for each other.  While Trump made a name for himself in the 1980s as a successful real estate magnate, West made a name for himself in the violence-prone world of hip-hop.  I have to admit I can’t identify any of his “songs” and I wouldn’t care to either.

Fuentes’ arrival in the public arena is recent.  At barely 24 years old, he’s become an icon of right-wing extremists; a youthful vial of hate and bigotry.  He represents a new generation of Christo-fascist warriors who believe, for example, that Christopher Columbus discovered America and African slaves were actually indentured servants.

Further proving his detachment from reality, Trump denied knowing who Fuentes is.  He’d allegedly invited only West for dinner, and West invited Fuentes.  Of course that’s what happened!

No matter who invited who for dinner, Trump brought out the worst in humanity: the hatred, the putrid, the disgusting and the violent.  Along with West and Fuentes, he represents everything that’s wrong with this nation – and everything a civilized society shouldn’t be.

But let them dine together!  They deserve one another.

The rest of us deserve better.

Image: Kelli R. Grant/Yahoo News; photos: Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/AFP via Getty Images, Joe Raedle/Getty Images, Rainmaker Photos/MediaPunch /IPX via AP)

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In Memoriam: Christine McVie, 1943-2022

“I try to say I love you in a million different ways. That’s what I aspire to do. That’s what I do best.”

Christine McVie

“Everywhere”

“Go Your Own Way”

“Hold Me”

“Little Lies”

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