Landslide

In 1974, Stevie Nicks wrote her enduring and now iconic song, Landslide.   In it she reflects on the challenges of change in one’s life and imaginatively uses the various images and seismic shifts in nature to relate her thoughts and feelings.

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down…

ICON

Like many creative artists, Nicks was using her talent to express what was, for her, the inexpressible at that moment.  She and her boyfriend, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, had little money and, despite some limited success and encouragement, she wondered whether to continue with her relationship and musical career or, instead, simply leave both and, well, go back to school.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mmm, I don’t know….

Is this just a Stevie Nicks appreciation blog? #maybe #whynot

Little did she know that the following year she would become a part of Fleetwood Mac and the band would explode with a string of hit singles and albums that would earn them worldwide fame, fortune and eventually even a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

And 40 years later a viral TikTok video

Not to mention, many of their greatest hits would be written by Nicks herself and that she would go on to have her own hugely successful solo career.  And that she and her great love affair with Buckingham would indeed end.  And that she and this world famous band would break up, reunite, then break up and reunite, and break up again until even their worldwide fans lost count.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Landslide lately as I’ve spent my days being haunted by the prospect of democracy enduring and the hope (yet fear) of an electoral landslide.

I swear this hasn’t been me for the past month #promise

Moreover, I’ve been petrified by the thought of our country’s ability to withstand either and move on even semi-intact.

Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
And I’m gettin’ older, too

Watch it

Strangely, it is at this point in the song where there is a long, poignant musical interlude where no words are spoken and we are all, indeed, meant to feel, think and reflect.  So it seems appropriate at this moment to consider the crystal clear shift of Americans as we fully take in the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election vs. where we stood four years ago.

2020 Electoral College (270 needed to win):

  • Joseph R. Biden: 306
  • Donald J. Trump: 232

2020 Popular Vote (and still counting):

  • Joseph R. Biden: 78,686,795
  • Donald J. Trump: 73,102,757
I’m not gloating I swear #OKmaybealittle #itsearned #WOO

2016 Electoral College Results (270 needed to win):

  • Donald J. Trump: 306
  • Hillary Clinton: 232

2016 Popular Vote Results (final tally):

  • Hillary Clinton: 65,853,625
  • Donald J. Trump:  62,985,106

Geologically a landslide is the sliding down of a mass of earth or rock from a mountain or cliff.  But society, being what it is, long ago appropriated that word for its politics.  As a group we freely, and universally, now consider landslide to mean an overwhelming majority of votes for one party in an election.

Crushed?

Certainly we don’t want to get further down into the weeds at what constitutes overwhelming since we now occupy an American space where we find ourselves fist-fighting (and worse) in the public square over whether it should be a moral, and perhaps legal, requirement to wear a mask when coming within six feet of others during our current global, and airborne, viral pandemic.

AGHHHHHHHH

Note: COVID-19 has so far killed over 1.3 million people worldwide and murders close to1500 Americans daily. Total infections are 53.8 million to date, 10.9 million (almost 20%) of which are in the U.S.

So to be fair, let’s bend over backwards and use the measure of our outgoing POTUS. The guy who tweeted right after his Nov. 2016 win, and restated publicly, privately and throughout the world various iterations of these same thoughts about what constitutes overwhelming and thus, landslides, via his many surrogates over the last four years, in proclamations such as this:

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide . . .”

— Donald Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 27, 2016

“CNN is so embarrassed by their total support of Hillary Clinton and her loss in a landslide, that they don’t know what to do.”

— Donald Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 28, 2016

And —

Me, not having to think about Kellyanne ever again

With 306 established as the legitimate mark of victory and DEFEAT, now might be a good time to remind everyone, especially those who this year LOST, that with the above musical interlude over this is the point in the song where the prior verse again repeats, and by doing so asks us ALL to once again truly rethink, and reflect, on all of our very human natures:

Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
and I’m gettin’ older, too
I’m gettin’ older, too

What? My birthday is this week? No we’re skipping 2020

Now as a writer, I will admit that I am prone to attach superhuman power to the words the best of my fellow writers put together, whether in prose or dialogue, comedy or drama, or anything in between. 

But after the last four years I gotta hand it to Steve Nicks for decades later giving us a way to move forward, individually and en masse, when our backs are pressed against the wall. 

Did I mention ICON?

That’s why this weekend, and hopefully from now on, I take a lot of comfort from her concluding verse.  Rather than a shift in weather patterns or a deadly collapsing of the universe as I knew it, it finally offered me massive glimmers of light through the resounding power of reinvention:

So take this love, take it down

If you climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the SNO-O-O-O-WWWW covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
Oh, the landslide will bring it down

Listen, none of this is ever without risk.  But when you get a chance to level what wasn’t working away and leave behind an avalanche of tweets, it’s hard not to celebrate the sight of a newly imagined playing field and all the potential it offers moving forward.

Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”

Quacks

christmas09_large

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Notice I did NOT say MERRY CHRISTMAS or BELATED HAPPY CHANUKAH.  This is because I’m done being religiously correct.  You heard me – RELIGIOUSLY CORRECT.  Bah humbug.  I am so done.  No, actually…I am just beginning.

