Columns

Reflections on Keeping Loved Ones From Taking Their Lives

September 19, 2018 by Ernie McCray

I remember back, maybe
when I was in junior high,
neighbors talking in hush-hush tones
about a man
who had drowned himself
in the night.
“Hey, why y’all whispering?”
I wanted to know,
all wide-eyed
and mystified
and horrified.
“Shhh, boy, he died of suicide.”

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A Blue Wave is Not Enough: Progressives Need to Win the Long War for Democracy

September 17, 2018 by Jim Miller

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club about the Lincoln Club and the history of the American Right. In that presentation, I noted how the ultimate aim of the Right was to dishonestly promote deeply unpopular policies through stealth politics that take advantage of the general public’s naiveté about their agenda.

Locally, groups like the Lincoln Club do their best to intervene in Democratic primaries and shift the landscape in their favor so they can win elections and promote policies that further enrich the elite. As I have written in this space, that’s how San Diego’s “shadow government” has rolled for decades.

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Everybody Wants to Be Listened To

September 11, 2018 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I don’t remember how I first got on Facebook. But I’m glad I did because it’s worked for me.

I’ve learned to just scroll past all the ads and fabrications and fake news and the like and get right at what’s up with my “friends” who are mostly people I’ve known for some time and people who became my friends through them.

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San Diegans in America’s Finest Tourist Plantation Struggle to Make It … But Nobody’s at the Barricades

September 10, 2018 by Jim Miller

Speaking to the Anger Beneath the Postcard?

It should come as no surprise to anyone who ventures outside San Diego’s hermetically sealed and relentlessly marketed image of itself as a carefree paradise by the sea that the reality of our city is quite different than the happy fantasy.

A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirmed this when it released a report that noted of America’s Finest City, “45% of San Diegans fall into an auspicious category: people who work full time and still struggle with poverty.”

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Lessons for 2018: Labor Solidarity Works!

September 4, 2018 by Jim Miller

It has been the worst of times and the best of times for the American Labor Movement in 2018.

Economic inequality has continued to spiral out of control as policy coming out of Washington, DC designed to tilt the scales in favor of the rich and corporations weakened the rights of working Americans at every turn.

At the Supreme Court level, anti-labor justices joined the assault against labor and undermined public sector unions’ rights to collect dues.

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From Rough Seas to Pleasant Memories

August 31, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Painting of a storm-tossed ship at sea

By Ernie McCray

There have been moments
in mourning
the loss of my son
that I’ve felt like a boat
being battered in rough seas,
swirling and whirling
in pounding
un-relenting waves,
and then there comes
a little break
as the waters, seemingly,
hurl me towards the shore,
and a memory,
like one I had the other day,

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Time Should be Running Out for the President and His Republican Cronies

August 28, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I began this writing a day after one of the president’s thuggish friends, a man who led his campaign, was found guilty of several counts of fraud, and his personal lawyer and “fixer” pleaded guilty to illegal payments under his direction.

I waited a day to see how the Republicans in the Senate and the House would react, foolishly holding out that they would finally say “Enough” to the lunacy coming out of the West Wing of the White House – considering that the clock should have run out on his presidency months ago.

And all they’ve done so far is claim that a sitting president can’t be indicted when, whether that is true or not, they have the power to take him down. Like they could impeach the sordid clown.

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The Wages of Inequality Keep Growing: Only Working People’s Power Can Save Our Democracy

August 27, 2018 by Jim Miller

It shouldn’t be news to readers of the OB Rag that life here under the perfect sun isn’t always so easy, particularly for working people. Indeed, as a Bloomberg report outlined last May, “The gap between the have and have-nots in San Diego was the ninth-highest out of 100 cities between 2011 to 2016.”

As usual, this report received not much more than a shrug in the place where happy happens as we were too busy spectacularly failing to address our shameful homelessness crisis yet again while the supply of high-end condos downtown and elsewhere continues to grow. So it goes.

It’s the same old story over and over again here–and everywhere else.

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Trump Tweets While California and the World Burns

August 20, 2018 by Jim Miller

The world just keeps getting hotter, and California burns ever-more-furiously as one epic blaze after another strain not just our resources, but our ability to cognitively adjust to the fact that this is the new normal. As I wrote in response to the huge fires in Los Angeles last December, “Reality is exceeding the capacity of our dystopian imaginations.”

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Elderly Reflections on a Melancholy Day

August 14, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

You ever have one of those days
when you just
can’t shake your blues
because your soul feels so completely
battered and bruised
and defused and confused
and mis and/or overused,
seeming as though
it will never ever again
be enthused and amused?

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The Music of the Street – Summer Chronicles 2018 #9

August 13, 2018 by Jim Miller

There is music in the street. It’s easy to be enthralled by the sounds of the natural world, but urban noise frequently distresses us, disrupts our head space or intervenes into the sounds we are plugged into at the moment. But sometimes, the city bustle has its charms. So much of the urban noise that we think of as a distraction from some other narrative that has captured our attention or an intrusion into our sealed-off domestic space is seen as ugly.

