Thursday, March 22, 2018

I am now officially excited about my trip....

Near my bnb, there is a homemade-pie shop.
I'll be in town for 54 hours. How many pieces of pie does that equal?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Where I Am

Happy Spring!

Looking for images of spring equinox (a day late), I saw this view from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 
I'm down there! under that cloud coming across Lake Superior, on the far left. (A bit farther west, if I'm going to be technical about it, but close...) That white stuff is snow, we've still got plenty of it.

Boring, Scary Things 

Aside from the fact that satellites are taking my photo from space, mostly boring details are taking my time this week---airfare, hotels, getting a slide show for the author panel together ( not "slides"--what's the term for electronically projected photos?), and this morning, I got a temporary crown at the dentist. 

I always feel a little little & low after dental work. Some part of me registers it as me being held down and tortured... which, of course, it kind of is, even if it's for my own good.

I was thinking about how much we're expected to withstand in the industrialized, computerized world, and then to carry on as if nothing's happened. Flying hundreds of miles, having high speed drills in our mouths, --hell, even crossing the street.
Neurologically speaking, that's a complex task---and it's extremely dangerous. All the time, every day, most of us don't give it a conscious thought, but what does it do to us  on a subtler plane?

When I interviewed one of the people in the SVDP Immigrant/Refugee ministry, she said the first family they welcomed never went to the park across the street from their new home. The helpers finally realized the family was uncertain about crossing the busy street. They'd lived for twenty years in a Kenyan refugee camp, where there was no regular motor traffic.

I rarely hear people mention such everyday wear and tear in discussions about how anxious and depressed Americans are. It's got to be affecting us, but in my world, if you were to take a day off work to recuperate from a visit to the dentist, people would think that was very odd.

So much is coming at us, and a lot of it is dangerous (like a 4,000 pound vehicle going 30 miles per hour) or violent, even in the form of entertainment we choose to watch.

The Search for a Nonviolent Mascot

I noticed that while the Women's March signs and posters depicted lots of characters from mass media, such as Princess Leia, the posters for the #ENOUGH /March for Our Lives/ gun control movement do not.
I looked and haven't yet seen a single fictional face on a poster, just words.

Why not? I wondered.

And then I tried to think of a character who would fit the bill--someone heroic from contemporary pop culture who was not tied in with guns and violence. I could hardly come up with any.  

The iconic image of Princess Leia the Women's March used shows her holding her great big blaster pistol. 

 < Current Leia toy by Disney, for kids aged 4+

 Star Wars is not super graphic & gory, but it's about violent revolutionaries.  There's no question of them negotiating with the bad guys---it is hopeless, presumably.

Ditto Harry Potter, and zombie shows, and all the many, new superhero comics and movies. I'm so tired of watching fighting---bored, bored, bored with it on every level,  I haven't even seen Wonder Woman or Black Panther, though I am happy, in theory, that they star women and black superheroes. 
("In theory"--new faces, same story?)

I used Captain Kirk in my #ENOUGH poster, but borrowing his words was a bit of a cheat, really: 
he's a military man.

The rebooted Star Trek movies are more violent than the original series, but that was plenty violent too. Though they sometimes were regretful about it, they often resorted to shooting stuff up. 
(Still, I'm sure Kirk would find this era barbaric.) 

Is there a fictional pop culture character (not from religion or real history) who might be repurposed as a mascot for a movement for gun control?

WALL-E? who patiently builds things out of all the left-behind trash that has killed life on Earth? (Lucinda had used EVE in her Science March poster, but the story isn't anti-violence per se.)

Marz would point out Columbo, the detective who never carries a gun, but he's not well-known. There are other detectives like him who use brains, not guns--Miss Marple!--but not iconic images of them...

Hm, might could do something with the Doctor, from Doctor Who, with his/her sonic screwdriver. 

Three Nonviolent Lessons from Doctor Who"

Atticus Finch? 

Naw, he's compromised, now we know, since Watchman, that he was a racist...

