Saturday, April 28, 2018

You’d think it was just about time for love.

It’s Glasgow, March and we walk hand in hand in the park.
Now it’s 15:13 and I’m late and I have to make a choice.
We’re both boys, you see.
If you were to go back and look, you’d see a hundred eyes hurry to objectify this hand in hand stance.
It’s a flurried dance of reaction. Some smile, they’re proud and they want me to know.
But there’s a darker shade of brow that balances the books.
The kind of look that challenges, like this is some chess game and I’m in check and I’m second guessing what they might do next.
Point me out to all the pawns in the crowd. Spawn a following whose glowers linger on so that our hands are no longer holding, but dragging glare after glare, snowballing stares, stretching elastic social disgrace through this forbidden space and the scales are well and truly tipped.
Now it’s 15:14, Glasgow, March, 2018 and I have to make a choice.
Have you ever wondered how to say goodbye?
You know, to a friend’s Mum. Do you go in for a kiss in the cheek?
To a colleague, neighbour. Do you hug them or shrug them off?
What if that neighbour is your lover? What if there’s no other way to say goodbye than the one you know will send outcry burning through the matchstick men and women who love to strike up ideals.
I´m a walking meal for the mouths of normality.
And what does that mean, exactly?
We´re normal, he says with his frown but under his wife’s dress and flesh is an unborn baby blessed with one more hour of air before she miscarries and they carry that grief with them to the grave and they are not normal anymore, they are changed and aching.
And that old man, I make him sick, but he writes to Japan at the weekend to get a friend to send him the used knickers you can vend from a machine there. For completely normal purposes of course.
See, normality is a crowd-sourced fantasy but it turns every single silent person in this park into an enemy.
Teenage boys blunder ahead. How much thunder are they carrying in their heads? They should probably be at school drawing straight lines. Sprinting in straight lines. Thinking in straight lines. 

When the bell rings, it’s no wonder they want to straighten up anything that curves or bends.
Or her with the roll and chips and the kids. She’d take one salty glance at two guys kiss and be hissing vinegar our way. I´ve got nothing against gays, she´d say, but do you have to do it in front of my kids? And then she runs away. They never do stay long enough to look you in the eyes.
And a bible basher rehashing lies about Jesus like how Poundland rip off Mini Cheddars and sell them on as Cheese Savouries. Because it seems to me that Jesus saved a lot of time when he died for all our crimes that he would’ve wasted teaching small minds that love is no sin. See him, he thinks its faith but under all that din, it tastes like cardboard and it smells like hate.
And I may sound angry, but I’m just scared. Because in the midst of this and this and that, there’s one person I’m not looking at. Because a face looks different in the daylight than in the night where at least there’s no-one staring but you’re always wearing worry lines and looking at the time because the last train home is always waiting.
Because this should be a small choice, and there’s all this noise in my head.
I should be holding a hand and I’m holding shame instead.
But I’m letting it go. No. I won’t keep weighing it up, I’ll put my muscles at ease.
And they’re 30% of my mass by the way. I’m a homosapien.
Elbows. Knees. 60% water flooding, 7% blood rushing.
And half a percent beating heart.
So why is a goodbye kiss no walk in the park?
Half a percent doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough.
It’s 15:15, Glasgow, March 2018 after all.
You’d think it was just about time for love.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

All That Fits in 45 Minutes

Writing is a nice medium to communicate. I like the space for long form writing that blogging provides. At the same time, I've found that blogging is a fairly solitary experience: it doesn't provide the interaction and community that I enjoy. Twitter has ended up being my favorite platform to think, write, complain, and explore. While it's shorter, faster, and more ephemeral, it's also interative, connected, and dynamic.

That said, you all know I like talking. I think best--and am my best--when I'm talking and interacting with people. When I was writing my dissertation there was a period of time that I really struggled with the process. I discovered the process wasn't a struggle at all if I had someone to talk to about my ideas. Things come alive for me in the space between you and me.

