Category Archives: Writing

“Babies in Cages”, by Patterson Hood

I used to mock Deadheads. Now I’ve seen Drive-By Truckers and various members over five dozen times. Below are two reasons why.

This Is What Resistance Looks Like, Too.

Babies in Cages

The world wakes up this morning
I’m sorry for the news
Wrapped up in a tinfoil blanket without any shoes
Babies in cages

I’m sorry to my children
I’m sorry what they see
I’m sorry for the world that they’ll inherit from me
Babies in cages

Are we so divided
That we can’t at least agree
This ain’t the country that our granddad’s fought for us to be
Babies in cages
_______________________________________________

Surf’s up in the cities
Where the next wars will be fought
I’m sorry we’ve forsaken every word that we were taught
Babies in cages

I bang my head against it
Smash guitars and scream and shout
Standing on the beach watching the tide go out
Babies in cages

Standing in the darkness
To answer for our sins
Children changing each others diapers in a pen
Babies in cages

Copyright Patterson Hood – Dunwoody GA. June 19, 2018

If History Won’t Save You, What Will?

I fondly remember the death of Richard M. Nixon, on Earth Day, 1994, like the planet finally taking out trash gone rancid decades ago. It’s rare that a death makes me happy, but this one did. He was an actively evil man who got away with it and died old and free with a clear record.

Get caught with a nickel bag brother-man
Get caught with a nickel bag sister-lady on your way to get your hair fixed
You’ll do Big Ben, and Big Ben is time
But the man who tried to fix America will not do time

Gil Scott-Heron wrote those words and he did not die free and clear.


In the liner notes to Winter In America, Gil Scott-Heron made the earliest on-record call for the impeachment of Richard Nixon that I am personally aware of. There may be an earlier one, but I haven’t seen it, though I have seen later ones which claimed to be first. The same country that showed Nixon mercy because he had phlebitis showed Gil Scott-Heron–who said of phlebitis, “Rats bite us. No pardon in the ghetto”–to prison for crack addiction. Gil Scott-Heron died too young on parole with a felony record.

Continue reading If History Won’t Save You, What Will?

Rich Boss Cries Crocodile Tears Over Fate Of Worker He Fired After Twenty-Five Years

Cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburg Post-GazetteThis is his website.
A cartoon to get fired over

This was his publisher:

“He’s just become too angry for his health or for his own good,” John Block, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, told POLITICO in his first interview since the firing earlier this week.

How thoughtful!

“I wanted clever and funny instead of angry and mean,” he said in an interview in Lakeville, Connecticut, at a reunion of his boarding school Hotchkiss.

So the rich boss is a Hotchkiss man. How appropriate! Was he angry when he fired cartoonist Rob Rogers? Or was he just mean? Because if he was just mean, and not angry, he’s not a hypocrite. He’s still mean, though, still rich and powerful, willing and able to hurt people.

How able?

Rogers said that when he was hired in 1993 the Post-Gazette was a liberal paper, largely reflecting the Democratic leanings of its city. Then as now, John Robinson Block was its publisher. He has been photographed shaking hands with Hillary Clinton and beaming beside Trump on his private jet.

How willing?

In January of this year, the editorial board ran a piece defending Trump’s use of the term “shithole countries” when referring to African nations as well as Haiti and El Salvador. The editorial, titled “Reason as racism,” sparked outrage among current and former employees at the newspaper, including Rogers who described it as “blatantly racist.”

I realize many of my friends have faith in wealthy people and their market ventures, to make wise decisions that lead to more for everyone. I have a similar faith. I believe wealthy people make wise decisions that lead to more for themselves.

The markets are rising for a reason: Wealthy people of all persuasions can see profit on the horizon. They will not save you.

Internalized Anti-Intellectualism

Yesterday, Kim Hampton asked this question (it’s short and good–read it!):

Why is it, for all of our supposed intellectualism on a wide range of subjects, most Unitarian Universalists show absolutely no curiosity regarding religion itself?

This is true enough. I’d qualify it by adding there are Unitarian Universalists who effectively practice another religion and have some interest in their own. Very few of them have the sort of wide-ranging curiosity about religion she’s talking about.

What I had noticed is that most Unitarian Universalists I’ve met are particularly uninterested in Unitarian Universalism. They aren’t interested in Unitarianism or Universalism, either. I’m not sure this is internalized anti-intellectualism, but that’s my working theory.

In Praise of Amber Ruffin, or How Seth Meyers could help your church

For a comedy fan, YouTube and late-night talk shows are the perfect combination. All the monologues, all the skits and sketches, none of the boring interviews. Just the laughs, and the hard thoughts sometimes behind them.

My current favorite of the late-night comedians isn’t a host but a writer-actor, Amber Ruffin, a writer on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Meyers is very funny, and he’s confident enough in his abilities to put his writers on stage with him. At least weekly the woman writers–most of the sketch/skit acting is done by women–are on the show, with good juicy parts, often upstaging Meyers. Here he’s playing straight man so Ruffin can be top banana:

There is so much to love in that sketch. Ruffin pulls laughs out of unpleasant places. Her girlish demeanor is a great pivot point. She can go from there to sarcastic, contrarian, sexy, angry, almost anywhere. Here she makes the hugest move with it: At the time of the Charlottesville attack, a frightening time, she shows us how she guards her soft spots with a happy “Come oooooon!” Most comedians don’t ever get to that level of public insight.  She’s early in her career and doing it in front of a national audience.

Until I started to write this, I did not know that in 2014, Ruffin became the first black woman to write for a network late-night talk show, but I had figured she’s on track to be the first black woman–and maybe the first woman–with a late-night network talk show.

Apparently I’m not the only person who’s considered that. Just this week, Seth Meyers was interviewed in The Atlantic:

Continue reading In Praise of Amber Ruffin, or How Seth Meyers could help your church

One Good Thing About the Rise of Authoritarianism

If you’ve read a lot of inside stuff about Unitarian Universalism the last few years, you’ve noticed ministers (and others, but a lot of ministers) decrying the “antiauthoritarianism” of rank-and-file Unitarian Universalists.

Equating “antiauthoritarianism” with “antiauthority” is just as dishonest as the people who try to equate “spirituality” and “spiritualism”, and in just the same word-warping manner.

So here’s the good news: I haven’t seen one such use of “anti-authoritarian” since the last election. As Samuel Johnson said, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Looking authoritarianism in the eye reminds the weary and forgetful of the virtues of standing firm and saying no, middle finger and all.

It’s a small blessing, but I’m not in a position to turn anything down!

Dear Dahlia Lithwick: The Story Is The Ending

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate wrote a wonderful piece yesterday, How to Survive Trump’s Presidency Without Losing Your Mind. It’s short. You should read it before going on.

At the end, after repeating a story to us, she says:

I told this story to a roomful of people the other night and someone asked me after how the story ends. I had to admit to him that as a formal matter, the story ends where I ended it: the madness and the markings. But the truth is that the story doesn’t end so much as invite us into it, to contend with it on its own terms.

That’s true, but incomplete. The story, the telling of the story, the very existence of the story is itself the ending of the story. Consider: What if the plan in the story had gone terribly wrong? Who would be left to tell it? That the story is told shows the plan was successful enough that this piece of knowledge passed from those two men, through that time, to us.

Of course, it’s just a story. It’s not like history, a story which is more than just a story. But stories is what people do. We consume stories. We tell our stories; we tell the stories of others; we make up stories when we run out. The person who told that story lived; the writer who created that narrator lived. Choose to read this story as one of coming through the storm.

(Personal to Ms. Lithwick: I’d love to know what children’s record the version of the story you know comes from.)