But perhaps we just need to learn to listen. Is it the sounds themselves that are the issue or our reactions to them?

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‘Already Dead’: A Lunch Poem for Golden Hill – Summer Chronicles 2018 #8

August 6, 2018 by Jim Miller

On the back cover of Frank O’Hara’s classic City Lights Books collection, Lunch Poems, he defines his efforts succinctly:

Often this poet, strolling through the noisy splintered glare of a Manhattan noontide,

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Free at Last! Free at Last! – A Dad’s Reflections of a Life That Was Enough

July 30, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Guy Ernest McCray, my oldest son,
has passed away
and needless to say
that saddens me in
the deepest way.

Yet, at the same time,
knowing the grind
he had in life,
I find myself whispering to the wind
that he is now:
“Free at Last! Free at Last!”

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When the Padres Still Played Baseball in Yuma: Summer Chronicles 2018 #7

July 30, 2018 by Jim Miller

It’s the dog days of summer but it’s Spring Training all year round in San Diego as the Padres sort through their stock of minor leaguers to see who might still be around in a few years when they hope to be competitive.

That means losing a lot. Watching a good amount of losing baseball requires a different lens and an appreciation for the small things inside and outside the game.

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Thinking of Bukowski at Del Mar – Summer Chronicles 2018 #6

July 23, 2018 by Jim Miller

Every year, opening day at Del Mar brings out the beautiful people. Handsome, well-heeled (or at least trying to look that way) young men and women get dressed to the nines and parade around the track, seeing and being seen. It is a classic San Diego moment: shiny happy people in an elegant place on a perfect summer day.

Not a trouble in the world.

Until they start betting and losing and betting and losing.

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Building Trust With Police is Like Trying to Assemble a Jigsaw Puzzle

July 17, 2018 by Ernie McCray

A jigsaw puzzle depicting the word "TRUST"

Creating Commission on Police Practices Moves to Full San Diego City Council.

“Trust is the Issue” was one of our rallying cries at the City Council’s Rules Committee meeting last Wednesday, July 11.

And the committee came through, voting 3-2 to pass the idea of creating a Commission on Police Practices on to the full Council.

That sounds hopeful to me but trying to build trust with the police in San Diego, for communities of color, has been like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. One with too many pieces – due to years of bad history.

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Gentrifying Dystopia in Bombay Beach – Summer Chronicles 2018 #5

July 17, 2018 by Jim Miller

There’s something compelling about desolation, about lost places filled with traces of forgotten histories both personal and collective. That’s why I’ve always had a penchant for little towns around the Salton Sea, the vast, dying body of water I describe in my first novel, Drift:

It was a mistake, the product of a vulgar utopia gone awry. At the turn of the century, they dreamed of transforming the desert into a garden by bleeding nature of more than she readily offered.

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Malcolm X and Police Accountability on My Mind

July 11, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Photo of Malcolm X poster labeled "NOT FOR SALE"

By Ernie McCray

I attended a meeting the other night at the Malcolm X Library about a proposed Amendment to the City of San Diego Charter to create a Commission on Police Practices.

I couldn’t help but think of Malcolm throughout the evening because he would be pleased at the very idea

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Summer Chronicles 2018 # 4: Getting Inside the Inexhaustibility

July 10, 2018 by Jim Miller

“A desire to be inside the inexhaustibility.”
–Karl Ove Knausgaard My Struggle

In Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, he writes eloquently about how writing is what helps one escape the prison of our “purely fabricated world” that gives us the feeling that “the world is small, tightly enclosed around itself, without openings to anywhere else.”

This bubble world that the construct of modern civilization has locked us into is only exacerbated by the closed feedback loop of our cell phones and social media which pretend to expand our known worlds while, in reality, deeply limiting our consciousness to a simulacrum of screens.

What does writing do? Well, as Knausgaard observes, it speaks to our desire for more,

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Simply for the Children’s Sake

June 27, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Baby's head witth shadow of Donald Trump

I was singing the blues
until I heard the news
that children
being torn from the
arms of their parents
was coming to an end,
if but for a minute,
a breather
from evil being played
out in my face,
beautiful innocent
brown skinned children,
screaming “Mami! Papi!”
as Mami and Papi
are pulled one way,

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Summer Chronicles 2018 #2: Learning to Be No One

June 25, 2018 by Jim Miller

Alone on the plane, I had the same thought that I always do: “we could crash and my life might end at any time.” As always, images of the moments before death subsumed me. I imagined the faces of my fellow passengers contorted in horror. I heard the weeping, the screaming, the voices futilely attempting to leave last messages for their loved ones on their cellphones, all to no avail.

My fantasy was real enough that amidst a banal announcement about expected turbulence, I came close to tears as I thought of never seeing my wife or son again and went on to consider the weight of the collective losses of all the souls on the plane.

But, in this case, what used to be a source of physical anxiety gave way to a feeling of absolute groundlessness.

There is something liberating about anonymity and the small pleasure of being unrecognized in the odd womblike environment of a passenger jet.