Image by Cranky Muse Projects
I've been thinking for a few years about podcasting. It's finally happened.

I hope you enjoy exploring this new medium with Martha Crawford and myself.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter. Listen to us on SoundCloud. Soon you'll also be able to hear us on iTunes and Stitcher.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Not to humiliate, but to win over

The Power of Non-violence
Martin Luther King, Jr.
June 04, 1957

From the very beginning there was a philosophy undergirding the Montgomery boycott, the philosophy of nonviolent resistance. There was always the problem of getting this method over because it didn’t make sense to most of the people in the beginning. We had to use our mass meetings to explain nonviolence to a community of people who had never heard of the philosophy and in many instances were not sympathetic with it. We had meetings twice a week on Mondays and on Thursdays, and we had an institute on nonviolence and social change. We had to make it clear that nonviolent resistance is not a method of cowardice. It does resist. It is not a method of stagnant passivity and deadening complacency. The nonviolent resister is just as opposed to the evil that he is standing against as the violent resister but he resists without violence. This method is nonaggressive physically but strongly aggressive spiritually.

Another thing that we had to get over was the fact that the nonviolent resister does not seek to humiliate or defeat the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding. This was always a cry that we had to set before people that our aim is not to defeat the white community, not to humiliate the white community, but to win the friendship of all of the persons who had perpetrated this system in the past. The end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community. A boycott is never an end within itself. It is merely a means to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor but the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption.

Then we had to make it clear also that the nonviolent resister seeks to attack the evil system rather than individuals who happen to be caught up in the system. And this is why I say from time to time that the struggle in the South is not so much the tension between white people and Negro people. The struggle is rather between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And if there is a victory it will not be a victory merely for fifty thousand Negroes. But it will be a victory for justice, a victory for good will, a victory for democracy.

Another basic thing we had to get over is that nonviolent resistance is also an internal matter. It not only avoids external violence or external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. And so at the center of our movement stood the philosophy of love. The attitude that the only way to ultimately change humanity and make for the society that we all long for is to keep love at the center of our lives. Now people used to ask me from the beginning what do you mean by love and how is it that you can tell us to love those persons who seek to defeat us and those persons who stand against us; how can you love such persons? And I had to make it clear all along that love in its highest sense is not a sentimental sort of thing, not even an affectionate sort of thing.

The Greek language uses three words for love. It talks about eros. Eros is a sort of aesthetic love. It has come to us to be a sort of romantic love and it stands with all of its beauty. But when we speak of loving those who oppose us we’re not talking about eros. The Greek language talks about philia and this is a sort of reciprocal love between personal friends. This is a vital, valuable love. But when we talk of loving those who oppose you and those who seek to defeat you we are not talking about eros or philia. The Greek language comes out with another word and it is agape. Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men. Biblical theologians would say it is the love of God working in the minds of men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. And when you come to love on this level you begin to love men not because they are likeable, not because they do things that attract us, but because God loves them and here we love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. It is the type of love that stands at the center of the movement that we are trying to carry on in the Southland—agape.

I am quite aware of the fact that there are persons who believe firmly in nonviolence who do not believe in a personal God, but I think every person who believes in nonviolent resistance believes somehow that the universe in some form is on the side of justice. That there is something unfolding in the universe whether one speaks of it as a unconscious process, or whether one speaks of it as some unmoved mover, or whether someone speaks of it as a personal God. There is something in the universe that unfolds for justice and so in Montgomery we felt somehow that as we struggled we had cosmic companionship. And this was one of the things that kept the people together, the belief that the universe is on the side of justice.

