— Screen capture from Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose”

And there on Seventh Avenue in front of the Carnegie Deli, on Thanksgiving Day, was the incarnation of love.

The democratic republic of the United States that has existed for nearly two-and-a-half centuries is on hiatus. It was on hiatus during the first Civil War and it is back on hiatus now that we’re in the midst of a second civil war.

The Pulitzer Prize recipient and Princeton Historian James McPherson said the first Civil War “started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in territories that has not yet become states.”

The current civil war also started because of uncompromising differences but now it’s between the one-percenters (and their surrogates) and the rest of us over the power of the collective, the “we the people,” to provide for the needs of all as the planet and its sentient beings struggle to rise above conditions of enforced scarcity.

The new conflict has brought to the fore questions which the philosopher movie-maker Woody Allen raised in his two great tragi-comedies, “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Broadway Danny Rose”: Is there a moral structure to the universe? Is there some accountability for people who make evil choices and commit evil deeds?

In “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” an ophthalmologist, Dr. Judah Rosenthal, is consumed with guilt because he put a contract out on his flight-attendant paramour who threatened to tell his safe-from-the-ways-of-the-world wife that a pillar of the community had been cheating on her.

After the murder, the doctor goes close to having a mental breakdown. He visits his childhood home to see if he might get in touch with the values he grew up with and they might become a source of stability. In the old house — which the new owner has allowed him to walk through at his leisure — he hallucinates that all his relatives are sitting around the dining room table at a Seder.

He projects a question into their midst about the nature of culpability, and in response nearly every adult at the table offers an opposing view on justice. One of his aunts laughs at the idea that someone who has committed an evil deed will be brought to justice; she says people get away with murder.

That is the view of many people about how the one-percenters manage the world to suit their profit indices rather than to devise and implement strategies to meet the needs of all, health care and otherwise. Thus, for millions, that minority is the source of pain and suffering. And one wonders, if significant dissent arises in contradiction, will they be made to go away like the stewardess?

Standing in the way of any resolution to adopt a position on justice that takes into account the needs of all are the uncompromising differences alluded to. Soldiers on each side of the battle line cannot even agree on the physics of reality, on what sits before the eyes, that a can of beans is a can of beans, so they continue to lambaste each other with condemnatory stigmatizing rhetoric about their respective blindnesses.

Some people I talk to about these things are so engrossed in a knee-jerk meta-reality with no basis in the material world, that they’ve insulated themselves not only from the pain and suffering of others but also from their own need for an existence without cynicism.

In Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose,” a theatrical agent, Danny Rose, manages a cadre of acts who others define as “losers” among whom are a one-leggèd tap dancer and a stuttering ventriloquist.

Rose is a personalist. He gives himself over to his clients without reserve; he is devoted to them in every way. When he resurrects the career of a has-been singer who winds up with a big hit song, that winner calls Danny Rose a “loser” and ditches him for a high-power publicity agent.

The singer’s girlfriend, Tina, sees the basic goodness in Rose and feels there might be something in him worth pursuing. But she ultimately calls him a loser and ditches him too. His personalism goes unrewarded.

But Rose is able to transcend because he is armed with ethical maxims he learned in childhood. Like a mantra he repeats what his uncle Sidney told him for getting along in life: “acceptance, forgiveness, love.” When things go awry, you accept the other, you forgive the other, you begin to love the other. However, for devoting himself to the lives of others unconditionally, Rose is called by the one-percent a fool.

Today in the United States, where religious views of acceptance and forgiveness have been jettisoned like infernal debris, people talk past each other as if an-other did not exist. Therefore a new measure of justice has to be created that will mollify the factions.  

It resides in the question: To what extent and in what way have you relieved the pain and suffering of someone today? Did you meet people at the level of their wounds and bandages and make things better for them? Did you challenge the political economic institutions that keep people locked in poverty and distress though an ethic of enforced scarcity?

Last week, I mentioned to an older woman at the Y that Pope Francis had celebrated his 80th birthday by asking eight homeless people to breakfast. I related that he chatted with each person individually while sharing Argentinian cakes with them before saying Mass. Besotted in cynicism, the woman implied the Pope did this as a publicity stunt.