Not sure a bull who sits in a flower bed is an image people will rally round... 
Though maybe:

Babe? Aw, yeah––remember when he bites a sheep, like a sheep dog, and is shocked to realize how violent that is, and learns to herd the sheep by asking them nicely. 
But he just looks like any other pig. (Wilbur!) Charlotte!

Seems we need some new stories and images for this movement---maybe, probably, some will emerge, or are emerging.

She's not fictional, but this one has: 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Travel Planning

I know people who love planning travel itineraries. 
I was wishing I was going to be traveling to Texas with one of them––it's just me––but I'm so  pleased with myself for the travel plans I made this afternoon (and it did take all afternoon), I'm vaguely glad I set myself up to do this. 

What I discovered:
a pleasant round-trip flight schedule; that their light rail runs to their airport (as ours does, here); 

and an Airbnb for a couple nights that is $200 cheaper (per night!) than the "deal" the downtown hotels are giving conference attendees.
And temps are supposed to be in the 70s.

Even if the publisher were paying (they're not), I wouldn't want to stay in a big box hotel when I could stay here:

I'm not much of a sight-seer. Once I've spent a couple hours in a coffee shop watching people, I imagine myself sitting in this little porch doing bear repair. 

Prep for Panel, II: Good News for Toilets

The librarians I know tend to be generalists. 
I expect those who'll attend the panel of nonfiction children's book authors I'm on will be somewhat familiar with 
the topic of my book >
––the history of toilets.

Rather than going over it,
I've decided to talk in my brief intro about what's happened since the book was published.

Besides Hurricane Harvey spewing 33 million gallons of raw sewage around southeast Texas (yesterday's post), there are a couple other biggies--and, amazingly, they're happy!

1. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to develop a waterless toilet was still in process when the book was published.
The Gates foundation since has selected a toilet that is now in testing in Ghana--the nano membrane toilet (info and short video of how it works):

2. The story of Anita Narre, a woman in India who in 2011, when she was twenty, refused to stay in her new husband's home unless he installed a toilet, has been made into a Bollywood film "Toilet: A Love Story," which Bill Gates ranked #3 in hopeful things in 2017--(too much Bill Gates? yes--I will replace his photo in that end collage with Narre's). 

 One of the movie posters shows women going to the fields in the early morning with their lanterns and "lota"--
the pots for washing up after defecating (w/ water instead of toilet paper)"

Monday, March 19, 2018

Prep for Panel, I; A Perfect Storm: Climate Change & Sewage

I'm going to be on a nonfiction authors panel in two weeks at the Texas Librarians annual conference--specifically because of my history of toilets book making their list of "nonfiction titles that stimulate reading for pleasure and personal learning".

The moderator sent me a bunch of questions she'll ask, and I'm starting to prep my answers. A meaty one is,
What did you edit OUT of your book?

A: I didn't exactly edit anything out, but I did have to make choices about vocabulary--what to call our "body wastes"
I went with sanitized, scientific words, like "feces" and "urine", rather than slang, like "poop"––partly because when I was a kid I was super sensitive to adults dumbing things down for kids.
I wanted the book to be friendly, yes, but also serious. Also, there are already lot of good books for kids that make the topic fun, such as,
Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up. Mine covered a lot of the same material, but with a different tone and angle--I emphasized public health more.

But looking back, I'm surprised I didn't include anything about the effect of climate change on sewage systems. Maybe I was in denial, living in the middle of the continent, but increasingly frequent and more intense storms and hurricanes are devastating sewage plants, which are often built lowland, near water––and many are well past their "Best Before" date.

"Nearly 31.6 million gallons of raw sewage spilled across southeast Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, pouring into neighboring communities and waterways as dozens of wastewater treatment plants were hit by high winds and flooding, according to state records."
Weeks after the storm hit, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 10 sewage treatment plants - including six in the Houston area - are inoperable or destroyed, and more than 40 others were operating as of Monday with problems as minor as broken-down pumps or as serious as structural damage.
 The amount of E. coli an indicator of fecal bacteria in the floodwaters was "stunningly high"––up to 8,000 times the EPA standard (of zero).
A lot of sewage systems were built in the 1950s–1970s and engineers point out they need to be redesigned anyway--they're carrying loads they were never designed for, and they're old and breaking down. 
I hope kids who grow up to be sanitation engineers think about things like moving the plants to high grounds and away from waterways.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Saturday, March 17, 2018

#ENOUGH, Star Trek Version: Kirk says, "No More Blah Blah Blah"

Hm. Might re-do that hand. (Kirk's hand doesn't show in the source photo.)

