GO PUBLIC (Outcry)

"I just think there's too much influence about big money, Wall Street money, in our society," complained Robert Durham, who works at the local Chevrolet dealership and sent two sons through Abington Senior High School.    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/13/business/steven-schwarzman-blackstone-abington-pennsylvania.html

He's right, totally, and everyone knows it. A society that celebrates wealth and shrewd over everything, certainly over value and smart. And when anyone bemoans it, generation after generation, he or she is labeled a communist, socialist, un-American, loser, not smart, or simply jealous. In one fashion or another, money and the increasingly inequitable distribution of it, and the power that goes with it, are at the center of our problems as a nation.

So while one must applaud Mr. Schwarzman's benevolence to his alma mater and the New York Public Library (and note in passing the ego feed from naming buildings and tax deductions that must surely accompany the largesse), one can't help but think that a properly structured and prioritized society would have the revenues and understanding to direct its own resources to public schools and public libraries.

Unfortunately when I think of this benefactor, I still think of other things.

2007, when Rod Stewart sang and the Trumps dined at his 60th Birthday Party.  http://gawker.com/236663/stephen-schwarzmans-super-sweet-60th-birthday

2009, when his Blackstone Group stock traded for $4.50 a share ($27 a share below its 2007 IPO price and its price today) before a taxpayer-funded bailout kicked in.

2010, when he used a proposed tax on banking's carried interest tax loophole and Hitler's 1939 invasion of Poland in the same sentence.    https://www.theguardian.com/business/andrew-clark-on-america/2010/aug/17/privateequity-secondworldwar

2012 to the present, when Blackstone's foray into buying up eighty thousand or so foreclosed single-family homes paid off handsomely into the billions.

And 1175 of course, and Maimonides and his Eight Levels of Charityhttps://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/45907/jewish/Eight-Levels-of-Charity.htm

I'm giving this a 5 at best.

 

 

 

Mar-a-Lago

Before you read my parody lyrics MAR-A-LAGO, make sure to watch Bertie Higgins's original music video which is worth the price of admission to that don't look back period sometimes known as the early 80s. Or sing along if you must.

Wrapped around you comrade

Trying so hard not to collude

That first awful year together

Speaking in words just so crude

Watching all that cable news

Seeing the scandals just grow

Hannity, I was your hero

And you were my leading schmo

 

We had it all

Just like Nixon, Harding et al

Starring in our own shit-shit show

Air Force One to Mar-a-Largo

 

Here's lookin’ at you, kid

Missing all the facts we hid

We can bury them again, I know

Just like we did in Mar-a-Largo

 

Pirro, can't you remember?

We filled all the roles

With wonderful white yes men

With Scrooge and Midas goals

Please say you will...say it again

Cause they’ll believe your shill

Baby this can't be the end.

 

We had it all

Just like Nixon, Harding et al

Starring in our own shit-shit show

Air Force One to Mar-a-Largo

 

Here's lookin’ at you, kid

Missing all the facts we hid

We can bury them again, I know

Just like we did in Mar-a-Largo

 

We had it all

Just like Nixon, Harding et al

Starring in our own shit-shit show

Air Force One to Mar-a-Largo

 

 

 

This is a parody and no copyright or rights are claimed in the video or the original music and lyrics, some of which appear in the parody which is © Peter Brav 2018.

AT MINIMUM

The minimum age, make it seventy

Give me Social Security

 

And my AR-15.

 

By then few of us will be bitter

Or even remember

What it was that happened when,

 

Problems at school, or on the bus

Always being part of them

And never part of us,

The surprise parties, surprise, no one threw

The relationships that never grew

The nerves, the drugs, the tease

All the failed efforts just to please,

The woulda been, coulda been, shoulda been

Mine

The crappy pay for nine to nine,

The wife who left

The girls who laughed

The race against no one

Where I finished last,

 

By seventy, you see

I’ll be at the shore, cheap cigar in hand

Forgetting it was you

Who broke up the band,

The waves will break

The same for you and me

And ain’t that the way

It’s supposed to be?