I asked her if she thought the Pope was stunting last Holy Thursday when he met with men and women prisoners at Rome’s Rebibbia prison and washed their feet like Jesus had done on the Thursday before his death.

I asked her if she had ever visited someone in prison who had no family or who had been totally rejected by society. Did she believe in acceptance-forgiveness-love? I must admit there was a great pause of silence.

In “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the killer ophthalmologist finally pushes through his homicidal guilt, he is never caught, he goes on living his one-percent life with his one-percent wife. His aunt was correct, people do get away with murder.

There is an intermittent voiceover throughout the film; a philosopher, Doctor Levy, offers a vision of a way out of internecine conflict. He says, “We define ourselves by the choices we have made. Human happiness does not seem to have been included in the design of creation at all, it’s only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the universe.”

It is actually an optimist, democratic, republican solution to conflict in that it invites all to participate in creating human happiness. But sadly, things got too tough for Doctor Levy and he took his life amid the insensitivity.

But in a epilogic postscript to the film, Levy reminds folks that “most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.”

But will future generations understand anything unless the collective “we the people” becomes personalists, like Danny Rose, and dedicate ourselves to meeting the needs of the planet and all its sentient beings?

And when the woman, who called Rose a loser and derided him, fell on hard times and knocked on his door one Thanksgiving afternoon while the loser was feeding all his loser acts in his apartment (with TV dinners), all he could hear was Uncle Sidney: acceptance, forgiveness, and love.

He failed at first, he could not say the words, she left forlorn. But after a moment’s deliberation he ran after her. And there on Seventh Avenue in front of the Carnegie Deli, on Thanksgiving Day, was the incarnation of love.

 

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I’ve been wanting to say something about the meaning of Christmas for some time now. I’ve gone through so many transformations about it and I know others have too but they say nothing about it unless asked. They’re kind of embarrassed because they know they’ve “sold out.”

I know that for a fact because, when I’ve engaged certain people about what Christmas means, a goodly number submissively admit they succumbed, that is, sold out to the marketplace.

But anyone who makes a judgment that someone has sold out Christmas has to come up with some kind of definition of what Christmas means and what selling out means and — it might sound tautological but I’ll add it anyway — what a true Christmas is. It’s a shame but today that emphasis “true” has to be added to everything.

In this age of ersatz democratic participation — where every kid who runs a race on Memorial Day gets a ribbon that says he or she’s a winner — it would seem that one definition of Christmas is as good as any other but that is not the case, I repeat “not.”

Let me start out with the manger scene: Mary and Joseph are looking for a place for Mary to have her baby. They can find no Holiday Inn with a vacancy so the child is born in a stable and placed in a manger kept warm by a wrap of swaddling clothes.

This is not the exact chronology of the nativity story but some shepherds show up for the birth and angels arrive and sing songs that are played on the radio to this very day.

Earlier in the story, the gospel writer says an angel appeared to the mother-to-be and told her: Lady, you will give birth to a revolutionary, don’t worry, it’ll be OK, it’ll be a new way of doing business and it’ll outlive him two-thousand fold.

But the angel was not telling the whole truth about revolution. She did not reveal that, if you refuse to sell out, you will find great joy in life, in fact will find life eternal but you have to give your life for it. A very complex promise and a very big leap of faith.

So what does selling out mean? It means, first and foremost, you will never create “fake news,” you will never base any life decision on what you do not know to be true and never say anything that is not true. Later in life, the aforementioned revolutionary,when put under the gun by questioning authorities, quipped back: You guys have no idea what Truth is. The actual wording is: quid est veritas?   

To get to the truth means you have to get to words before the marketplace does, before the nation-state does, before institutionalized religion does, which means a person has to go to where words are born, to the very font out of which words flow and come into being. You have to become a midwife of words and thereby breathe in the untainted word as it comes out of the womb of silence.

Christmas then is a story about the well of silence where the words are born and about believers camping by that well so they can hear silence speak truth to power.

This is a tall undertaking because it means a person must commit to silence, which requires a certain stripping down of the elements of “noise,” a big part of which in the United States these days is lying about reality, about what sits right before the eyes.

It’s the old Social Psychology experiment come true: A group in on a secret “forces” a person to deny what the person sees before his eyes. The stooge sees a 7 and calls it a 5 because that is what the others said.

