Ghost Light

For me, the smell of a theatre still intoxicates me.

There is nothing more sublime than being the last one out at the end of the night, and catching that furtive glimpse of the lone ghost light—bravely peering his way into the darkness and keeping vigil over our stage as if it were the very ramparts of Elsinore.

And indeed, sometimes it is…

The Outgoing Tide

As surely as the tide will come

We know it cannot stay

Steadfast faith the sun will rise

We know it’s just the day.

The willow cannot help but weep

When winter drives with scorn

But even willow takes a pause

When spring again is born.

So when the tide had come and gone

The sun arose and fell

The willow tree had lost its buds

Were we to do as well?

But with the morning comes the tide

To wash away our tears.

The sun will rise to dry our cheeks

And take away our fears.

A Pox on Both Our Houses

Rome fell for falling

A victim of conceit

If we won’t rise to mend our ways

At last our ends will meet.

The fall of Rome passed us by

Although we share its fruit

We take no heed in what was lost

Or what we gained in loot.

For now, the Empire’s come and gone

The ruins left to roam

Descend upon this tourist spot

And then return back home.

Are we to see ourselves in them?

A culture far from us

They lived – they breathed – they die no more

Returned back to the dust.

If there’s a lesson in Rome’s fall

America’s Exception –

Is liberty and freedom

And have been from inception.

Those we brought from far away

Wear masks that grin and lie

They have to keep their faces hid

Or happy pain belies.

Meanwhile those that die by day

Weren’t killed by masked assailants

They died from fighting selfish neighbors

Who boasted breath free from ailments.

Rome fell for failing to stand

Just as we will fall ourselves

If we can’t come together now

They’ll read our demise from shelves.

A house divided cannot stand

A nation is no stronger

If we don’t rise to mend our ways

We won’t be here much longer.

“Fake News (2020)”

If oceans were puddles and puddles were men

We’d live to be twenty, but wish to be ten.

Our questions would end before they began

Like ships to a shore that hadn’t left land.


Splendid sun cannot well show

Before the moon is down

If son is born before dad’s voice 

Then mothers have no sound.


Silly mind, you use yourself

To nudge a slumb’ring snail

It’s wrapped itself a riddle

Your ship has long set sail.


What’s to stop a probing mind?

Curses of poor breeding?

If you can’t stand for truth and facts,

You’ll fall for anything.

Cold in Texas and Warm Hearts Elsewhere


I saw on the news the other night that northeasterners and upper midwesterners were reaching out to Texans and giving them advice on how to deal with extreme cold and giving them hacks on how to survive power outages in the winter. This was really heartwarming.

My parents live in rural Maine, where each winter, they get over 6-12 feet of snow. Their tiny town is always the first to lose power, and the last to get it back on. When I lived with them, sometimes, we’d lose power for 3-4 days. And this would happen a couple times EVERY winter. Once, we lost it for a week. During the Ice Storm of ’97, they actually had to take an axe and chop their friend and her elderly mother out of their trailer because they were frozen inside – like an ice box.

If you’ve ever been to Maine, you know that Mainers are hardy, resourceful, and resilient folk. They know that when you lose power, you transfer all your food in the refrigerator to the snowbanks. They know how to melt ice for water to flush the toilets. They know how to melt snow for drinking water. And dozens of other lifesaving hacks.

I hated growing up in the deep woods of landlocked central Maine. When I turned 18, the first thing I did was get the hell out of that damn place. But now, I think of it differently. Bangor was a great place to grow up. And later, after we moved to the country, it was lovely too. Sure, we were surrounded by Trumpers, but the people always treated me kindly and they were God-fearing lovely people to get to know personally. And they taught me a lot. Like how to survive a brutal Maine winter. That’s something they could teach the good people of Texas right about now.

As much as I hate America sometimes, I also love it dearly. In times of crisis, Americans come together and look out for one another. Remember the good will that W squandered after 9/11? Those months after that national tragedy, Americans were grieving together and tighter than ever. And Giuliani was the most popular politician in America. “America’s Mayor.”