Yes, I’ll be ready

Ready at last

For my automatic weapon

With bullets so fast,

On the beach

With seven decades over my belt

Ready for inaction

To not avenge all that pain I thought I felt,

 

Seventy

A damn good minimum age

For substituting self-defense

For simple human rage.

 

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2018

SEVENTEEN

I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was meant for beauty queens, and high school girls with clear skinned smiles, who married young and then retired, the Valentines I never knew, the Friday night charades of youth, were spent on one more beautiful, at seventeen I learned the truth....
— Janis Ian 1973

The truth, the truth

Is you don’t care

Otherwise you’d never dare

Spew the same old same old

Guns into gold

We’re gone now

From your self-righteous vanity

We the Parkland Seventeen

With voices strong enough to carry sanity

 

Once upon a time

It was our time

Up next, you said

You’ll make it better

You’ll learn from our mistakes

You’ll change the world

 

We went to school to learn

Chemistry, we studied it

History, you muddied it

We painted, we wrote

We danced, we played

We took our stances

On the fields you made

And oh we learned, we learned

What you’ll do for capital’s gain

What happens when you ignore the pain

When a look away world paints red in stain

How not, how not

To die in vain

 

We are here

We Seventeen

We’re not going anywhere

One, two, three, four

Thirteen more

We watch and wait no longer

Every day our voice gets stronger

 

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2018

 

 

SEARCHING FOR SANITY

Tossing and turning this past week, so upset by the seventeen deaths in Parkland and the screams and cries of families and survivors who will never see their loved ones again. Images of smiling hopeful lives snuffed out by maximum hate, ignorance and artillery. Pictures of young men and women at the beginning of life, smiles from social media a week ago, and now only the interviews of horror as told by survivors.

I want to scream and cry too, and curse, a hundred times, a thousand times, one certainly for each of the bullets rapid-fired a week ago. Instead I listen, the words, the usual words.

How? Columbine.

Why? Orlando.

People kill people, not guns. Sutherland Springs.

What can we do? Sandy Hook.

Congress. Vegas.

Mental illness. Virginia Tech.

The President. San Bernardino.

Do something. Charleston.

The NRA. Parkland.

He was nineteen years old and hateful, both parents gone, expelled, anti-everyone and everything, desperate, hopeless, enraged, a young man with nothing more in his mind to lose. And the absolutely worst part, heavily armed.

When….is the next one? When…will we wake up? When…will we devote the resources and manpower necessary to stop this madness and pass the long overdue gun control legislation we need to try? When…will we stop offering death threats for those willing to speak out about gun violence?

I so want to believe that those who hold onto what they believe are their constitutional rights mean well, that they sincerely believe that they are the good guys and gun control will leave guns only in the hands of the bad guys. That they and their guns will be the deterrent most often and the difference when necessary. But that is not the history in this country and certainly not the experience of every other nation on earth. Gun ownership by responsible gun owners should not mean a seemingly unlimited quantity of both weapons and rapidly fired ammunition. Common sense gun control should be common sense.

But wait, is that really a pundit just wanting to hear himself talk, wondering aloud if a Parkland teen survivor conspired with his ex-FBI dad to concoct an impassioned demand for change? Are they still blaming the elites? Mental illness? Are they still twisting the narrative, telling people that guns are freedom? That they need protection from a runaway government? That it’s all Obama’s fault?

Friends have said that if reasonable gun control didn’t get done in 2012 immediately after the tiniest of schoolchildren were massacred in Newtown, Connecticut it will never ever be accomplished in a country that has lived and died by the gun since its inception.

I don’t want to believe that. The energized eloquent shouters of Parkland, with millions of dollars and millions of sane citizens standing behind them, have given me new hope.

It is too late for all those beautiful young lives who are gone. Theirs is the silence that cries out louder than all the others for anyone listening.

It is mental illness. It is the culture. It is the stress, the alienation, the technology, the video games, the loss of community, the overseas wars, the gangs, the drugs, the lack of a safety net, the hatred, the anger. These are part of the human condition as we’ve come to know and define it. What makes them all the more uniquely frightening in this nation are the guns.