My poster for the March for Our Lives,* 3/24/2018. 

This is Captain Kirk from the Star Trek episode "Miri" (1966).
(That's Kim Darby behind him, as Miri.) 

Trekkies know Kirk's saying, "No blah blah blah", 
but it's entered pop culture as "No more...", which fits my purpose better here anyway. 

*From the march's mission statement:
"In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns.  March For Our Lives believes the time is now. Our mission and focus is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues."

Proofread FAIL

I was concentrating sooooo hard on my poster's Star Trek font . . . 
#Do Over

Saturday Morning

I am disappointed in Thinking, Fast and Slow---the author's own cognitive bias kicks in right away---his unspoken assumption is that everyone reading the book is neurotypical, for instance--he should address that.
Page one, he shows a photo of a woman with an angry expression and says everyone will instantly recognize what this woman is feeling.
How can a psychologist overlook the fact that NOT everyone can  read facial expressions?

There's other stuff like that, oddly, which makes me doubt how well he thinks things through. (Also, Editor? Where are you?)

I'm getting a lot more out of the memoir The Long Haul, by Myles Horton, the socialist co-founded of the Highlander Folk School, for training people to be activists. 
His great view of holistic education makes me sad, because--can anyone even talk this way anymore in these days of teach-to-testing?

I'm leaving in a few minutes so I just did a very quick search for a quote--it's this sort of thing he goes into:

On another topic---at lunch for my birthday last week, my sister gave me 3 limes she'd picked in California, in a shiny see-through bag. 
Red Hair Girl had come along to lunch--she was feeling destabilized after learning she had a relative called Madeline--and she immediately claimed the bag as a diaphanous ball gown. 
I had scissors with me, so I cut the bottom open––and here we are, glowing in the sun.
(My hair! It's so white!)

Now I'm off to go buy poster-boards with Lucinda, to make posters for next Saturday's March for Our Lives (March 24). 
The kids will march and are asking the adults to meet them for the rally at the State Capitol. This white-haired person is fine not doing the march part--(I always found marches tedious)--happy to hand it over: YOUR TURN, Kids!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Reading About Thinking

I just declined an invitation to go out this evening, saying I planned to stay in reading about thinking. I'm really looking forward to it!

The book I'm about to start is Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) by psychologist Daniel Kahneman (fun-to-read NYT review, with some good criticism). Today I heard him on Hidden Brain, the podcast that's like potato chips––I can't listen to just one. 
(Episode "Think Fast with Daniel Kahneman" embedded below.)

Kahneman and his intellectual partner Amos Tversky were the pair of Israeli psychologists who in the 1970s researched and outlined 20 cognitive biases. 

Right: T & K toasting their partnership 

When I first read about c.g.s, I was happy--they explain so much––
and, also a treat, they give names to things you've already noticed or wondered about--
like why you keep going on vacation even when most of the experience is drudgery.

It's the peak/end bias: you remember peak moments and how an event ends most vividly--so, if you have a really fun afternoon deep sea diving, and, all things considered, nothing really bad happened, that stands out in memory waaaay much more than the long flights and delays in airports, and the watery overpriced tropical cocktails.

Personal example:
When I was twenty-five years old and miserable biking around Ireland in the constant drizzle FOR A MONTH, I remember commenting to bink bitterly that I just knew I would remember this trip fondly---once I was home and dry. I said it bitterly because I felt my rosy hindsight of the future would be betraying my present reality---and I was right.
 Even though I know I was miserable 80% of the time, I remember the trip fondly. (But I'm not doing it again!) 