The poet in us, among us, does not succumb to this kind of spiel because poets sit by the well of silence and wait for words to be born. It’s what they do for a living; they refuse to succumb. It’s a daunting way of life and one that requires great discipline. It’s not Donald Trump spewing realities that do not exist, that never did, and never will.

But most people think poets are useless, that they waste their time fiddling around with words when, in fact, the opposite is true. They are bringing the revolutionary message of Christmas unprejudiced by, unhindered by, any sectarian creed. For poets, a 7 will always be a 7 — no more, no less. They would never confabulate that Hillary Clinton was involved in a sex-ring trade. Every word the poet writes contains the forceful truth of the Law of Gravity because it is a word born directly from the womb of silence.

Thus the true Christian message is: If you wish to be free, if you wish to share in the revolution Jesus spent his life talking about (and living), you must embrace a life of poetic consciousness that entails taking the life of silence seriously, listening to each word as it’s being born: daily, hourly, by the moment. It’s a radical shift in consciousness.

It’s life lived in a manger — and why so many poets died destitute — where nothing counts but the word being born, of its own accord, untainted by marketplace, State, and institutionalized religion.

The fire of that message is so great that the person on fire is compelled to sacrifice his or her life for it, like Jesus did, through a life of unparalleled service. Destitution and death are mere annoyances.

The Catholic Worker revolutionary, Dorothy Day — whom some have put up for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church — knew about that sacrifice. She wrote a book called “The Long Loneliness” in which she speaks about the price a person has to pay listening to and recording what silence has to say.

I sometimes imagine a big Christmas store where there is nothing but a small well of silence in the center where believers come to gather, and sit, and quietly listen.

Some listen for years and do not hear anything but their commitment to silence does not wane. Even in despair I’ve heard them sing the words to Merry Christmas, the first verse of which says no one will be happy until the needs of every human being are met.

The second verse speaks about “the 1 percent,” keeping their foot directly on the throat of humankind so that meeting the needs of all is mocked from behind a golden plate of caviar.

Oh, when I first got into this stuff, I never realized how much the Christmas revolution had to do with making people happy, as in each and every person having the same income, regardless of anything, and receiving the same care for body and mind as the richest among us — from the day they’re born to the day they die.

Boy, that’s my kind of Christmas. But I cannot say anything more, I’m sitting by the well of silence here, waiting for my next mission impossible.

I’ve been wanting to say something about the meaning of Christmas for some time now. I’ve gone through so many transformations about it and I know others have too but they say nothing about it unless asked. They’re kind of embarrassed because they know they’ve “sold out.”

I know that for a fact because, when I’ve engaged certain people about what Christmas means, a goodly number submissively admit they succumbed, that is, sold out to the marketplace.

But anyone who makes a judgment that someone has sold out Christmas has to come up with some kind of definition of what Christmas means and what selling out means and — it might sound tautological but I’ll add it anyway — what a true Christmas is. It’s a shame but today that emphasis “true” has to be added to everything.

In this age of ersatz democratic participation — where every kid who runs a race on Memorial Day gets a ribbon that says he or she’s a winner — it would seem that one definition of Christmas is as good as any other but that is not the case, I repeat “not.”

Let me start out with the manger scene: Mary and Joseph are looking for a place for Mary to have her baby. They can find no Holiday Inn with a vacancy so the child is born in a stable and placed in a manger kept warm by a wrap of swaddling clothes.

This is not the exact chronology of the nativity story but some shepherds show up for the birth and angels arrive and sing songs that are played on the radio to this very day.

Earlier in the story, the gospel writer says an angel appeared to the mother-to-be and told her: Lady, you will give birth to a revolutionary, don’t worry, it’ll be OK, it’ll be a new way of doing business and it’ll outlive him two-thousand fold.

But the angel was not telling the whole truth about revolution. She did not reveal that, if you refuse to sell out, you will find great joy in life, in fact will find life eternal but you have to give your life for it. A very complex promise and a very big leap of faith.

So what does selling out mean? It means, first and foremost, you will never create “fake news,” you will never base any life decision on what you do not know to be true and never say anything that is not true. Later in life, the aforementioned revolutionary,when put under the gun by questioning authorities, quipped back: You guys have no idea what Truth is. The actual wording is: quid est veritas?   