What happened the last four years? Giuliani became a carnival barker for a narcissistic sideshow snake oil salesman, and the country became fractured, even more divisive, and American racism reared its ugly head again.

Of course, Black Lives Matter would remind us that Racism never went away, and that Black folx have been experiencing it continuously for over 400 years. Police Brutality is not a new phenomenon. It’s the natural successor to lynching, and its been around for over a century. It’s just now, we have these handy-dandy video cameras in our phones, and suddenly White America is finally seeing horrific videos of brutality as if waking up from a pleasant dream, but that’s been an ongoing nightmare for Black folx since they came over in chains.

On the day before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King said these words: “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything.” One of my best friends and I often talk about this speech, and that we both think that sometimes people KNOW when they are about to die. MLK was not long for this world, but he knew that he had made an imprint on it. We are still continuing his work. But oh my friends, we still have a long way to go to reach that “mountaintop.”

I Have #nofilter

I have a friend who writes the hashtag, #nofilter on EVERY single picture she posts on Facebook. I don’t quite get it. For one thing, this person probably doesn’t need to write it anymore. We’ve got it. You don’t use filters. Brava!

You see, I don’t quite understand the hashtag, #nofilter. Professional photographers and filmmakers have been using filters since film was invented. And now digital. There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with using filters. That is actually the test of a true and professional photog. The ability to choose filters is art itself. It is a creative process, like editing a film. I think that those people think we’ll all be more impressed that they took a picture that turned out so amazing without digitally manipulating it at all. And I understand that. Occasionally. There was a stunning sunrise in Boston last week. I saw a LOT of my friends post it, and they all used the #nofilter hashtag. And that’s understandable. The colors of the sunrise were so stunning, it honestly did not need a filter. But every picture? That’s excessive.

Conversely, I have another friend who CLEARLY uses extensive filters for every shot. This person de-ages themselves, making herself look significantly thinner and about 15 years younger, and it is SOOOO obviously filtered. I mean, she’s my age, but in all her photos, she looks about 22. Kind of. In reality, it takes away so many wrinkles, it actually makes her look like some Japanese anime character. Very unnatural looking.

Facebook and social media are so funny. We all meticulously curate our pages, and only show all the best parts of our lives. And we all do it, so don’t lie and tell yourself that you don’t. Bullshit. None of us have the courage to truly live out loud. Warts and all. I sure have tried though. I’ve talked VERY openly about my mental health struggles. But even I am a victim of vanity. Notice that I haven’t posted many pictures of myself in the last six months. After losing 85 pounds, I put back on about 40. But that doesn’t fit my narrative. So I just post lots of landscape shots. Haha. Honestly, though, I’m nearly 45-years-old and I just don’t care anymore. When I was younger, I was quite good looking and never had a problem getting women or charming guests at a party. I usually WAS the party. I stayed up all night, and always closed down the bar. It was fun. But these days, I’d rather read a book. Listen to a podcast. Or watch TV. I never was a tall man, but as I get older, I find myself shrinking. Ahh! No! I can’t afford to get any shorter! Of course, I’m growing wider in the other direction. Haha. And losing my hair. And growing hair where it doesn’t belong. And on and on and on. But fuck, I’m almost half a century years old. People age. Not even the most beautiful model in the world will likely still turn heads at 60…80…

People age.

So if you wanna use a filter and fool us all, so be it. You do you. Or if you don’t want to use a filter, and tell us all that you are emphatically NOT using a filter, that’s cool too. Me, I’ll just be over here aging with grace…

Yeah right! 😛

What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love

I watch a LOT of news on television, and read the New York Times and The Atlantic every day. You could say that I’m pretty well informed.

But I can understand the impulse to withdraw from the world and avoid news altogether. I have a friend who I just learned has never heard of the musical ‘Hamilton.’ I could not believe it. She was also unaware Trump was being impeached or that he had ever been impeached a first time. Honestly, I’m surprised she even knew that Donald Trump was ever our President. She doesn’t vote.

“What have you been living under a rock?” is an expression perfectly suited to this woman.