Knowing about cognitive biases offers something like what John Updike called the obscure consolation of original sin: 
once you know it is/they are part of the organism, it's sort of a relief. You can stop beating yourself up (if you were). It's not just you and your personal failings (YPFs): these behaviors/mental glitches are bugs in the original evolutionary software. 
And/or, they're brilliant necessary survival tactics, or maybe their downsides---like, say, envy as a spur to action (I'm going to create my own toys), vs envy as a spur to violence (I'm going to take away your toys), . . . and so on, down the line.

Speaking of envy, I envy Kahneman's luck (he calls it great luck) in finding a working partner incredibly well suited to him---it's the kind of romantic relationship I admire so much (like Kirk & Spock). 
K. talks in the podcast about how they were always laughing. In the book he says,
“The pleasure we found in working together made us exceptionally patient; it is much easier to strive for perfection when you are never bored.”
Vanity Fair article about their work and their relationship, "How Two Trailblazing Psychologists Turned the World of Decision Science Upside Down"
"In the history of Danny and Amos, there are periods when it is difficult to disentangle their enthusiasm for their ideas from their enthusiasm for each other. The moments... appear, in hindsight, less like a natural progression from one idea to the next than two men in love scrambling to find an excuse to be together. "

Thursday, March 15, 2018

God Bless the Child

Not much to say about this, I just want to store it here: I'm sitting with this Tupac song, "Hold Ya Head," which Wayne, the guy I'm writing an article about, cited--specifically how important the line, "God bless the child that can hold his own", was to him when he was a teenager and felt God couldn't help him in the hell of despair, drugs, and violence he was in.

 This song is hard for me to enter into, it's so far from my experience--but I feel it touch me, like walking through a spiderweb, you feel its silk strands brush your face--some living being, here with me on Earth, has made this.

I'm intrigued by how people can have such entirely different lives––and yet have some meeting points... places the consciousnesses can brush against each other, like a breath.
I like that, I look for that. 

Tupac (2Pak) Shakur, "Hold Ya Head" (1993)
"God bless the child that can hold his own."

I was also wondering how much he consciously borrowed from Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child [that's got his own]".
A quick google turns nothing up, but listening to it again now, there are echoes--certainly he knew her music: she's with him in his vision of heaven in "Thugz Mansion".

"God Bless the Child", written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. in 1939; this performance, 1950

From "Thugz Mansion" by 2Pac
"Dear momma don't cry, your baby boy's doing good
Tell the homies I'm in heaven and they ain't got hoods
Seen a show with Marvin Gaye last night, it had me shook
Drinkin' peppermint Schnapps, with Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke
Then some lady named Billie Holiday sang
Sitting there kicking it with Malcolm, 'til the day came"

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

SNARP: Stuffed Animal Roadkill

Agents of SNARP [Stuffed Needy Animal Rescue Project] seem to have a special fondness for stuffed animals found on the road.

Warning: Images of dead-looking stuffed animal ahead.

Spoiler: It gets better!

Biking home on a busy street from downtown yesterday, I spotted a squashed squirrel that I was pretty sure was a stuffed animal.
Having seen enough run-over squirrels, I know they are... flatter:

I did a U-turn and spotted a cloth label on the squirrel, so I picked it up and was able to put to good use my new bike's handy back-rack mouse trap:
Squirrel was so crusted in road dirt and salt, this morning I used tongs to swish it around in Biz before I even unstuffed it. 
(Usually I unstuff toys first--less sodden.)
Look, eyes!
 Cutting open the back seam and pulling out stuffing,
on my back porch. 
There was a squeaker inside--it might have been a dog toy:
Another bath, and Squirrel is drying in the sun 
on the handle of a snow shovel:

I get the feeling Squirrel has already heard from the other toys 
that the run-over monkey was given a special jacket. . .

More to come!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Red Hair Girl Is Her Own Self

Red Hair Girl was Very Put Out the other day when my neighbor Jenise called her "Madeline".

Jenise used to work at a toy store that sold dolls that look like Red Hair Girl---they were modeled on the girl Madeline, she told me, from the 1939 book. {The dolls were from the late '90s--you can find them on eBay.}

"I AM NOT MADELINE!" Red Hair Girl said, stomping around, scowling behind her permanent smile. "For your information, my birth name is Sue E. Generis, but I don't like it."