To get to the truth means you have to get to words before the marketplace does, before the nation-state does, before institutionalized religion does, which means a person has to go to where words are born, to the very font out of which words flow and come into being. You have to become a midwife of words and thereby breathe in the untainted word as it comes out of the womb of silence.

Christmas then is a story about the well of silence where the words are born and about believers camping by that well so they can hear silence speak truth to power.

This is a tall undertaking because it means a person must commit to silence, which requires a certain stripping down of the elements of “noise,” a big part of which in the United States these days is lying about reality, about what sits right before the eyes.

It’s the old Social Psychology experiment come true: A group in on a secret “forces” a person to deny what the person sees before his eyes. The stooge sees a 7 and calls it a 5 because that is what the others said.

The poet in us, among us, does not succumb to this kind of spiel because poets sit by the well of silence and wait for words to be born. It’s what they do for a living; they refuse to succumb. It’s a daunting way of life and one that requires great discipline. It’s not Donald Trump spewing realities that do not exist, that never did, and never will.

But most people think poets are useless, that they waste their time fiddling around with words when, in fact, the opposite is true. They are bringing the revolutionary message of Christmas unprejudiced by, unhindered by, any sectarian creed. For poets, a 7 will always be a 7 — no more, no less. They would never confabulate that Hillary Clinton was involved in a sex-ring trade. Every word the poet writes contains the forceful truth of the Law of Gravity because it is a word born directly from the womb of silence.

Thus the true Christian message is: If you wish to be free, if you wish to share in the revolution Jesus spent his life talking about (and living), you must embrace a life of poetic consciousness that entails taking the life of silence seriously, listening to each word as it’s being born: daily, hourly, by the moment. It’s a radical shift in consciousness.

It’s life lived in a manger — and why so many poets died destitute — where nothing counts but the word being born, of its own accord, untainted by marketplace, State, and institutionalized religion.

The fire of that message is so great that the person on fire is compelled to sacrifice his or her life for it, like Jesus did, through a life of unparalleled service. Destitution and death are mere annoyances.

The Catholic Worker revolutionary, Dorothy Day — whom some have put up for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church — knew about that sacrifice. She wrote a book called “The Long Loneliness” in which she speaks about the price a person has to pay listening to and recording what silence has to say.

I sometimes imagine a big Christmas store where there is nothing but a small well of silence in the center where believers come to gather, and sit, and quietly listen.

Some listen for years and do not hear anything but their commitment to silence does not wane. Even in despair I’ve heard them sing the words to Merry Christmas, the first verse of which says no one will be happy until the needs of every human being are met.

The second verse speaks about “the 1 percent,” keeping their foot directly on the throat of humankind so that meeting the needs of all is mocked from behind a golden plate of caviar.

Oh, when I first got into this stuff, I never realized how much the Christmas revolution had to do with making people happy, as in each and every person having the same income, regardless of anything, and receiving the same care for body and mind as the richest among us — from the day they’re born to the day they die.

Boy, that’s my kind of Christmas. But I cannot say anything more, I’m sitting by the well of silence here, waiting for my next mission impossible.

An 1867 map shows the telegraph lines in operation, under contract, and contemplated, to complete the circuit of the globe.
 

Marshall McLuhan — the great assessor of the impact of mass media on our lives — wrote an essay in 1963 called “The Agenbite of Outwit.”

He said that, when humankind implemented the telegraph in 1844, it radically altered the state of human consciousness because it had projected its central nervous system out onto the world. Every conscious neuron was thence connected by immediate-information-giving utilities to every other.

McLuhan was aware that human inventions involved extensions of the body into space: the wheel an extension of the foot; the hoe, the arm; clothing, the skin; and the book an extension of the eye.

But with humankind’s global connection through its nerves, the axis of reality shifted radically; it created benefits of course but it also created a new set of obligations because no neuron could deny the presence of every other.

The late great contemporary composer John Cage took a liking to these ideas. It was not that they flipped reality on end but more that they presented opportunities for living more sanely. They redefined the concept of sharing so that it now includes sharing not only the benefits but also the burdens of others — fully supportive of the axiom: People are happier when dog no longer eat dog.