She’s a friend, and we actually do have a lot of other things in common. I genuinely enjoy spending time with her. So yeah, I like her a lot.

Having said that, her lack of engagement with the world and a society she inhabits actually exasperates me. She has severe ADD and an anxiety disorder. I understand her not wanting to let the troubling news of the world make her overly anxious and depressed. That’s just good self-care and a fragile person protecting themselves. I get it.

But at some point, people like her are actually just as dangerous as these QAnon nuts. An uninformed, apathetic, and disengaged citizen is almost as bad for our democracy and country as a Confederate Flag-waving white supremacist. Both can do great harm to our nation.

My friend is a sensitive and compassionate lefty artist who teaches young children art every day. Which is awesome. She is a passionate dreamer and innovative and creative thinker. We need more people like her in the world. But at some point, that child she’s teaching may make some racist remark or say some sexist thing, because they heard their last President say it, and this young woman might not even know what that kid is talking about. Of course, she would redirect the child and turn it into a teachable moment because that’s what all good teachers do. And she is a good teacher.

Personally, I strongly believe that we also have to engage with the world around us. We must be in the world, not just of it. The only way racism is going to be solved is by entering into dialogue with others – those who share our opinions, and yes, even those who don’t. How will they ever learn?

Several of my radical leftist friends refuse to ever talk to a Trump supporter again and are now saying “FUCK them! They can all die.” I’m sorry, but that’s not helpful. Are they suggesting 74 million Americans die? Because that’s nearly a third of our country and the last time I checked, they were still our neighbors, teachers, acquaintances, coworkers, family, and friends, to name a few. Good for you. You’ll never speak to another person who voted for Donald Trump. Haha. Don’t make me laugh. As if you ever did before. These people live in a liberal echo chamber on Facebook where all their progressive liberal friends “like” all of their thoughtfully indignant posts about keeping immigrant children in cages and separating families at the border.

Great. I think that’s bad too.

I’m a liberal too. Or at least, I used to think I was. These days, I get in more fights with my radical liberal friends than my Republican friends who voted for Trump. I guess I’m more of a center Democrat, because some of these radicals come off as Maoists to me. I thought I was liberal, but I’m getting “OK, Boomer” vibes from half the people I know under 35. I want all the same things that AOC, Bernie, and Warren want, but I guess I’m not angry enough about it. Or I don’t talk about identity politics like I should. It’s not enough to support gay marriage these days. Now, I have to marry a man in order to be an ally.

Kidding.

Bur seriously, I hate the hypocrisy on BOTH SIDES. Our country is so divided, and both camps are so entrenched in their own ideologies that NO ONE is talking anymore. There’s no middle left in this country. And if there’s no middle, where the hell are we all supposed to meet?

The point is, I feel like the only way we’re ever gonna make this a “more perfect Union” is for all of us to actually talk to one another. And above all, to LISTEN. There is no greater gift you can give another person than your undivided attention. To actually listen to what they have to say. That is truly what it means to LOVE.

I have friends who I love who would vote for AOC or Warren for President in a heartbeat. I also have friends who would change the Constitution so that we could elect Donald Trump President for life. Seriously. No exaggeration.
And people of all stripes and everything in between.

Because I LOVE people. Not political parties. People.

I wish my friend would engage with the world more, and maybe talk to a Trump supporter sometime. But she clearly suffers from mental illness, and needs to protect herself. As she should.

So what’s your excuse..?

Color Blind: The Virtues and Pitfalls of Cross-Racial Casting, Part I

Last night, I decided to finally succumb to the buzz, and watched the new Netflix show, Bridgerton. All that I knew about the show was that it is set during the Regency period and that it was quite steamy…i.e. lots of nudity and sex scenes. I have always somewhat reluctantly enjoyed Jane Austen, and the novels she set during that era, so I figured I might enjoy this new show as well. And it is well-crafted. And easily addictive. I found it begrudgingly satisfying in the way all guilty pleasures are. To some, that’s watching trashy reality television. For me, it’s apparently binging on Regency soft-core porn. 😉

Like Austen, writer Julia Quinn invents a protagonist who is a headstrong and stifled young woman whose sense of fierce self-determination is seemingly at odds with her predestined station in life and the established mores of the age. As you might expect, she wants to find love and true companionship, but being a young landed woman of a certain age, must also find a husband as soon as possible. In Bridgerton, the young protagonist’s name is Daphne, and her older brother (Anthony), is bound and determined to find her a suitable match. In this case, the eldest brother is overly picky and cannot bring himself to approve of any of her would-be suitors.