I just read this to my partner of 26 years and he said – Here we go – did you get to the part about Jesus being Black yet?

No, not yet.  Wait…you mean Jesus was as Black as….Santa Claus?

So much ground to cover here.  And we’ll get to Phil Robertson – that hate-spouting Fool from Duck Dynasty, who happens to also be religious, in a moment.  I promise.  But first, a story.

Many years ago in the 1970s I was minding my own business on the campus of Queens College.  I was 18 years old and a junior (yeah, I was smart for my age, so what – does that mean anyone listens to me any more than they do you?  Uh, no).  In any event, there I was minding my own beeswax when these Jewish guys dressed in full garb – you know the way that I mean – beards, long coats, big black hates – I meant hats! –  and ringlets of hair flowing down past their ears called payot (look it up) – urgently approached me and asked in very relentless and very accented loud whispers:  Are you Jewish?  Are you Jewish?

I could have been Mr. November

I could have been Mr. November

Sensing something was wrong – I mean, duh, my last name is Ginsberg, I’m 5’7” tall, wear glasses and read books, did you think I wasn’t a Yid – I reflexively answered yes.  I mean, what if someone was in danger?  The entire fate of my tribe could hang in the balance.

Boy, was that the wrong response.

Suddenly, these guys shoved me into this large van decorated with religious symbols and Hebrew scripture, shut the door and backed me into a seat.  All around me – and I mean everywhere – walls, ceiling and on TV screens – where images of Jews being tortured or persecuted.  Jewish fundamentalist music played.  Prayer books were put in my hands.  More religious guys paced around and began shooting questions at me about Jewish history.  Another guy offered me a yarmulke and prayer shawl and still another urged me to roll up my sleeves and put on these leather straps called tefillen and said he would pray with me (or was it us, perhaps there were a few others, I can’t recall) – for Us.

Never a shrinking violet and always with a strong survival streak given some earlier childhood traumas that involved bullies on the playground and various screwed up family dynamics, I pushed the guy out of the way, said something like, Uh, no and ran out of the van.  Well, at least I attempted to.  Because being just your average Jew I couldn’t figure out how to open the latch on the van door.  Little did I know that decades later I’d become quite familiar with these things and learn those vans are really trailers which the film industry would rename Honey wagons and they would be the spot where I’d spend endless hours with other regular Jews (as well as people of other religions and even atheists) who star in and make Hollywood movies about still other people whose actions my ultra religious captors would  certainly disapprove of.  Yes, they often do disapprove – even now – along with all the other fundamentalist nutbags from all of the other religions all over the world –and that includes the United States – of anyone who does not fit into their own tightly constructed beliefs.

But back to this story:

Somehow I did get out of that van (did I break the latch?  I was never sure) and survived, perhaps in order to tell this tale to you more than 35 years later.  The lesson?  Well, there are many.  But the primary one is this:  Never get into a van – or really anything – with a religious fundamentalist.   No good will come of it.  It is a sure recipe for disaster and the only way you’ll win is to escape with your life.

Another reason to never get in an unfamiliar van

Another reason to never get in an unfamiliar van

Years later I learned that this van I was shoved into was called a Mitzvah Mobile and was started by the ultra orthodox Jewish sect called the Chabad Lubavitch Hassidism to persuade (nee intimidate) American Jews to adhere to the more stringent religious beliefs that group espoused.  The good news: this didn’t work on me.  (In fact, it produced the opposite result).  The bad news: there are now Mitzvah Mobiles all over the world.

Just one example...

Just one example…

How this vehicle got onto the Queens College campus of the 1970s, I will never know.  (Note:  Well, our film society did have a midnight showing of the X-rated classic Devil in Miss Jones on campus, so there was that).  But what I do know is that those Mitzvah Mobile fellas are no different from Duck Dynasty figurehead Phil Robertson.  Who is no different from Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell.  Who are all only several steps away from the Taliban.  Who is a mere one step away from the Westboro Baptist Church.  Who are only several steps away from the Muslim fundamentalists who hijacked the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. Who bear some resemblance to the Ayatolloah Khomeini.  Who is not that far removed  Reverend Louis Farrakhan or the present radical Chabbad sect in Brooklyn.  It’s all the same snake pit.  Which in no way, shape or form resembles the Garden of Eden.

One might argue this is not the correct statement to make Christmas week, or during the time of Kwanza, or even a month after Chanukah.  However, I would say this is precisely the moment for us all to reflect on this:

Any single religious person who tries to persuade you that their way is the high way using any means they deem fair and moral based on their own individual religious dogma is no different than the most radically violent one.

It all leads to the same place.  Eventually.  The Crusades.  The Third Reich.  Osama Bin Laden’s Jihad.  No, this is not an overstatement.  It simply is – fact.

Now, don’t get all fire and brimstone or your tribal equivalent on me.  This by no means disqualifies anyone of faith from speaking his or her mind.  However, it does disqualify them from public insults, intimidations, racist rants and other forms of emotional and or physical discrimination without outcry and consequences.  That is the price for living in a free and civil society.   And it’s a very small one.   Hiding behind a “God” of your own choosing does not exempt you from the rules of a still secular society.

