December 31, 2018
Bless this my house under the pitch pines
where the cardinal flashes and the kestrels hover
crying, where I live and work with my lover
Woody and my cats, where the birds gather
in winter to be fed and the squirrel dines
from the squirrel-proof feeder. Keep our water
bubbling up clear. Protect us from the fire’s
long teeth and the lashing of the hurricanes
and the government. Please, no foreign wars.
Keep this house from termites and the bane
of quarreling past what can be sweetly healed.
Keep our cats from hunters and savage dogs.
Watch with care over Woody splitting logs
and mostly keep us from our sharpening fear
as we skate over the ice of the new year.
December 20, 2018
Some of you have urged me to align my values more closely with “Christian Values.”
OK: The Book of Acts says that the first converts to Christianity in Jerusalem were avowed communists, living communally and distributing their wealth equitably—to each according to their needs. They took Jesus’ words literally: “Each of you who does not give up all he possesses is incapable of being my disciple” (Luke 14): “Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth” (Matthew 6); and “Come now, you who are rich, weep, howling out at the miseries that are coming for you” (James 5). There’s more, of course, but a strong through-line in all of it is this: there is but one humanity and one human estate, and it belongs to all; take only what you need to live, share everything, care for one another. Paraphrasing the great Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the Christian ethic states that: We are each other’s business/We are each other’s harvest/ We are each other’s magnitude and bond.
Those who noisily proclaim their “Christian Values” might want to get right with Jesus now by embracing your communal spirit, upholding our collective mission and fate, and becoming more communist in practice—from each according to ability, to each according to need. Christian Values! Communist Principles! Oh, and to point to communist nations or practices that failed to live up to those principles is not an answer—look clearly at Christian nations and practices and feel the shameful contradiction.
December 11, 2018
Bill Siegel died yesterday, suddenly, an apparent heart attack.
He was wicked smart, fully engaged, witty, humble, and one of the keenest observers of our wild, diverse humanity that I’ve ever known.
He saw our greatness and our weirdness, took it all in, and worked to make us a little wiser, a little more joyful and just, a bit more peaceful and understanding and loving.
We met during the Chicago Public Schools upheaval in the late 1980’s, and worked together in the 1990’s–-Bill from Great Books, and me from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He stood steadfastly with the kids and the communities, the parents and the teachers against the banksters and the well-bred barbarians from the business schools with their corporate designs on the schools.
When he asked Bernardine Dohrn and me if he could interview us for a film he was doing with Sam Green about the Weather Underground. I thought it was simply the latest in the long march of taped and filmed interviews we’d done with students for high school history fair projects or college reports. We said, Sure, why not?
I was surprised to find us all at Sundance later, and in 2004 at the Academy Awards where the film was a finalist for the best documentary. The night before the Red Carpet ride the whole crew gathered in celebration, and Bill and Sam were toasted as they rose to rehearse their acceptance speeches. My favorite from Bill that night, a little high: “Thanks to the Academy for this recognition, but remember the Weather Underground wanted to make a revolution, not a film. Now we’ve made the film, let’s join hands and make the revolution!” He never gave the speech; the award went to Errol Morris.
His work was powered by curiosity, question-asking, problem-posing. He was never dogmatic nor didactic. He was always asking the next question, and the next, inspiring others to interrogate the universe.
Colleague and friend, comrade-in-arms, I’m devastated at our collective loss.
His love for his children Johanna and Louis was palpable and evident in every interaction we ever had—no conversation began without kid notes and child updates. I’m thinking of his kids and his partner now, sending nothing but love.
Bill Siegel: PRESENTE!