Enter the newly-minted Duke of Hastings. He is an old college friend of Anthony’s and dutifully mannered, classically handsome, exquisitely dressed, and obviously, London’s most eligible bachelor.

And Black.

Wait. What?

If this film were being made in the late ’60s, it would be called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? That classic movie stars Sydney Poitier as Dr. John Prentice, the Black fiancé to a young (headstrong and free-thinking) white woman named Joanna, who brings him home to progressive San Francisco to meet her otherwise liberal parents – played by Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn. In that film, the lefty white couple’s attitudes are challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African-American fiancé – a doctor, no less – and their true veneer and liberal hypocrisy and is exposed for all that it is. The movie was of its age, and at the same time, also timeless and far-sighted. You might even say, ahead of its time. How are we still having these conversations nearly 55 years later?

In 2017, visionary actor, writer, director, and producer Jordan Peele completely turned Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? on its head, and injected horror and menace into the premise, mixed genres and allusions in a lovely postmodern pastiche, and produced Get Out. In doing so, he effectively created his own genre of film – social justice horror. Or Racial Thriller. Or whatever film historians will ultimately call it. Essentially, it is a movie about relationships between white America and Black America, and the horror that can arise out of the collision of those two forces…particularly to African Americans, who have been historically abused, maligned, oppressed, and traumatized by systemic racism in this country for over 400 years. This racism is systemic because it underlies EVERY institution in America, from our criminal justice system to housing market to education system to…well…EVERYTHING. But in these films, that racism translates to real people, whose relationships are not merely transactional, but rooted in a deep-seated racism that permeates our very words, thoughts, and actions. The true horror is that we (WHITE AMERICA) are finally seeing what Black Americans have lived in this country since they were first brought over in chains. Peele’s film arrived just three years before the George Floyd murder and subsequent Black Lives Matter summer of protests, but it wasn’t necessarily prescient. Because as a Black man, Peele had already lived this reality his entire life, as every African American has for centuries. It was merely that white America was finally seeing the cell phone videos for the first time. Those images have undoubtedly been imprinted on Black peoples’ minds for generations. OUR eyes have opened, not THEIRS. And yet, if you look at the number of people who reject BLM or deny the existence of racially-motivated police brutality, it seems that only a half of white America have opened their eyes. There is still a LOT of work to do. And that is why there is nothing more urgent or timely than the work Jordan Peele is producing right now.

But what does any of this have to do with Bridgerton and my enjoyment of this light-hearted romp through Regency England?

TO BE CONTINUED…

On the Acquittal of Former President Donald J. Trump After the Second Impeachment Trial

‘Planting the Seeds of Peace’ by Tonya Engel

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I believe this to be true. Really. I do. I truly do. Change is incremental, and we are slowly but surely moving towards being a more liberal and egalitarian nation. And world. Not fast enough for us progressives, but ultimately, we are still moving.

That’s why the GOP and old white men are flailing about wildly, as their influence and power are waning. These are the last gasps and breaths of this kind of oppressive conservatism. By 2040, they will be vastly outnumbered and have a hard time electing anyone like Donald Trump ever again.

I know that they are on the wrong side of history, and our ancestors will look at this day and shamefully admonish the sins of their forebearers and try and reconcile their present with their past – our present. Just as we view slavery today, and condemn those who defended and propped it up for hundreds of years.

WE ARE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY. I know this to be true.

It’s just sad that I may not live to see that day. We are in the midst of a reckoning, that will last at least a generation. Or two. Or three. I am confident that as a society – and world – we will ultimately stamp our racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, etc. One day. Probably not in my lifetime. But one day.