God grant that as men and women all over the world struggle against evil systems they will struggle with love in their hearts, with understanding good will. Agape says you must go on with wise restraint and calm reasonableness but you must keep moving. We have a great opportunity in America to build here a great nation, a nation where all men live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of all human personality. We must keep moving toward that goal. I know that some people are saying we must slow up. They are writing letters to the North and they are appealing to white people of good will and to the Negroes saying slow up, you’re pushing too fast. They are saying we must adopt a policy of moderation. Now if moderation means moving on with wise restraint and calm reasonableness, then moderation is a great virtue that all men of good will must seek to achieve in this tense period of transition. But if moderation means slowing up in the move for justice and capitulating to the whims and caprices of the guardians of the deadening status quo, then moderation is a tragic vice which all men of good will must condemn. We must continue to move on. Our self—respect is at stake; the prestige of our nation is at stake. Civil rights is an eternal moral issue which may well determine the destiny of our civilization in the ideological struggle with communism. We must keep moving with wise restraint and love and with proper discipline and dignity.

Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word “maladjusted.” Now we all should seek to live a well—adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generation, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation could not exist half slave and half free. As maladjusted as Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery could cry out, “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth who dreamed a dream of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change our world and our civilization. And then we will be able to move from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro
by Frederick Douglass

A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say that I am to deliver a Fourth of July Oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for me. It is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to he overcome in getting from the latter to the former are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birth day of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, as what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. l am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot's heart might be sadder, and the reformer's brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young.-Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is, that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your "sovereign people" (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

It's Father's Day today. It seems like the thing to do is dig through photo albums and post some vintage paternal deliciousness of our childhoods. So dig I did, as I did with Mother's Day, finding some of my favorite pictures of my dad.

It's a little startling to look back at this pictures. Looking back I'm shocked that I've not ever really noticed how much I look like my father. We aren't doppelgängers, but if I look closely at his hands and arms, or especially his eyes, I can see my own.

And that hair. That unruly hair. It has been the bane of my existence, requiring highly trained professions to shape and a cabinet full of products to seal in place. Dark--almost black--when I was young and now slowly softening into the same white hair.

While my mom is outrageous and direct with her humor, my dad has always been a little more on the quiet side. He is the trixter of the family, always seeming to have secret knowledge of what is at hand (or about to be at hand) and engages in some sort of shenanigans behind the scenes.


We all that Maggie Russell Berkes to thanks for this little memory. She made me think of it and add it to this blog post. I have a feeling she's a trickster, too. It's why I like her.

One year my father, sister, and I drove to Florida from our home in Ohio. Normal families might stop somewhere and spend the night. I'd even settle for a semi-normal family that stopped for a civilized meal and restroom break. Things worked differently in the Mihalko family.

My dad appears to have had a bladder that could make it all the way to Florida. Our rest stops would last only long enough to fuel his car up (the worst trip ever was when we had a diesel car (I think I sustained permeant damage to my pistachio sized bladder). That, however, is a story for another day.

We were just underway--somewhere in Ohio--and I already had to pee. I was trying to distract myself. I noticed out the window a particular bird that was flying backward.

"Dad! What kind of bird is that that is flying backward?"

"It's an Olentangy Bird, son. They are very rare."


I believed my dad, of course. I was in grade school and my dad knew everything. My how things change.

I was in my late 30s when I next thought of the Olentangy Birds. I was driving down the highway looking for a place to stop and pee and noticed some birds flying backward.

"That god damned trickster."

I called my dad and probably called him a god damned trickster.

Profanity is generally accepted in my family and expressed as a sign of love. My mother once called me a little prick. I responded that some day I hoped to be a big prick just like my daddy. Laughter ensued and we forgot whatever it was we were arguing about.

"You remember those god damned birds that fly backward? Do you have any idea how many people I've told about the birds?

My dad starts laughing. I could picture exactly how he looks when he laughs. He gets this trickster look in his eyes that is pure delight--his, not necessarily mine.

"You're just figuring this out now? We were passing over the Olentangy River and I saw the sign."

I wonder what else I'll discover to be another one of my father's jokes?

welcoming me to the world
shoulder rights are the best--wish I still fit
napping appropriate at any age
my first of endless shaves....
getting ready for Niagra Falls
gone fishing
(note our complimentary hats)