So that’s where we start, with the guns, specifically first with the rapid-firing automatic weapons that have turned yesterday’s fracas into today’s massacre. Remove them from all but law enforcement. Immediately. Did I hear you say just that last week, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel? That you’re going to stop funding politicians who accept NRA funds, significant GOP checkwriter Al Hoffmann?  That you’re turning in your AR-57, longtime responsible Florida gun owner Ben Dickmann? Thank you, thank you, thank you. Did I hear you say it won’t help, National Review’s David French, and that we need to be aware, courageous and caring? I cannot imagine you being that analytical if it had been you who lost a loved one to this madness. Hunters know no one’s coming for their hunting guns. NRA Board members know it’s not really about the Second Amendment and that its millions of members aren’t about to become a militia in the face of sometimes wrongful governing. Somehow, this tiny sliver of the economy, the gun industry, has a stranglehold on the survival of our young people. So it starts with an end to all distribution of rapid-fire automatic weapons in this country except to law enforcement personnel. Now. Support it or get out of government.

Perhaps then we can focus on the much tougher part of building a healthier nation and a better world, the part about having a nation of greater community, less divisiveness, greater economic equality, more and better education, more available healthcare physical and mental, more resources devoted to fractured families and school warning signs, less violence and less armaments, and frankly more love. That would involve changing our mindset about who we are and where we’re going. How to bring front and center the love for each other so many of us have and how to bring as many along and into the fold as we can. Some would tell you that was the purpose of every religion’s teachings and others would tell you it’s all codified in our free nation’s best constitutional principles. But those always seem to get twisted for convenience and faction. I would tell you it’s in all of us. We saw it in 1945 when an entire world gave thanks to those who sacrificed in a battle against pure evil. We saw it in 2001 when an entire world put aside tribalism and hatred in a spirit of true gratitude (if only for an all too brief period of time) for those who showed unbelievable courage. And we saw it earlier this week as people gave their lives so that others might live in Parkland.

We have too long been a winner take all nation and not understood why so many feel lost and alienated. We have too long asked our young men and women to go to war in other lands for unclear reasons and purposes and looked the other way from the death and traumatic after-effects of survival. We have too long imprisoned too many, too long built walls, too long undereducated, underpaid and underemployed, too long substituted religious proverbs and national cheerleading for positive action, too long supplied the populace legally or illegally with drugs to anesthetize and guns to murder, and now too long hated each other from a distance via media that was supposed to bring us closer.

Sometimes an answer can be found in the tossing and turning, even if it’s the simple things, even if it’s three or four decades after the fact and even if it’s in the context of a uniquely violent sport like American football. Sometimes an answer can be found in a place like the Super Bowl. Such a truly American spectacle and only one winner on the biggest stage. A hundred million viewers and billions of dollars flowing. So all-encompassing that rarely have I thought anything about the Super Bowl outside the lines, the million-dollar ads and the halftime show.

There was Black Sunday though, that 1977 movie with Bruce Dern as bad guy Michael Lander, a Goodyear blimp pilot upset over his wartime service in Vietnam and subsequent court martial. He conspires with Palestinian terrorists to kill everyone they can at Super Bowl X because that’s what alienated, disaffected losers do in American cinema.

And then a few nights ago, there was the brighter side, on ESPN’s 30 for 30.

January 27, 1991, Tampa, Super Bowl XXV. Ten days into Desert Storm, a nation on edge, armed security precautions that have now become routine, Hollywood’s Black Sunday imagination so sadly come to life. The late Whitney Houston gives a rendition of the National Anthem that still makes people shake with emotion for the nation that we want to be and can be. The New York Giants are ahead of the Buffalo Bills 20 to 19 with just seconds to go. There, at the end, is Scott Norwood missing a not very easy 47-yard field goal that would have given the 1991 Super Bowl Championship to the Bills.

No good. Wide right.

Al Michaels on the call and the Giants win again, making fans of the behemoth metropolis winners and leaving the bedraggled, economically depressed denizens to the north losers for the first of four consecutive years.

There is no more glaring spotlight than a player not performing in the most critical moment of his or her sport. But the day after the big game Scott Norwood is greeted in Niagara Square with the other Bills losers by 25,000 screaming fans who chant his name in adulation, love and understanding, something we need to see a lot more of around this nation, like every day.