In his classic, “A Year From Monday,” Cage says (and I paraphrase, you can see the original on Page ix): it is now incumbent upon humankind to implement globally the disciplines people traditionally practiced to be at peace, at one with themselves — meditation, yoga, psychoanalysis, and every related modality.

When such disciplines are practiced globally people recognize that others are not threatening and greedy by nature. They are better able to see the needs of others (people are more inclined to speak of them) and moved to take steps to meet those needs without resentment or derision. Such is how an effectively working planet-wide central nervous system operates.

For a long time, Cage was interested in producing a list of utilities that connect us to each other (e.g., the telephone, radio, Internet) whereby we come face to face with every language, custom, and ritual situated along the spectrum of humanity.

In “Agenbite,” McLuhan said that, since the world contracted to the size of a tribe or village where everyone knows what’s going on everywhere, the human community feels compelled to participate. Participation is the democratization of happiness.

Understandably McLuhan has long been thought of as one of the inventors of “global village” but a village free of zenophobia. Zenophobes fear diversity, it contradicts assumptions about self and other that thrive on a divide-and-conquer ethic.

Anyone interested in anthropology knows that people living in pristine tribal cultures — there are a million studies on it — find it impossible to think of themselves as an “individual” or “independent” operator.

Of course “primitives” recognize differences — some folks are faster, smarter, stronger, and more efficient in amassing prized money-shells — but the faster do not tax the slower to enhance their prestige. A consciousness wired to every other induces genuine humility and compassion.

For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church tried to promote global connectedness through the concept of a “mystical body” asserting that through Jesus all Christians share a mystical, spiritual bond that cannot be broken.

And Alexander the Great proposed a similar idea in his “homonoia,” a universal union of hearts, a “brotherhood of man” but, in his brotherhood, brother does not share the burden of brother.

Though we continue to reap the benefits of a fully-operative global nervous system, the human community still has not faced up to the task of putting flesh and bone on those nerves, that is, of creating a political economy designed to meet the needs of all, one that fits the complex of nerves.

And needs-based means providing not only full health care for everyone, from the day we’re born to the day we die, but also housing, daily sustenance, old age care, the works — the opposite of a deserts-based, dog-eat-dog, tribal mind.

Thus the potential for achieved well being is no longer limited to Christians or Macedonians or any other sect but extends to every physical, neurological, consciousness in our global home.

Disbelievers in this connectedness are at least willing to acknowledge that what happens in China (and Mexico, Vietnam, and Japan) affects the quality of our lives in the United States. They acknowledge globalization but only in so far as it relates to money, trade, power, and deserts-based benefits.

Otherwise their battle cry is for walling off the self and nation from what exists on the other side of the synapse and for siphoning off “differences” among populations into “ghettos.”

This is nervous-breakdown thinking and explains why at any moment some group somewhere can rise up and terrorize the world, claiming their dreams were shattered through demonizing, exclusionary, needs-denying practices.

Quite astoundingly, two of the 2016 presidential candidates in the United States are calling for revolution: one for “political revolution,” the other for a guilt-free battering-of-the-weak-without-reprisal revolution based in an ideology that stigmatizes difference.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard predicted this would occur when his “The Concept of Dread” appeared the same year the telegraph was born. He was addressing the dread of connectedness, the dread of facing up to a needs-based political economy that being linked neurologically requires.

Pope Francis recently said that people who wall themselves off from others, who classify and divide, are destroyers of the mystical body and cannot call themselves Christians. They tear away at the limbs of a universal needs-meeting body.

Which brings us to the true function of the computer. People might use the machine to Google cheap flights to Spain or find a good house at the shore but the computer exists primarily: (1) to inventory the needs of every neuron in the cosmic system; (2) to inventory every available worldwide resource (every kind everywhere); and (3) to find the best way of getting what’s needed to those in need without charge or delay.

We do know of course that in every Eden people steal, cheat, rob, and raid your cache — sin is a given — but in the meantime, in this era of our neurologically-connected needs-based revolution, every person on the planet is treated like the richest person on earth.

Now that’s a revolution of dread.

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Circa 1935: Dennis Sullivan’s family visited Coney Island and had this portrait taken. His mother is the woman in white, third from the right in the second row, and her mother is in white all the way to the right. Four of the author’s aunts and one uncle are in the photo as well as lifelong family friends.

