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July 3rd, 2002

the storm before the lull

Sometimes I think it is the day before a holiday day which is the real holiday. One gets work done, has meetings, thinks great thoughts, and feels relief, all knowing a day off is just ahead. Even the bliss of the day off work is not equal to the bliss of the day before the day off work. The sound of the tea pot whistle always tastes better than the tea.

We have our third day of rainy weather. Apparently, central and south Texas are in deluge. In north Texas, we're just in pleasant overcast skies. It's as though I fell asleep and awoke in a particularly pleasant San Francisco rainy Spring day, in an El Nino year. Tomorrow is to be warmer again, but I'd rather savor this weather than think about tomorrow.

My favorite "overlooked" lake, Lake Ray Roberts,
was featured in the local newspaper as "the local great overlooked lake". It has great hiking and biking trails, natural woodlands, the zebra longwing butterfly (found essentially in a little strip of Texas and in Florida--I don't know why such a distribution), and a really uncrowded ambience. When I see an article "discovering" it,
I feel at once that warm glow that I was already in the 'know' (I am a bit silly) and the fear that now everyone will know. I'm not sure people read the paper, though--that's my last best hope for peace.

I notice that I read the birthdays section of the newspaper far too often. Who really cares how old celebrities are? I suppose I must, or I wouldn't read it. It's funny, the three reactions--"I thought he died years ago, but he's only 70", "I never realized we were essentially contemporaries--I've been a fan for ages", and
"oh my goodness, I could have been her father!".
Note to self: acquire weighty looking tome to accompany raisin bran.

I started a novel by old Baja hand Harry Crosby.
As near I can from the first fifty pages make out, it's a first person narrative about a February-December relationship, only February is a charming paid companion. Everything is of course bathed in foreign travel and witty, meaningful conversation. Nobody ever stops by the convenience store for a "hit" of beef jerky, or hankers for a quarter pounder with cheese or discusses John Grisham novels.

The "duality" of the love story v. the mercantile transaction seems to be the theme. Some days I wake up and wonder if life is too short for reading silly novels. It's engagingly written, but I have to wonder if another book, say Scorpions of Baja, might not have been a more profitable pursuit. I'll finish it, though, I suppose.

I need to put batteries back in that shortwave radio, whose batteries I "robbed" for some other appliance. Then maybe I can go to Copenhagen
or Lisbon...in my mind. But I'll refrain from mercantile transactions, if I can.
Hey, kids....let's start a band! Get some guy who's a really dextrous keyboard player, buy him some really primitive synths, treat him as if he were the lead guitarist, give him a hundred solos, rearrange a buncha classical pieces as if they were rock songs, get some guy to write a buncha really grandiose, cynical lyrics so's folks will know we're intellectuals, get some guy with a really histrionic voice from an incarnation of some band like King Crimson to sing, and make sure the drummer has a huge gong behind his drum kit and more drums than an orc legion all around him, and make sure we have a piano which spins in mid-air. Wouldn't that be cool? Let's do it!

Oh, wait, they had a band like that....Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Never mind.

freedom in dissent

In 1896, the United States Supreme Court handed down the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which authorized states to require black citizens to utilize separate facilities, a form of state-sponsored apartheid, so long as the facilities were "equal". This pernicious doctrine, termed "separate but equal", further fueled the spread of racist "Jim Crow" laws throughout portions of the country, incuding particularly the American South. The "separate but equal" doctrine endured in substantial part until 1954, when a wiser court overturned it.

Justice John Marshall Harlan (the "first" Justice Harlan) wrote a dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson. In this opinion, he wrote:

"But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is colorblind and neither knows or tolerates classes among citizens".

Only Justice Harlan had the wisdom and the courage to
read the Constitution as granting individual equality, rather than as an instrument for governments to authorize racial oppression. The entirety of the rest of the Court upheld the challenged segregation law, keeping this country on a racist course whose effects we still feel today.

As we celebrate, we should remember that there are truly patriotic things that have been done in this country, and that truth calls upon us to fight the next set of fights in the search for a truly equal society. We live with the possibility of true social justice and true civil rights and democracy ever before us. Let's celebrate glorious dissenters who courageously stand for these values rather than pointless jingoism and bunting. Our battles are different ones than Justice Harlan's. Our generation will be called upon to end sexual orientation discrimination, for example. The Fourth of July is when we remember we must fight the battles of our time, and that we will not always be in the majority. Like Justice Harlan, we must dissent, knowing our time will come.