“The Prodigal: a divine comedy, of sorts”: Preview 2020

This is worth your read all the way through. But the giant hippo should have been a clue, as to that. 🙂   On a quiet Christmas Eve in 1997, I was working as a senior editor for National Public Radio. That day, a rerun interview of famed poet Wendell Berry was aired on “Fresh Air.” Terry Gross posed the following question: “What advice would you give to a young writer?” Berry responded that a young writer should find a window with a wonderful view, and, simply, write.   I was living in the Maryland countryside, and when I arrived home that evening, I considered that the view of the Potomac outside my window was the stuff of a Thomas Moran painting. So I pulled my desk near the window and began rewriting “The Divine Comedy” with the following sentence:   “But what about my dead cat?”   For the next ten years, I sat at my desk, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, writing no fewer than four hours per day. When I was finished, I had 4,500 pages of manuscript piled next to my desk. It was titled, “The Prodigal: a divine comedy, of sorts.”   I somehow felt akin to Richard Dreyfuss’ character in “Close…

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The Parable of the COVID

  After a day spent teaching the noodlehead masses all manner of science and technology, from chemotherapy to pneumatics to security analytics, the rabbi finally rested his derriere on a bench near a pond. (Due to coronavirus, the rabbi first sprayed the bench mightily with Lysol.)   The paparazzi had yet to discover the rabbi’s location—thus, the great teacher miraculously had a rare moment to himself. A family of geese, with five little goslings, approached the tired teacher. He tossed the young fowl some scraps of bread, which he had conjured that morning with a Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA Virtuoso Plus Home Breadmaker.   Exhausted from his day of scientific and engineering prophesying, there by the lily pads, the teacher waited for his disciples to bring unto him an ice coffee with a shot of caramel. Once his supplication was brought unto him—which he did sterilize with a Clorox wipe—he did slake his caffeinated thirst.   Finally, the rabbi’s whereabouts was revealed via social media, and crowds did quickly press in upon the master. The gander honked in a low, guttural manner, and the Goose Family Seven retreated to a grassy…

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“Trump-onomics,” a mini-play

Larry: Hey, neighbor, from six feet away, I can see—I mean smell—you’ve got some mighty fine rotisserie chicken there.   Kendra: Yeah, and a Glock on my hip. So don’t try anything funny, Larry.   Larry: No, no, no, Kendra, you’ve got me all wrong. (reaches into bag) But as you can see, I’m the proud owner of not one, but two cans of Lysol.   Kendra: Holy shit. Two cans?   Larry: And there’s more where that came from.   Kendra: Is there now? (thinking) Well, I’ve got some chickpeas and some uncooked bacon. I suppose we could go without the chicken tonight. (aside) Even though I risked contagion just to get it.   Larry: Oh, I wasn’t necessarily in the trading mood.   Kendra: (reaches slowly for her Glock) Like I said, neighbor…   Larry: But then again, I think I could part ways with one of these cans for some tender juicy bok-bok.   Kendra: One can? (thinks about her family) Well…   Larry: Wait now. (reaches into bag again) I also have this roll of duct tape. Plus a box of Viper Blue Nitrile Gloves.   Kendra: Well, I’ll…

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The Bjorn Effect: Stupid Don’t Know Stupid

Tonight’s “Fireside Chat with Arik” might have something to do with a major Evangelical college reopening its academic pearly gates for students and microbes alike. (Some might call it the Covid Crusade.)   It might have something to do with Trump’s approval rating reaching an all-time high. And, yes, that was Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, passing out at the bar.   It might even have something to do with the federal stimulus package containing that “Middle Finger to the Poor and Seniors” subsection. (Yes, seniors like my elderly, chronically ill mother will be the benefactor solely of the thoughts and prayers of asshole politicians.)   But, first, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Let me paraphrase the American Psychological Association’s PsycNET abstract on the original study:   There’s a reason your Uncle Bart can’t shut up at Thanksgiving Dinner, even though every opinion he’s ever spouted from his green bean casserole-stuffed mouth defies any kind of factual basis. And there’s a reason your MAGA hat-wearing neighbors are all playing Fat-Fold Twister while meat sizzles on the grill.   In short: They’re…

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Earth in the Balance: Elizabeth Warren 2020

Image by John A. Carlos II. Talk presented at the September 9, 2019,”Students for Elizabeth Warren Back to School Bash” rally in Columbia, South Carolina. .. . A few weeks ago, on a blazing hot August morning, I found myself chauffeuring and chaperoning a tween and two teenage girls to an amusement park. . “Amusement.” Consider the word—so carefree. So cheery. . It was my birthday, and I was happy. My idea of the perfect birthday present for myself is taking my daughter and some of her friends somewhere where smiles and joy abound. Roller coasters and water slides, cotton candy and limitless pink lemonades, totally fits the bill. . Best of all, I was prepared to enjoy a day completely devoid of politics. Not even Donald Trump and all his vicious narcissism could pop the bubble of tilt-a-whirls and wave pools. . Which, of course, is a perfect setup for a superlative political enlightenment—even if entirely against my will. . As we drove to Carowinds, my daughter and her two friends were flipping through a book of questions—a sort of conversation-starter book. Here was the question that ended up turning my world upside-down the past two…

