Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Color of Blood

Over and over I hear myself repeat-- to no one in particular-- Forgive me, I have fallen in love with solitude.  As though I am unfaithful, ungrateful... and not unaware of the kindnesses that have graced me recently, the way a thin blanket of spring snow unexpectedly coats the world with a soft muting of color and sound...

My calendar is white; my schedule is the timetable of grief.  Relief comes occasionally with digressions into other universes... imagination, listening to music, writing.. those meaningful phonecalls from my 'family' of friends who reach out and exchange sad moments the way we musicians trade eights.

My son, as always, is so positive. This is his 'role' in the passion play of life.  He looks ahead-- fully subscribes to the promise of future and tolerates the present with a cheerful stoicism.  Mom, he says,
when I speak of my suffering friends-- these people are not your problem-- don't enlist.  I am grateful that his DNA somehow balances mine-- he is the counterpoint to my dark melody.  I am the strings-- I dream in 'cello' I remarked in a note to someone last night, who surely knows what I mean.

What I do not say to my son, who may have had his young heart broken or threatened at a sensitive time when his little soul decided pragmatism was far preferable to melancholy, is  Oh, but they are my problem.  Early this morning-- the 'end' of another of my unregimented days, I watched the painful testimony of George Floyd's brother on national news, against new footage of fires burning in Minneapolis.  For those who grew up in the 1960's, these scenes are all too familiar... the urban manifestation of anger and horror at atrocities inflicted for centuries now, in the name of racism.

It baffles me that even within a single family unit some people grow up with prejudices, hatreds, resentments-- downright meanness.  I spent years trying to unravel harsh criminal riddles... it seemed there had to be a reason for cruelty and violence-- a reaction-- like a scientific principle of physics... but this only applies to a small fraction.  This morning I found myself weeping with the CNN journalist at the frustration and sorrow of a man whose brother had virtually been executed on national television-- all justice denied, humanity at its very lowest and worst claiming a life for absolutely no reason-- the misled cruel child holding a kitten underwater, torturing animals for entertainment.

It is not only one of the most disturbing pieces of video we've seen in a long time, but deeply provocative and infuriating.  I was ashamed of what it seems to mean to be a white American, and tormented with guilt for our helplessness here.  As though we have had not had enough death and suffering, had our lives frozen in the face of a tiny biological enemy who can take the breath away from grown men; here we watched a uniformed man purporting to represent authority and law violate and render powerless a strong un-uniformed individual-- the audacity, the lack of respect and humanity-- the sick twisted miscarriage of authority and justice.  There is no greater crime than to deprive a human being of life.  What have we become?  What have we been?

I'm not sure if anger tempers sorrow somehow; at least it has a correlative action.  I know that justice is a balm but cannot compensate for life lost.  Hate crimes, for most of us, are unthinkable... what makes people behave in this way?  Our earliest literature and art caricatures and personifies human vices and sins, as though these are a 'given'.  Most of us are less familiar with the virtues.  The current America is not just sick with a global pandemic, but the pre-existing condition of epidemic greed and
economic disparity.  By far the majority of virus deaths occurred in the zip codes of the poorest communities.  My friend and musical partner who died was eulogized and celebrated internationally; not so most of the quiet victims.  The NY Times listed them, but we all saw how tiny the figure-- how brief the description.

Today I am sad for my America which when I grew up I personified as a handsome boy-- on the edge of possibility. Now I see my country as a ruined, stooped man with a cane, bleeding dollars from stuffed pockets, blind and deaf to misery and inequality, myopic and small-minded, drinking from the fountain of greed, drunk with selfish misconception.  From my heart George Floyd, I  am so sorry.  To every black man I pass in the park at dusk who waves to me, as if to reassure me-- I am 'safe'-- I apologize.  To the cashier in Harlem who no longer packs groceries with gloves because, he tells me-- they protect me but not you-- I could kiss him.

And to my first husband-- for his utter colorblindness and courage to play with white musicians when few black players were doing so... I learned so much about the world from you who had scarcely read a book when we met, but could speak bass like no one else from stage.  What a rich life you gave me in those few years-- opening my ears to things I'd not understood,  crossing boundaries and defying conventions... it is to you and the greater understanding and love of music I owe part of this debt of solitude... may you be happy and safe and steadfast in your refusal to be tainted by the ignorance of unfortunate haters and traitors.  We bleed the same color, you used to assure me... you who even then was surely more evolved and compassionate than most of us will ever be...

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Blogger Unknown said...

You are blessed to have your pragmatist for balance in your life
Lots of Love
Bicycle Joe

May 29, 2020 at 4:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You write so beautifully. I am able to feel and almost taste the images and feelings you describe and explore.

Jane's friend Debra

May 29, 2020 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger BB said...

This is so profound, and so beautifully expressed. This truth could not have been written in any other way. I am deeply moved by this. I can hear your pain for this America that we thought had so much to give

May 29, 2020 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

July very very late in reading this. Jane had told me how extraordinary it was. And lord knows, it still is. Every word, speaking for so many, but in a way only you could write..from that deep, loving, feeling vision. xoxo...Leo

July 4, 2020 at 2:44 PM  

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