In fact, I'd searched online to find RHG's origins when I first bought her for 49¢ at GW last summer, but couldn't find her type.
I've come to think of her as one of a kind, and she is! …in personality, if not in manufacturing. (Even more so, now she has tiny permanent smudges on her nose and her left big toe from playing at the Grand Canyon.)

It was a bit of a shock that RHG has a relative, but luckily I always loved Madeline, and it makes sense it's that girl. They could be cousins. 

I looked up the man who created Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans, and [I was relieved to read] he was a good guy, and his other art is just as charming and mischievous as the little girl.

LB lived a lot of the time in New York City, and some say Madeline is more of a scrappy New Yorker than a Parisian---more like Eloise. 

Here's one of his New Yorker covers [more at Pinterest]:

Plus he gets the seal of approval from Maira Kalman, a favorite artist of mine. Here's her portrait of the artist, from an illustrated letter to LB:

Red Hair Girl recruited a friend to recreate the scene.  (The friend is NOT named Pat.)


Sputnik, Out & About

Some shapes that remind me of Sputnik

Above: A kind of sea urchin Salenocidaris hastigera (dried), a Salenioida.
I wasn't sure, but sea urchins are animals, related to starfish. 

 Above: This is not an image of a Sputnik Virophage ("virus-eater")--it is an electron micrograph of the giant Mimivirus that the Sputnik virophage infects. 

Above: Backstrap Weaving (w/ a deceptively simple loom made of sticks, an ancient technology from Peru (and other places)) in process by Laverne Waddington. Her blog:

Above: Red Hair Girl standing on the star map inlaid on the terrazzo floor at Hoover Dam [info on dam artwork]

Word origin of Sputnik:
from Russian, literally: fellow traveller, from s- with + put path + -nik suffix indicating agent

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thrift Is Thirsty Work

Dusty and dry. Luckily SVDP is just a few blocks from a local brewery, which serves tacos.

At the thrift store I bought an old book:
Minnesota Farmers' Diaries: William R. Brown, 1845-46; Mitchell Y. Jackson, 1852-63, Saint Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1939.

These are the texts of actual diaries from what was the frontier era of the midwest.

I like reading about the coming of spring. One hundred & sixty years ago on March 21, 1858, Jackson writes:
 after a week of Spring it is a little cool to day   We commenced plowing on Wednesday 17 on Alexanders low prairie  Find the ground full wet but stick to it.  and he & I togather have plowed about 10 acres.  On Friday we were greeted by our old friends the Robbins and larks mixed with Geese Ducks & Blackbirds  The Snow birds mostly disappeared the day before.  So that if we are not to have Spring early the birds are to be disappointed as well as ourselves
I would note that it's sunny and warm (40º F), with heaps of snow all around. But the roads are dry, and I rode my new bike for the first time since I'd biked it home from the bike shop 10 days ago. 

I saw my first Robbin of the spring at a community garden on the sunny north side of the path.

The Nonapology Apology

I found this cartoon at the article "How to Write a Damn Good Apology":
(Sherman Alexie's statement fits the "I'm sorry I find myself in a pickle" category.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Dark Nightshade of the Soul; Or, Why can't good storytellers write a good apology?

I've been so pissed off that Sherman Alexie has turned out to be another man with fame and power who has treated people with less power (women, in Alexie's case) as if they were free starlight mints in a bowl at the cash register, instead of freestanding, fellow human beings. 
I was trying to work up to incandescent rage, but this is so stupidly familiar, I can only work up to pissed off. 

No person is a dishful of buttermints for grabbing, but each is like a . . . going with this restaurant theme, more like a palm tree in the entryway--a living creature whose autonomy you want to cherish. 

You might admire that tree, you might even want it, but you don't tear off some branches to sprout or try to lug one home at the end of the evening.

Or if you do, you know you're out of line and you don't say,
I would never do that, it's out of character:
some of you palm trees are getting me wrong.