So for now…in the meantime…I can only continue to learn about the lives, needs, and wellbeing of the people I share this world with, and work as an advocate and ally for the poor, disenfranchised, marginalized, and voiceless. And fight like hell for our dying planet. That’s all we can do.

Abraham Lincoln didn’t solve racism. Neither did Martin Luther King. Nor will I. We are vessels – as they were – who pour ourselves into the next generation of vessels, who in turn, pour themselves into those who come after them. And on, and on…
And with each vessel, and with each pour, we cleanse our world, and get just a little closer towards love. Towards peace. Towards justice. FOR ALL.

Not in my lifetime. Not in yours. But we keep pouring. We keep planting seeds. We may not ever live in the shade of that tree, but without us, no one ever would.

#keepmovingforward

Camera Obscura: How We Lost Our Way

I find it funny that I sometimes ask, “Who gave these people a camera?” I actually seem to ask that of nearly everyone on the planet today, and especially those on Facebook and Instagram. I remember a time when pictures meant something and people invested time in setting up shots. I’m not advocating we go back to the old flash pot explosions and the hour long exposure time of yesteryear.We don’t need to bring back the daguerreotypes to appreciate pictures again. (Although, I have no doubt hipsters would love that! Ha!

Nowadays, every idiot has a camera phone, and somewhere along the way, that person was led to believe that 104 of the same selfie was a good idea – replete with sucked in cheeks, duck lips, reflection in the bathroom mirror, and from above with gratuitous cleavage. That’s 104 to add to the 4238 on Facebook already. All of the same thing. Or the filters of dog’s tongues and whiskers that Snapchat allows you to do to your photos. There’s no such thing as scenery anymore. Landscapes have been usurped by the far more interesting…US. You can’t properly tag a mountain after all. And thanks to Instagram, we’re all graphic designers, carefully trained in blurring the edges or adding a sepia tone to that shot from last night’s club. We have become a nation of self-professed photographers and self-pomoters, while we somehow devalue the serious artists who have been trained and spent years working in the field. I’m not saying that in order to own a camera, everyone should have to go through formal photography training. Camera phones have democratized the pastime, and if anything, it’s encouraged a whole new generation to pursue a career in the field or become more serious about their art.

And what’s wrong with everyone being an amateur photographer? That’s like discouraging people from doing community theater, even though they may be bad actors and the shows are likely terrible. Even if it doesn’t cultivate a love of the theater that leads to a career, those people are having fun and doing something they love and enjoy. What’s wrong with that? We need to allow people to have their pleasures and actively pursue whatever interests them. Life is cruel and unpredictable in so many ways, so why should anyone deprive themselves of a pastime, however poorly I may think they are at it? And why am I – or anyone else – the arbiter of taste?

In truth, my frustration and blame does lie with the ubiquity of cameras and the staggering explosion of amateur photography, but with the deeper and more insidious effect those realities may be having on our collective psyches. The information age has irreversibly imprinted itself on every aspect of our lives. Unfettered access to high speed internet has changed the way we interact with the world around us. Since everything’s faster online, we were forced to speed up the pace of our lives. Since the internet allowed us to access unprecedented amounts of raw data, seemingly everything was at our fingertips. And certainly at the snap of them. Such instantaneous data retrieval undoubtedly made our lives easier, but it also bred unflattering new behaviors in us. We were now spoiled by access and ease, and we demanded our computers get faster, our connections got speedier, and websites be designed for maximum efficiency.