Karl Taro Greenfeld’s July 12, 2004 piece in Sports Illustrated about Norwood’s life after the kick is excellent and his words can be applied to what we need to do right now.

We are a fickle nation, quick to dismiss failure and embrace success. Prove yourself a champion, and we will love you forever, overlooking murder raps and drug busts and spousal abuse. But fall short on the field, and we may never forgive, no matter how you conduct yourself away from the game…The measure of a man should no more be his worst moments than it should be the color of his skin or the cut of his suit. It is how we deal with those moments that make us who we are, and that is the most American measure of success: to fail once, to pick yourself up and try again. We are a nation of losers made good, descendants of those who settled here in search of a second chance.

There will be no second chances for the crazed shooters of Parkland, Las Vegas, Newtown, and everywhere in this country who have brought unimaginable horror into our reality. But for those of us left behind in grief, there is another chance. We have failed in letting automatic weapons proliferate through our nation like so many signed death warrants. So let’s start there. And we have failed in forgetting that caring for and about each other is expensive, time-consuming and the only chance we have. We can work on that next. But we are Americans. It’s worth remembering that we can get things done when we want to.

 

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2018

February 16

Met the love of my life 35 years ago today. New York Health & Racquet Club.56th Street and Sixth Avenue. A Wednesday. Went for coffee and she paid for herself. She didn't want any obligations.

2 Ducks.jpg

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2018

Trump Presidential Library

"I just hope people appreciate how much money the American taxpayer will save on Trump's Presidential Library."                                                Donald J. Trump, Tuesday November 3, 2020

All Rights Reserved (text only and not photographs or wording therein) ©Peter Brav 2018

Wishing You Were Here

Tomorrow January 19th would have been my Mom Adele's 90th Birthday. She loved America, literally baseball and apple pie (but definitely not beer, see photo below), and was thankful for the life she had here after her wartime adolescence. She remained loving and hopeful even as declining health over a number of years took its toll. She is so very missed. Sometimes it's hard to remember how vital and protective she was when I was young, how passionate she was working at Gimbels and Sterns later, how determined she was in 1987 to get her GED despite having had her education interrupted by Hitler at the beginning of 4th Grade. Mom was a terrific writer, especially for someone who spoke not a word of English until learning the language while working at Macys Herald Square in the late forties. Here's an excerpt from a project I definitely will finish for her one of these days:

"....And I would dream of the faraway places where some of my closest relatives had journeyed. There was my grandmother Miriam, recently returned from living with my Aunt Adele in Palestine. Life in Palestine had been exciting, a challenge, but quite simply she had missed us. And there was my Uncle Benne, who had been living all my life in that strangest of lands, America, of which I knew little. Sometimes we would discuss it at the dinner table. New York. Chicago. Miami Beach. They all seemed so far away and it was hard for me to believe that I actually had an uncle in a place called Brooklyn. Sometimes my parents would be at the dinner table, reading a letter from Benne with its Brooklyn postmark or from Adele sent from Haifa, and the discussion would quickly turn to whether our own family should relocate. As the 1930s progressed, Hitler was increasing his power and the sounds of hatred were growing louder. It seemed that some of our fellow Poles were falling in line and my parents could sense the daily tension growing even in our remote village. But my father was totally against moving, especially out of the country. This was his home, his village, his native country...."

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2018

Those Countries

I met a wonderful young teenager today for coffee to answer questions he might have about my alma mater. He was bright, disciplined, sincere, focused, eloquent, polite, and outstanding in so many respects I don’t have space here to list them. With a passion for computers and learning everything he can about the world, plus a background that already includes founding a successful charitable corporation, the world, and our nation in particular, are better for having him in it. Late in our meeting I learned that his role model is his father who worked so hard as a young man in one of those shithole countries in Latin America and was able decades ago to matriculate at a fine American university. That man is now a senior executive at a large American corporation with a son who has already made him proud.

The café was closing this afternoon as we finished our talk. I noticed that the manager letting us out was wearing a yellow Pittsburgh Pirates Clemente t-shirt.

“Greatest of men,” I told the manager and he smiled and thanked me.