And there's another thing that pisses me off:
these lame, half-assed apologies. [Here, Alexie's]

I want to say to Alexie, Come on, man:
That's how you got invited to that free meal where you got caught trying to stuff the nth palm tree into the trunk of your car.

Yet this self-protective piece of mediocre writing ("I made poor decisions") is the best you can show for yourself? the best you can offer people you hurt, including people who admired you from afar, like me?

(Also, telling us that a former consensual lover told your wife of her affair with you doesn't make her seem less reliable in our eyes. Rather the contrary.
Uncomfortable for you, no doubt, that she's now nailing you on Twitter, but it's you who come across as the liar there. 

How did you not do that math?)

Show some dignity to your own soul, and to the personhood of the people you tore those branches off of.

'Fess the fuck up!

Write an honorable and beautiful apology.
One that will make us say, your apology is going to help me NOT  hurt someone, not use anyone like a complimentary pair of slippers in a hotel––for their sake. For mine, I never want to have to say what you just did:
that every time you abused someone's trust, you might have come out looking fine on the surface, but you were like Dorian Gray--

every disrespectful action you took harmed your soul, stored out of sight--in, let's say, a potato. (I don't know, it just came to me.)

That your soul-storing potato started out fresh and firm, with enough fertile eyes to father a field of potatoes.

But that every time you used someone, that potato shriveled.
Every time you handled someone like a napkin, a bruise appeared.
Every time you put mints in your mouth, a bad odor arose.
And every time you tore off a branch, the bruise oozed.

All you guys who got famous by your gift for words--why aren't you using that to show compassion and remorse, not just to mouth platitudes or "yeah, buts"? Do you not have any?

Some of you, like you, Sherman Alexie, I thought I'd like as people, some of you, eh... the reports of your behavior came as no surprise.
But I hand it to you, whether I liked you or not, Louis C. K., Woody Allen,  Bill Cosby, et al.---you guys were creative. You were funny.

And now you're pathetic.

It doesn't have to be that way. Maybe some are entirely putrified, but some potatoes should have some good eyes left. 

Here's what I'm thinking:
Harvest those, stick toothpicks in, and set them in a glass of water in a windowsill. Plant the green shoots in the spring, and when it's harvest time, shovel those suckers out, and feed everyone you can.

What that would actually look like, I don't know. Go find out, form an experimental Truth and Reconciliation Potato Farm, and tell us an honest story about it.

I wish even one of you would make a move to do that.

If you can't, or you listen to your lawyers (I'm guessing), and you won't give yourself away, (give your self away!), I won't be surprised.
And we'll be OK anyway: 
the palm tree will regenerate branches; our potatoes might be dented, but they haven't disintegrated into slime; we've got a whole stockpile of Andes, the best after-dinner mints.

We can and do tell our own stories.

We are, have been, and will be our own freestanding selves. Same as it ever was. 

But it could be better if certain people would clean their shit up.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Push Over

Heh. Have you seen this? Made me smile.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Black Bear's New Person

My auntie sent me this photo of her with Black Bear, the restored bear I sent, who arrived this morning.  

She wrote that she's taking him in her knitting bag down to her local coffee shop this afternoon. 

It's a small thing, but this makes me about as happy as anything I've ever had a hand in. 

You know? It's the happiness of when a thing you can do––and want to do––slots neatly into the need or desire of someone (or something) you love.

Fierce Debate Makes America Great

Being [Able to Be] Outrageous Is Our Constitutional Glory

I am not in sympathy with people who think the political movements Black Lives Matter (for racial justice),  Me Too (protesting the abuse of power in the form of sexual predation), and Never Again (for gun control) are going too far. 

I'm not either in sympathy with some in the movements who want to paint people who disagree with them as mortal enemies who share no common ground--even within their own ranks. (Lord, spare me from the self-policing of the call-out culture.)
But I can see why they feel that way.
And I am totally in favor of the groups using extreme, dramatic forms of political protest.

Recent social justice movements remind me of the sometimes outrageous protests of ACT UP ( AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and other political action groups that formed in the 1980s, in the early days of AIDS in the United States, when President Reagan wouldn't even say the name of the disease, much less fund medical research and information campaigns that could have saved thousands of lives.
                     Top photo of artist & activist David Wojnarowicz 

Dying from governmental inaction?
This might be a time to be overly dramatic!