Our prayers were ultimately answered, but at what expense? We now anthropomorphize the internet, and see ourselves in its functions and maneuvers. Conversely, we began to assign computer traits to those we loved, the people we worked with, and the people that served us in some way. We were not only driving ourselves even faster, but we held those around us to unrealistic standards of success. Our bartenders had to be skilled in small talk, tend bar quickly and efficiently, possess encyclopedic knowledge of mixing drinks, and flawlessly craft the perfect martini. Why? Because the internet can do all those things in a fraction of the time. Metaphorically, if nothing else. Our colleagues at work must draft blueprints with expert precision. The Priest must deliver the sermon you’re meant to hear and grow from. Your husband promised your anniversary would be exciting and romantic in ways it never has been. Your best friend better not invite that girl he’s dating, because you don’t like her, no matter how happy he may think he is.  This is your special night, and if he’s truly a friend, then he’ll know better. You’d be hard-pressed to make it in this world without the help and support of others. Some of those people are going to be the rock and foundation you plant your feet on. They are steadfast and true, and worthy of your trust. The reality is, the majority of people you meet in life are going to be apathetic to your existence, and take no active interest in your life—however nice and/or exciting you may be. A small portion of people jump from the don’t care list, to the mildly interested and just enough to make modest efforts at connection. These people are often referred to as acquaintances, and they make up the lion’s share of your friends on Facebook, and likely every other social networking site. They may only make contact once a year – to wish you a happy birthday, but then again, they may not even do that. These are liminal friends, waiting on the doorstep, but not entering your home. We look at our friends list, and boast that we have over a thousand friends. But honestly, how many of them would attend your mother’s funeral? Loan you money? Donate to your GoFundMe campaign? Or go beyond wishing you a happy birthday, and actually buy yo a gift? When you count your friends in quality, as opposed to quantity, the numbers dwindle to less than a dozen.

With cameras at our fingertips, we seem to capture every moment of our lives, but never truly live them. How present are we in a transitory moment in time, when we’re too busy setting up the shot and trying to capture beauty that we only can enjoy through a screen? Not to mention the thousands of people who die while trying to capture the “perfect” shot. We live our fast-paced lives at the speed of the Internet, and then when we have genuine moments to reflect and take in nature’s beauty, we feel the need to immortalize the moment in a picture. As if we have no faith in our memories and our “mind’s eye” as Shakespeare coined in Hamlet. Even the expression, “Pics, or it didn’t happen” perfectly encapsulates the mentality of a society so obsessed with images and capturing every moment of our lives – like collecting ships in bottles for our future selves and for posterity.

We use social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram because we want to chronicle our lives, as if they didn’t matter or had no substance if they aren’t documented online. We use pictures to help us create a narrative of how we want our lives perceived by others. We curate our lives, so as to choose the perfect selfie, the ideal family portrait, and the most picturesque holiday photo to tell a story we want others to hear. We rarely talk about our bad days, and when we do, we rarely get likes. Perhaps some virtual hugs from time to time.

They say that a post with an image is 75% more likely to get comments and likes than one with just pure text. Instagram is so popular because it doesn’t allow its users to write much, and never in the body of the post…always as a comment underneath. IG is a visual medium, and it’s wonderful for photographers and artists, because it allows them to showcase their art and network within a vast community of consumers.

Lately, it seems that Facebook is becoming more like Instagram, and turning into a depository of pictures, memes, videos, and occasionally articles. It’s rare to see people write anything anymore, and when they do, it’s almost always short and to the point. When I write a long and thoughtful post, I’m lucky to get three likes. There have been times when I’ve posted a verbose story and not gotten a single like. My friend, Jeremiah, often tells long and entertaining stories connecting history to his personal life, and weaving contemporary society into events from the past. He’s lucky to get ten likes, and he has over 3000 “friends!” No one wants to read anymore. I absolutely detest the notation: TL/DR. Too long, didn’t read means that you’re too lazy and/ or don’t have the attention span to digest anything longer than a three sentence Facebook status. As a society, we have been moving away from books for decades. We no longer want to read anything of length, so we warn others if an article or essay is too long by slapping ‘TL/DR’ on there. Sometimes, some brave soul will read an entire article and write TL/DR and then provide a cursory summary of what the essay was about. As if an eight sentence summary can capture the voice, the art, and the wordplay of a well-written essay. We have lost our ability to pay attention, and I cannot help but blame television, the Internet, and the technology sitting in all our pockets right now.

