Guide to critical factors that drive and sustain our structural inequity
As we enter 2020, I call on all people to rise, unite and fight against structural inequity and the factors that influence and perpetuate it. To that end, this piece explores two foundational factors that drive and sustain inequity in our society: uneven playing fields in education and economic. I believe that the only way to meaningfully bridge the inequity gap in all aspects of our society is through leveling the playing field, and that is the subject of this piece.
50 years ago…beginning around 1970
As we celebrate 2020 it is useful for (those old enough) to look back about 50 years and note the changes. There has been much promise and many problems across these many years… So many changes occurred in the blink of an eye, yet so little improvement endures, and we aren’t sure why.
The progressive values that began in the 1960s (e.g. increasing political awareness, economic liberty of women, civil rights and ecological awareness) grew to assume mainstream importance. Around 1970 the Mother Earth News and the Whole Earth Catalogue appeared, promoting the counter-culture values, the do-it-yourself life, and environmental concerns. In 2005 Apple founder Steve Jobs called the Whole Earth Catalogue the Google of his generation. Fifty years later, the Whole Earth Catalogue is archived online, available at no cost. Mother Earth News is still here, often found on grocery store magazine racks—today a slick almost-mainstream magazine. What follows is a wandering listing of changes begun back then.
The Big Dipper is really Santa’s sled
freewheeling around the North Pole
through frosty stars and a red nosed
bear taking pointers from Rudolf as
his reins arc to a super giant red-eye
star, coursing through the circumpolar
tinsel of stars, a garland of firelights,
but avoiding the unwinding glittering
coil of that dragon, Draco, whose cold
aspic heart, Thuban, thumps the night,
but it’s a certain Santa & his Bears
who bring all those stardust wishes
full of hope sifted from a special star
that’s twinkling in the silent night.
[First published in Abyss & Apex (Jan 2017)]
Image credit: John C. Mannone (image design) and Camille Alvey (image production in Pixlr)
Author’s Commentary: For this American sonnet, it occurred to me that Santa’s sled and reindeer could fit the outline of the Big Dipper. To the best of my knowledge, this is an original concept.
The Big Dipper is known as the constellation Ursa majoris, the Bear, but in the Nordic tradition, it is a wagon. So in that spirit, a large sled is consistent with that image. And with Santa being in the North Pole, it is fitting that the sled points to the North Star, Polaris. [The two pointer stars—Dubhe (Arabic for bear) and Merak (Arabic for loins of the bear)—are aligned with the back of the sled.] Polaris is actually a variable star, so I imaginatively speculate that this pulsating variable could have undergone a catastrophic perturbation which caused it to suddenly shine brightly, as if the Star of Bethlehem. (I am well informed about stellar dynamics, so this conjecture is pure science fiction.) The Big Dipper is a circumpolar constellation, which means it revolves around the pole star, so it is visible throughout the night. I love the symbolism of making the pole star the Star of Bethlehem. Santa Claus, that benevolent gift-giver to children, travels all around the world while always pointing to that bright and shining star.
In star-hopping lingo, stargazers follow the stars in bend of the handle of the Big Dipper to locate a red supergiant star, Arc to Arcturus, which I find as a convenient proxy for the guiding red light (like Rudolf’s nose in the popular legend). In the image, I use poetic license with respect to scale because Arcturus would not be that close to the Big Dipper, nor would it be glowing that big and that bright!
Not shown in the image is another circumpolar constellation, Draco, whose brightest star, Thuban, is the serpentine dragon’s heart. It is in contradistinction to the goodness implied by the Star of Bethlehem. Of course, the allusion at the end of the poem to that wonderful German hymn, “Silent Night,” has special seasonal significance for some that transcends a peaceful gift-giving Santa.
Gold bells of Carolina Jessamine
scent the antebellum stairs of the tennis club
A dinner for volunteers,
we crunch the green salad,
nuzzle wine on the terrace.
Spring in February quivers,
throws a range of voices around us
like a warming cloak.
Continue reading Stars Shine on Everyone – Helga Kidder
Winter wind whines through woods,
whips and tosses flakes around tree trunks
like refugees begging for shelter.
Where can they go except to fall
into the ground or sink
and drown in a foreign sea?
. . . and in its shadow
we know one another
~ W. S. Merwin “The Rock”
Married one week, mid-air between
continents, hunger for anything new
quivered inside me like a leaf, unfurling.
The sky February blue.
Behind me a Black Forest village,
mother, and nosy neighbors.
In front of me a town in Tennessee
full of strangers speaking
in a strange language.
Continue reading FIRST FLIGHT – by Helga Kidder
Poetry Editor’s Note: October is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Image credit: Photography by the staff of Black Celebrity Giving
Image credit: Niki Feijen photograph of an abandoned church in the Netherlands
Language is one of the greatest gifts that we humans possess. It sets us apart from every other creature on earth. Scientists, experimenting with animals to determine the extent of their language efficacy, report that animals do communicate among themselves, as various studies in Nature and other scientific journals attest, but so far nothing has been found to equal humans’ ability to express themselves in free-flowing complex and comprehensible language. Words, the vehicle of language, are a capital asset, and even in this age of twitter and text messages, real words still matter and are influential.
Our thoughts and emotions can be couched in words and phrases laden with the potential for extensive good, yet words are inherently fleeting, and it is precisely because of their evanescence that we ought to be careful to use words that leave no harmful residue of negativity. As children we were told to choose our words carefully because, once spoken, words can’t be pulled back in like a kite. This caution also holds true for us in adulthood. We, too, need to be careful how we use the gift of words. But when we observe how words are being used in the current national atmosphere, we have to conclude that some grownups, especially those in high places, tend to forget to mind the words of their mouths.