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Thoughts on California Midterms: Defeats for Big Money, November Hopes Survive for Democrats

June 11, 2018 by Jim Miller

Thud! What’s that sound? It’s the unceremonious crash landing of tens of millions of dollars of Charter Schools Association money in the Governor’s race backing Antonio Villaraigosa.

Never has such an obscene amount of money been spent on a bad cause with so little to show for it. The good news here is that their efforts to turn the November election into a proxy war between the billionaire boys club and California’s educators failed miserably.

Now, rather than having to watch the tragic irony of a multimillion-dollar crusade against teachers’ unions standing in for our Governor’s race in California while elsewhere in the red states teachers are turning the tide against decades of austerity budgeting brought to us by the GOP, we can watch a Democrat cruise to victory against the Trump-endorsed Republican.

That’s more like it.

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Dreaming of Racial Harmony

June 7, 2018 by Ernie McCray

At 80 I find myself still pursuing the same dream in which I’ve indulged myself all my life, a dream that someday the races of people would get along in harmony. Or at least try.

I say try because it seems to me that it’s been our failure to even pursue such a dream that has gotten in the way of it becoming a reality.

But, I’d dare say, there’s no better time than now for us to find ways to embrace each other. I feel that way just because of how the world is.

I mean you can sit down, after a long day of being retired, and turn on the tv and see a man, on this occasion a representative of the NFL, privileged beyond belief, telling football players (most of them black) that they can no longer protest police brutality at their knees while the flag is being sung to.

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A Few Last-Minute Reminders for the Procrastinating Progressive Voter

June 4, 2018 by Jim Miller

If you are part of that dwindling tribe who (like me) still prefer to show up at your polling place to vote in person, here are a few final reminders for the procrastinating progressives out there:

Defeat the Lincoln Club: There is only one way to foil the plans of the Lincoln Club in the San Diego County Board of Supervisors race and discourage them from spending big money to intervene in San Diego Democratic politics in the future: Don’t Vote for Lori Saldana. See Doug Porter’s column on this race here. See my column here.

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Feeling in Tune With ‘La Neighbor’ and Logan Heights

May 30, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I just finished reading a collection of essays, “La Neighbor: A Settlement House in Logan Heights,” written by a longtime friend, Maria Garcia.

Maria and I go back a ways and we’re soulmates in so many ways. We’re writers, and activists, who’ve taken to the streets many a time in the pursuit of equality. We’re educators who modeled, in our schools, how to treat children with respect and

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Reflecting on What Could Have Been

May 22, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Ernie with sunglasses behind screen

 

(Photo: Maria Nieto Senour)

Reflecting on my 80 years I find myself still dreaming of a better world. Not some “Kumbaya” singing fantasy world, but one where people, at the very least, try to find ways to understand and appreciate each other. A loving world.

But that was not the dream of my generation. Getting our hands dirty in pursuit of a world where concepts like “peace and justice and equality” rang true, just wasn’t something we cared to do.

We were called the “Silent Generation”

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Oh, If We Could Listen With Heart Like Nipper

May 9, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

When I was a child there was a commercial about a dog named Nipper who was supposed to be listening to his “master’s voice” on a windup disc gramophone. I thought about him early one morning recently.

On this morning I woke up a little earlier than usual because my iPhone SE startled me awake, vibrating and buzzing like crazy, kind of like those European police sirens.

And, hey, I’ve got to say I didn’t know I had an app for such as all that. I shut that little device up by grabbing it like a cowboy wrestling a steer he’d just roped only to find out that its histrionics was regarding an article about a book Arizona Senator John McCain had written. I was forced to question the very notion that I was in possession of anything approaching a smartphone.

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‘Some San Diegans Want to Keep Having a Beach Party at the End of the World’

April 30, 2018 by Jim Miller

Author of Last Days in Ocean Beach Explains How We Live on the Border Between Dread and Wonder

Last Days in Ocean Beach is an effort to capture the mood of deep unease and uncertainty that permeates our era and informs the thinking of many writers, artists, and intellectuals, even if they are not quite saying it out loud.

It was written before the election of Donald Trump, but it is clear that his election only underlines the chasm between the cartoon reality driving much of our social, cultural, and political discourse and the unrelentingly grim truth that we are killing the world whether many of us want to admit it or not.

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Putting My Love in Play

April 25, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Man holding a stained glass heart

Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I recently wrote a rhyme about all the love I’ve enjoyed for 80 years, and now I’d like to share how I’ve put that love in play.

Regarding that, I have to say that loving has been easy for me because my life’s work has been dedicated to schools which are perfect places for spreading love.

And my intent, all along, has simply been to make my world more just for all human beings – beginning, in a moment in time, when I was in grade school myself.

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Still Loving After All These 80 Years

April 17, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Still Loving After All These 80 Years
(The Formative Years: More to Come)

Infant sitting on table next to birthday cake with one candle

If I’m breathing April 18th, 2018,
I will be 80 years old.
And to brag a little bit,
I lived those years
with a lot of love in my soul
and that’s quite an ac-com-plish-ment
for someone with
COLORED written on his birth cer-ti-ficate
if the truth be told,
considering I first said “Hello”
to the world
in Tucson, Arizona,

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