Groupthink in any form is a danger to watch out for, and we do see some of that in these movements. But unless members start proposing acts of physical violence, they are exercising their right to free speech, possibly committing civil disobedience (climbing a statehouse flagpole to remove a flag). 
And that's a good thing.

America's greatness is its history of (sometimes flaming and raging) public disagreements. Fierce debate is the sign of a healthy democracy.  
It's like how high skyscrapers are designed to bend. 
If we're going to have self-rule and not a dictatorship, you gotta build a structure that can withstand a lot of hot air and strong winds. The US Constitution is a blueprint.

"Every difference of opinion is not difference of principle", Thomas Jefferson said:
if you are using democratic, constitutional principles (protests, speeches, art) to champion your cause, you are using the same tools, abiding by the same governing principles the other side supposedly believes in too. 
Even if you sometimes get a little out of whack.

But when was it different?
When was human nature so elevated it didn't go too far, get out of whack, engage in groupthink?

Cock and Bull

Certainly not 218 years ago, during the presidential campaign of 1800.
The contest between incumbent John Adams and Jefferson was so intense and angry, it threatened the peaceful transfer of power. When Adams lost the election, some Americans feared his supporters might seize control illegally, igniting a new revolution. 

Political smear campaigns included this political cartoon by James Akin portraying Jefferson as a cock courting a hen, Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman he owned. (People who still debate Jefferson had children with Hemings may not realize it was claimed at the time.)
(The cartoon appeared after the 1800 campaign, but you take the point.)

I love how Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address sought to calm those fears of violent revolution--by championing the right of people to disagree vehemently. 

The heat of the debates, Thomas Jefferson said, are the sign of a people whose constitution protects their right to think, speak, and write freely.

Rule of law and reasonableness must prevail, if the country is to hold together, he said, but there's room for  "animation of discussions and of exertions" that might alarm "strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think".

Sometimes I think those strangers are our own fellow Americans (or maybe even ourselves).

There's lots of good stuff in his address. Here's an excerpt.
From Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address, 
March 4, 1801 (@ Yale Avalon Project)
During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; 
but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. 

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. 

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. 
. . . 
Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself.
Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.
[End Jefferson quote]

This person from Jefferson's future, me, 217 years later, answers that there are no angels in the forms of kings.

There's only us chickens.


" 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.' " --MLK

P.S. I was inspired to write this up because of OCA blogger Michael's review, "WHAT?", of David Brooks's latest column in the New York Times. 

I haven't read Brooks piece, so I can't speak to it--
I just saw red at the idea that people who are protesting gross, longstanding injustices should be ...nice? I hear a lot of people my age saying that sort of thing.

Nice would be nice, but that's one of the problems with injustice:
it's an ugliness that may call forth responses that are ugly in kind.

(sometimes terribly disturbing, like Buddhist monks burning themselves to death to protest the Vietnam War, or the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison stepping in front of the king's racehorse---I question if violence against yourself is still non-violence...
Hm--looking it up, it seems she maybe didn't intend to hurt herself, but to attach a scarf to the horse???)

Protestors should guard and train against perpetuating hate,
but calls to stamp out the angry, even ugly responses to injustice mostly serve to preserve the status quo.

Of course we want to cultivate civilized protest, but if democracy can't withstand some inflamed feelings, even outright ugliness, from all different directions, it's failed.
But, obviously, it can.

Michael responded to my comment on his post, pointing out Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. responded to charges of going too fast, being "extreme," etc. too, in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (1963).
As you may know, it's a fantastic read. 

Above: Martin Luther King Jr. looks out the window of his cell at the Birmingham City Jail. Photo by the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, after a later arrest, in 1967, via The Washington Post.

A few excerpts:
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely."
. . . Since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. 
. . .  It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?"
You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action.
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.
It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
[boldface mine]
. . .
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not ...the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says:
"I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action".

 [End MLK quote]

And now, excuse me, I have some bears to repair.