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The Humanity of Medicaid Expansion: Make SC Care Again!

image: D.N. Woodrow . Speech presented at the March 23 “Make SC Care Again!” rally at the South Carolina State House. . It is my distinguished privilege to welcome you on this fine March day. We are, in fact, now three days in to Spring. . That means the days are getting longer now. And that there is burgeoning life. . For some, my friends, for some. . But not for thousands of others, slain, under the barbaric regimes of former U.S. Ambassador and Governor Nikki Haley and current Governor Henry “Hank” McMaster. . Join me in a chant, will you, please? . Blood. On. Their. Hands! . Blood. On. Their. Hands! . Blood. On. Their. Hands! . Murder. . Is it not? Truly, is it not? . For if one, placed in a position of elected power, has the knowing opportunity to save lives, yet forfeits this opportunity, what else shall we call it, but MURDER? The intentional taking of innocent human life? Institutional MURDER. . By the way: Congratulations, Boeing! On hiring a Medicaid Expansion-Denying, Institutional MURDERER to your Board of Directors. . Here I quote Boeing’s Chairman, Dennis Muilenburg:…

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On Forgiveness

  They do what they do because they are wounded and broken and bleeding and overwhelmed with pain and misery—and for some reason, you’re the one person upon whom they feel safe dumping all that suffering. The bile of hate splatters all over you; it burns like acid. Yet with enough reflection, through enough prayer, by God tenderly shoving your nostrils into the ick to force you to understand the wounds of others—which are so similar to your own—one day you lift your head and finally mean the words that you have mindlessly chanted for years: “…as I forgive those who trespass against me.”   Sometimes you’re the target because no one else can be. The wounded person simply cannot manage the pain. They literally don’t know how. But they do suspect you won’t hurt them back—a lesson my dear friend recently discovered parallel to me. Sometimes you’re the most obvious receptacle during the convulsion of sickness.   On paper, there’s no justification for their actions. But grace reminds us, through gentle kicks to the shin, that each of us has done the exact same thing to others. Heaving bile is a rather universal behavior, as it…

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Arik Bjorn Endorses Sean Carrigan for U.S. Congress to Defeat “Status Quo” Joe Wilson

With great enthusiasm, I ENDORSE SEAN CARRIGAN as the 2018 Democratic Party candidate for South Carolina District 2 in the race against “Status Quo” Joe Wilson. Read below to find out why!   …     Voters, Friends & Neighbors:   I cannot thank you enough for your support—be it your vote, your financial contributions, your volunteer efforts—during our 2016 campaign for South Carolina’s Second Congressional District. As you know, I signed up to run for U.S. Congress just one day before the filing deadline. Why? Because no one else was willing to stand up for our community of 700,000—no one else was willing to stand up to “Status Quo” Joe Wilson.   They said I had no business running for federal office—that I couldn’t even get Joe Wilson to debate me once. They were right—I debated him twice. I cleaned his clock both times, and our campaign won the hearts of well over 100,000 Voters. We responded to your individual and community needs, not the needs of special interest groups. We took a bold stand for women’s rights, improved infrastructure, healthcare for all, and increased educational and…

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TEDx Talk: “To Be Revolutionary, or not To Be Revolutionary”

  On April 2, 2017, I presented a TEDx Talk at TEDxHammondSchool on the subject of political revolution, entitled “To Be Revolutionary, or not To Be Revolutionary.”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMlFJlOWvUA   Below is the prepared draft of my presentation:   … Slide 1 | image by John A. Carlos II   Hi, my name is Arik Bjorn. That’s Arik with an “A” and a “K.” And “Bjorn,” which means “bear” in several Scandinavian tongues. Very revolutionary-sounding, right?   Slide 2   I was the 2016 Democratic Party and Green Party congressional candidate in South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. More on that in a bit.   First, though: BJORN is not a particularly common name in these here Southern parts. Good Lord, what is that “J” doing next to that “B”?  Total consonant inappropriateness!   Let’s say “BJORN” together: Bjorn. Bjorn. Bjorn.   My apologies. BJORN is now “imprinted” upon your mind. If I had an actual product to sell you—like hair gel or a robotic vacuum—you’d be hooked. Instead, I’m here to convince you…

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What is Reverence for Life?

  Swimming with my eight-year-old daughter requires patience.  Actually, she’s pretty much a mermaid and can swim circles around anything just shy of a dolphin.  But when the sun starts turning your skin oh-so-crispy bacon and your fingertips begin to resemble wrinkly raisins, she’s ready to devote another hour-plus in the pool, not to butterfly strokes, but to rescuing ants and bees and other creepy-crawlies that have fallen hapless victim to the water.   My daughter is amphibian in her devotion to preserving life.  The other night, in the dry confines of our living room, she lectured me following my “coldblooded murder” of a centipede that I caught trespassing across our carpet.  Her earnest chiding caused me to consider my thoughtless act of centi-cide.  Later that evening, my daughter asleep, I redeemed myself.  Another many-legged arthropod reared its forcipules; this time I captured it with a napkin and released it into the untamed wilderness beyond my porch door.   These days, I can hardly get away with swatting a mosquito in my daughter’s presence.  Yet I have no one other than myself to blame.  I’m the one who taught…

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