#StayWoke, layers of

PoMoRed, 1/12/2016, Mt. Vernon, VA —

Staff meeting this afternoon, but just this morning Dr. Cornel West was on Democracy Now reminding us to dig in and push, we became certain that #notmypresident’s cabinet is made of #robberbarons, Texas is set to force women /clinics who have abortions to pay for the burial/cremation of the remains, and #StandingRock is gearing up for a confrontation with #historicalconsequences, read a great interview with Ralph Nader in Sun Magazine

“#StayWoke” usually shows up tagged to some awful event.

A murder by police. A missing or murdered transgender woman. An incorrectly drawn swastika on a school. News of some climate destabilization symptom meant to yank on our hearts. #Amnesia is a defense employed, by those not too-directly affected by these problems, to cope with the sheer psychic battering that Knowing does to us in a world built of Systems of Damage. #StayWoke is usually a reminder to keep looking, stay sharp. Like being awake all the time, it can lead to exhaustion and total breakdown.

BUT. #StayWoke also means staying Awake To Your Power. 

I see so many new energized people! Folks calling Congress to draw a line on #SteveBannon. The joy in that! If you’re a social justice advocate of any stripe, you’ve been hungering for a long time to see Americans Get Engaged! And it is really that simple: Call your representatives and let them know what you think. Keep those phone numbers in your contact list. Get their emails. Bug them. Bother them. Talk to them. It is, no joke, that simple.

#trump wants to fill his cabinet with #robberbarons (literally), call to draw a line on all of them. Congress must approve the appointments. Lay some conscience on these people.

1 minute out of your lunch break. That easy. You can call while you’re in line at your favorite casual dining establishment or small business eatery.

You can bet your soul that the political right has been at this a long time. That’s how we’re in this clusterfu(K. Because this shit works. Some of the levers of state operation can be swung in our favor.

Ralph Nader reminds us how to #StayWoke: 

… it’s not that hard to turn the country around. Most people, whatever they call themselves — conservative, liberal, libertarian, progressive — have a deep sense of fair play and justice. They’re not sadists. They care for other people. We see this in a national disaster. All labels go out the window, and everybody helps …. That’s what we need to tap into. That’s why I say fewer than 1% of the people, if they represent a majority opinion [on background checks for gun purchase and restricting assault weapons, for example] can make a lot of changes.

If that 1% makes the phone calls. One or two calls a day, at lunch maybe, or while you’re on the train or bus, or stopped on the highway in your commute.

Wanna get more radical in a totally gentle and effective way?

Throw the labels out the window forever and all of time. Just ask yourself: would I suffer if X or Y or Z were happening to me? If the answer is Yes, ask yourself one more question: Where is my phone?? The 21st Century version of: If not now, when?

Now, look at #StandingRock and ask yourself: if an occupying government broke every promise it ever made me and mine, if a company were about to dig up the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried, my child is buried, my spouse, if that company were about to destroy my private land,  if the police whose salaries my taxes pay and who are supposed to protect me were spraying me with water in sub-freezing temperatures in order to shut me up and get me out of this company’s way, would I suffer?

Yes, you would. So pick up the phone. Simple.

If you throw out political, even social, kinds of labels, if you act on your heart and your connection to the joy and good living and to the suffering of other people, you become a completely uncontrollable, politically unpredictable, socially responsible excellent human being. You come from a place of love and care, and that is nearly impossible to manipulate.


Your state government lists the phone numbers and contact info for state representatives and senators, and the governor and their cabinet, on a website like States each have a Senate and a General Assembly (like the House of Representatives).

Your city, too. City council, aldermen, Jane Smith who lives over on Maple St., whatever your town’s manner of organization, call them about local issues and needs.

The Feds.

Find your senators here. There’s a search box in the upper right corner.
Find your representatives in the House here. Also, search box in the upper right.

Not sure what each house of Congress is responsible for? No problem. Below are links to the committees. Here you can find out what the committees are working on, and who’s on them. You can contact committees much the way you would your own legislators.

Committees of House of Representatives

Committees of Senate

Keep your representatives’ numbers in your phone,
use them daily, #StayWoke.





Weather Eye

It’s not that we’re fat (tho many are), or a little less sharp of movement than East Coasters, or more uptight than West Coasters (tho many are), or more racist than either (tho many are) — it’s that we’re obsessed with weather. We go to Istanbul and talk about the weather.

In CUNY’s  Lost & Found collection of poets writing on poetry or to each other, Baraka and Dorn exchange notes mostly on getting poems published and Baraka’s young journal off the ground. I can tell Dorn is the Midwesterner in this dialogue. No matter where he is, the letters include long sections on the weather, remarks on the snow, dryness, the oppression or lifting of conditions, season. Dorn, it turns out, is from Illinois. He watches his atmosphere minutely, with some love but mostly a kind of background trepidation.

Midwesterners think inside a farming culture. MW hipsters will deny this, but their false consciousness is another post. Our cities, surrounded by 100s of miles of crop & herd. Eastern cities are surrounded by other cities, US NightLightsand Western ones by wildland of myth and monster (to hear them tell it — it’s just wolves and indigenous people they’re freaking out about).

Weather is not conversational filler, it’s vital gossip about a bad cop. If you live in a town whose name starts with a J (Jarrell, Joplin) you are in trouble from go. The Ring of Fire Derecho of 2012 was born in Iowa at 9:30 in the morning, and was pounding Virginia, DC, and Maryland ELEVEN HOURS later. It moved 2 days worth country in half a day.

Michael Stipe is a MW’er & complained about our serious small talk in “Pop Song 89“, but he was really on about a flat kind of interchangeable human insufficiently engaged in their world while Reagan & Co. burned the 20th Century down to wee green shoots. He had a point.

In LatinX and African American cultures, polite conversation gets quickly to asking after family, everyone’s grandparents, cousins. In the MW, we call long-distance to ask after the weather there, guessing whether a storm will break N or S or just smash thru everything with all of Canada behind it. I live in the East now, so when Mamma calls we compare weather in every conversation while we both have apps & know perfectly well what’s up with the atmosphere.

Little House on the Prairie? The whole plot of those novels turn on a hail storm leveling the Engel’s wheat crop. So, I’m in grad school in the early 1990s, this is before the flood of ’93, with my dad who’s helping me move into my first apartment. We get the mattress in (this is all true) and sit on the trailer with a couple of beers, it’s late June, we are made of sweat at this point and chatting about the homegoods I need to score at the Goodwill, when the sky goes gunmetal and green and the sirens wind up

that cats-fucking-in-the-alley wail, and I realize this apt has. no. basement. 20 min later, it’s over, sunny, shiney streets and glittering oaks rise & shake their crowns in the after-breeze. “Sky turned over,” Papa says,”not seen that in a few years.” Radio that night reported a tornado on the edge of town — yes, that edge of town, always. This was a sunny day.

We’re like sailors this way. Not for nought it’s called a sea of wheat. That swath of Mississippi Watershed is the size of an ocean & builds up heat and damp like the Tropics do. It teaches us how the old gods still dance at their children’s weddings.