Simpsons+on+Religion.+seems+legit_69dc80_4449964

Which brings us to the charming Phil Robertson, head of the family on A & E’s most highly rated reality show (14 million viewers and counting backwards) – Duck Dynasty.  Here are some of the lovely statements Mr. Robertson made in GQ magazine last week that has gotten him into hot water and, in turn, suspended from his show.

Sorry buddy, but you don't exactly blend in

Sorry buddy, but you don’t exactly blend in

On sinful behavior:

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.  Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men…Don’t be deceived….Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.  Don’t deceive yourself.  It’s not right.

Or on his experiences working alongside Black people picking cotton in the pre-Civil rights era.

I never with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person…They’re singing and happy.  I never heard one of them, one black person, say, “I tell you what:  These doggone white people” – not a word!  Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy?  They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

Or this excerpt from a sermon in a Pennsylvania church in 2002:

Women with women. Men with men.  They committed indecent acts with each other.  They are heartless.  They are faceless.  They are senseless.  They are ruthless.  They invent ways of doing evil.

Makes you want to have him over for meal, doesn’t it?  Well, that is as long as he doesn’t turn around and try to place your evil head on a platter and announce dinner is served.

Well, unless it's this head, in which case.. i'm in!

Well, unless it’s this head, in which case.. i’m in!

Oh, of course Phil has every right to say whatever he wants.  That’s what free speech is about.  But the first amendment allows freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the press.  It does not guarantee others can’t object to what you are saying or that there cannot be consequences to your actions.  Meaning just as we don’t require a fundamentalist church to marry a gay couple if it chooses not to, a religious fundamentalist whose

  1. dogma equates gay people with bestiality and evil and
  2. suggests Black people (whose ancestors were dragged to the US in chains and forced into centuries of slavery), were always singing and happy…

..IS. NOT. ENTITLED. TO. HIS. OWN. REALITY.   (TELEVISION SHOW, that is).

Because — as Sir Isaac Newton taught us science-believing heathens long ago –

To every action there is always an equal, opposite reaction.

Stocking stuffer?

What is scarier than the news articles on the Duck Dynasty Debacle are the thousands of virulent comments from other fundamentalist supporters who somehow have adopted a dogma so stringent that it leaves no room for anyone that does not adhere to their own rigid, born again rule book.  We Jews don’t really have a hell so their comments that non-believers will burn don’t really rankle me.  But the threats of violence to us sinners (Note: I’m in double trouble being gay AND a non-Christian), not to mention the virulence with which they are written, is a tough road to hoe.

Fringe, you say?  Well, perhaps right now.  But I don’t think so.  The 14 million viewers of DD, a one-hour A & E basic cable show, are nothing to sneeze at.  That’s far more than the number of people who read the NY Times or any other newspaper on any given day.  Though nowhere near as many (41 million) who tune in to view just one hour of Fox News on any average month.

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Of course, there were other stories of intolerance last week.  For example:

  • In Pennsylvania, Methodist Minister Franklin Schaefer was officially defrocked for having the temerity to officiate over the marriage of his gay son and his partner.

Yes it’s true – this week gay marriage was a hot button thorn in the side of the religiously superior.  But make no mistake about it, next week it could and probably will be a woman’s right to choose.  Just as in some Middle Eastern countries it will simply be about the right for a young woman to be educated.  While in still others it can all boil down to being born with the right color skin or in the more advantageous economic class.

Of course, here in Hollywood it’s merely a battle to look young and stay relevant in a business that is as unforgiving of those sins as the Duck Dynasty family is of alternate lifestyles.  Perhaps even more so.  But I’m not going to get into that.

Oh — fun fact: did you know that the creator of Duck Dynasty is a guy named Scott Gurney and that just 12 years ago this very handsome fellow starred shirtless – and often naked – in a movie about the gay male porn industry called The Fluffer? Oh yeah, he so did.  He played an X-rated actor who was “gay” for “pay” AND was a meth addict. 

Uh oh - someone's been a bad boy!

Uh oh – someone’s been a bad boy!

Hmm, but apparently, Scott isn’t taking phone calls these days..  And he also doesn’t answer emails from journalists.  Nor does he speak live in person to anyone asking questions unless presumably they’re, well – members of his own tribe.  Which might not only be optimal but usual.  How are we (I?) to know the truth when we can’t ask?

I’ve been thinking all day about what I would say if I actually did get a chance to talk to him.  Like all writers, my thoughts were many – in fact all over the place.  But like all the mentors before me have taught me I edited and boiled them down to just three words.  These are the words I’d use to describe him and all others who choose to be profiteers on the backs of hate spewing religious zealots hiding behind their own version of God – as well as a way to categorize the zealots themselves.  And all of the zealots the came before them or will follow after.  And those words are:  QUACK, QUACK, QUACK.

QUACK. QUACK. QUACK.

And did I mention – happy holidays?