Outside, the teen asked who Clemente was and it was hard for me to contain my enthusiasm. “Go home and Google him,” I replied. “He was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Tragically he died a young man in a New Year’s Eve 1972 plane crash delivering needed emergency supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua, just a few countries away from the place your father came from.”

We said good-bye. By now, I am supremely confident that this young man has searched the name Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker and learned more about him than I ever did. He knows I’m sure that Clemente was born in Puerto Rico, a United States unincorporated territory since 1898 that has been exploited for a very long time and (were it not for last fall’s lingering hurricane tragedy putting it in the news daily) would still be one of those countries to our current leadership. He knows that as a Black Puerto Rican entering baseball just a few years after Jackie Robinson, Clemente experienced his share of racial discrimination but always took the high road above derision and division, quoted as stating that he did not believe in color. He knows that Clemente won 2 World Series titles with the Pirates and was MVP on one of those teams, played on 12 National League All-Star Teams, won 12 Gold Gloves and 4 National League Batting Titles, had 3,000 hits, and of course gained posthumous and early special election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He knows that Clemente served honorably as a member of the United States Marine Corps Reserve between 1958 and 1964. And he must surely now know that after years of off-season charitable work, Clemente chartered at his own expense and boarded that fateful flight to Nicaragua after learning that the aid packages on three earlier relief flights had not reached the victims in need due to government corruption in that country.

My sorrow from last week’s latest hurtful words leaking out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is dissipating a bit. The disdainful cynics run amok these days will surely point out that the lad I met and his father are exactly the kind of meritorious folks we ought to reserve America for. But merit’s a tricky concept, showing up in the most unlikely of places, and equity, freedom and peace are even trickier, showing up only when hearts are open and hands are extended down to help others up. The America I believe in wants to be a land of freedom and opportunity for all and a beacon of light for an entire world in dire need of justice and compassion. Roberto Clemente’s heart and hands knew no borders. With young people like the young man I met today leading the way neither will our future.

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2018

SILENCE

SILENCE
by Peter Brav

All I ever wanted was freedom
To be me, at home with my family
On my farm, on my ranch, in my mine, on my couch
But you came calling, making it hard
I had the television on
And there were so many foes
I couldn’t hardly name them
Just knew they were there
But I had my long rifle
And hunt’s old reliable
Handgun in my waist
I was ready, always ready

Trust me, I meant well

But when the bullets came raining down from on high
From a place God should have been
Thousands of shells, automatic
For minutes, for hours, for the eternity we allowed
We just ran, we had no choice
And you looked the other way
For the next time
For the thousands of next times
Don’t blame you, not at all, I’m past that now

A well regulated Militia
Being necessary
To the security of a free State
The right of the people to keep and bear Arms
Shall not be infringed

I am not Militia, I am not secure, these are not Arms
Infringe me now

Millions of moments of silence
That’s all we’ve had
And I’ve been silent past one moment
To the next, and far too long
Because all I ever wanted was freedom
What the hell when we live in hell?
I give up my gun and demand yours for the flames
This is not freedom
Burn them all, I will find my freedom in the fire

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2017

I am late to HAMILTON

I’m late to HAMILTON, listen to the cast album all the time, waiting for tickets to come down in price below a mortgage payment. Daydream on occasion of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda bouncing into my 1968 history class and waking me from my slumber. But most often I think about the beautiful multi-talented and multi-colored creative team and cast that puts this masterpiece on stage every night, who tell the story of a ragtag group of antagonists, their discontent with England and with each other bloodying the countryside. Imperfect individuals who came together to form a more perfect union that remains imperfect.

HamiltonMusical-images.jpg

Almost 250 years later I have only two words for those laziest of thinkers who think somehow that being white or male or straight or rich is better. It’s not, and those are not my two words. The thing that matters, the only thing, is individual character. It is what they had in mind when they formed this union, praying that somehow coming together without a king would lift us up above our fears, our weaknesses, our jealousies, our hatreds. They set forth some high shared ideals and left room for us to set them even higher, knowing we would never quite live up to them but that we might head ever higher in the process, together. A union looks higher and extends a hand to help everyone get there; a mob looks lower and raises a fist to knock others down there.

Two words. We choose.

All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2017