Having said all this, I am just as guilty as the next guy. I take tons of photos and post them on Facebook and Instagram every day. I see a thing of beauty like a sunset, and rather than take it in and reflect on the moment, I pull out my camera to capture it. I chronicle my life through carefully curated pictures, and always try to show my best side. I often write comments that demonstrate how liberal and open-minded I am. I post articles that show how egalitarian and non-racist I really am. My articles, posts, and pictures all tell the story of a progressive and tolerant citizen of this world, who strongly believes in social justice, climate change, women’s reproductive rights, equality, and more. And those are all genuinely held believes that I have. But they don’t tell the whole picture.

President Theodore Roosevelt


The truth is rarely black and white. We live in a time that has become so divided and polarized that if you don’t tow the line of your party’s orthodoxy, you are somehow an enemy of the cause. The expression, “You’re either with us or against us” has never been so true as it is today. People rarely see in shades of grey today, and rarely embrace the nuance and contradictions inherent in human nature. I can support Black Lives Matter AND still recognize that many of the victims of police brutality were committing a crime when they were assaulted and/ or killed. That doesn’t take away the impact of their murders. It just doesn’t lionize them as victims or demonize the police as pure evil. The truth is almost somewhere in the middle between these divergent narratives. To praise a man like Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, or even Abraham Lincoln doesn’t mean you cannot accept and process their flaws and shortcomings. TR was an imperialist and bigoted brute in his younger days. Jefferson had the audacity to write “All men are created equal” while owning slaves and believing in their innate inferiority. Lincoln initially wanted to preserve the union more than outlaw slavery, and for many modern critics, was too slow to embrace abolitionism. What we fail to do when we put these men (and women) in boxes, is embrace their multitudes, as Walt Whitman once said. We don’t allow them their complexities or peccadillos, as we either paint them as Gods or Monsters. Human beings are complicated specimens, and rarely – if ever – fall into one convenient box. We are neither all evil or all bad. Hamlet says, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And that’s true. We assign blame and strip humans of their nuances and layers when we try to distill their personalities down into cookie-cutter categories.

Another problem with lionizing or demonizing figures from history is that it divorces them of their times, and we fail to provide cultural context. Teddy Roosevelt’s early attitudes towards Native Americans in the late 19th Century was abhorrent, but hardly unusual for the time. And that attitude changed and improved over his lifetime, as he grew and matured. What WAS unusual for his time period was his progressive politics. In the 1912 United States Presidential Election, Roosevelt ran under his own third party – the Bull Moose Party. Despite the limitations of his time, his party’s platform called for suffrage for women, universal healthcare, a protection of federal lands, a livable wage, free education, and many more of the same things we are still fighting for today! Bernie Sanders essentially ran on the platform proposed by TR over a hundred years ago!

And yet, we have many liberals who want to cancel Teddy. And Jefferson. And astonishingly, even Abraham Lincoln. Statues have been removed, and schools renamed. At what cost? Who will be next? Who will be left? Even Martin Luther King was an unrepentant womanizer. Shall we cancel him next? If we have no figures from our past to look up to, how will we learn from their successes and failures? Isn’t it more educational to learn the full complexity of a man in order to understand that kind of nuance and depth within ourselves? We cancel our forefathers/mothers at our peril. If we have no giants to stand on the shoulders of, how will we ever see past ourselves and our own shortcomings?

As I wrote in my essay on cancel culture, we risk losing our very soul as a nation if we continue to throw our ancestors under the bus and refuse to place them in the context of the time periods they came from. We need to stop making those that came before us or our own contemporaries into “heroes” or “villains.” Humankind is too smart to be doing that. We have come too far, to backslide into such adolescent behavior.

Our technology has sped up our lives, but has it improved them? We can capture a sunset in seconds, but can we even take the time to enjoy it? We refuse to read anything of length and substance, but rather choose to watch 30 second clips on Tik Tok. Our attention spans have been irrefutably altered by the media and our technology, and its creating a society full of people suffering from severe ADD and the inability to focus on anything textured or profound. What happens when everything becomes so superficial, and we are so entrenched in our divided camps that we refuse to even talk with our opponents? If a picture is worth a thousand words, the portrait of America right now is not pretty to look at. We need more grey in that picture!