The presidential candidates are out on the trail again and the topic of “family values” is back on the agenda, if only slightly. I like that. I like talk about the family.

When I’m in conversation with folks at a coffeehouse or casual-dinner setting and the topic of family comes up, I invariably ask the person who’s sallying forth about it: What does your family stand for? And invariably I get: What in the world does that mean?

And I say, well: Do you come from a creative family or maybe a family that likes to laugh and, when it does, the pain of life is relieved somewhat? Does your sense of humor provide perspective when times get rough?

“What does your family stand for?” is a kind of Rorschach test. Someone connects with one of the inkblots and says: Oh, look, that’s me, there’s my family, we’re into power; we love money; we thrive on prestige, privilege, and things elite. Our Sermon on the Mount is: Do unto others before they do unto you and then cut out.

There are people who say their family has believed (and practiced) for generations giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. They say they’re “into” justice, standing up for policies that meet the needs of everyone.

Asked to give an example they say: Well, every person on Earth has a right to full health care from the day they’re born till the day they die, no exceptions. And when you ask why they say: Because Health and Healing are inalienable rights.

I’ve talked to people who come from laissez-faire families who care about nothing and it makes no difference; they say they want to keep stress down.

With respect to “What does your family stand for?” it should be pointed out that this is not a niche or boutique question designed for a certain few. It pertains to everyone, and anyone interested in bettering personal development and mental health must answer it, and do so through serious self-reflection. Become an Ancestry.com for the genealogy of morals.

Secondly, the question in question is not academic because the family — and that includes everybody who has a say in it — wills you something.  And you’re willed not just proteinic DNA but social DNA as well. In some cases, it means the row assigned you is easier to hoe; in others, it entails seeing a therapist for 30 years to peel off layers of familial gunk.

Thus, answering “What do I stand for?” has to do with finding out what you were “willed” and how your legacy affects your standing in the world. It’s a sad game because it involves our forebears saying: Here’s a little keepsake, I hope it works out for you — we are never consulted.

Some people get left holding the bag. They’re willed racism, hating black people and Jews and demeaning women, Muslims, and people whose sexual being requires complex solutions for well being.

If a family’s traits are based in aggression — perhaps from a fear of scarcity — those traits can erupt when the family comes together. Every year, hordes of articles are written during the winter holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, et al.) advising people how to emerge from family encounters with their hide in tact. 

The great Irish lyrical poet, Michael Hartnett (1941-1999) has a poem called “That Actor Kiss,” which speaks to his relationship with his father especially during the father’s last days.

His father is in a hospital or nursing home and Michael, as he’s looking at his father in bed, leans over and kisses him; later over a drink he realizes that was the last kiss he ever gave the man, and also the first.

He says the shame is that that “kiss fell down a shaft too deep/to send back echoes that I would have prized.” And what did the father leave him?

(he willed to me his bitterness and thirst,

his cold ability to close a door).

Hartnett says he was given an acerbic tongue based in loss, a fondness for the drink, and a revenge that gets even with people by shunning them.

I teach, maybe “facilitate” is a better word, a course at the Voorheesville Public Library called “Writing Personal History for Family, Friends, and Posterity.” People in the group write stories about what they were willed, where it’s gotten them, and how they feel about the deal. It’s self-analysis and writing your own obituary rolled into one.

One inventive member of the group, Jim Corsaro, says in a story “Family Closets” that his garrulous Italian-American family in Niagara Falls were forever gabbing, talking about everything under the sun.

But he said he never heard a word about his brother being gay, which everyone had to acknowledge when he died of AIDS in a far-off land. Jim said he got the job of telling his mother about the death and the way his brother died. Much to his surprise his mother said she always thought her son was gay.

But what kept the family from acknowledging a sexuality that was different from theirs (presumably) and required a dose of empathy?

In conjunction with the publication of his memoir, “But Enough About Me,” the actor and movie star Burt Reynolds said growing up he always said his father was his hero but when Burt came to be an actor the father kept saying acting was for sissies. Plus he would not acknowledge his son was a going concern and, no matter how big Burt got, he refused to see him as a “man.”

As in the case of the Corsaros, Burt’s father could not stretch to meet the unique needs of a kin. Their scales of justice were skewed, unbalanced, exclusionary, discriminatory, callous — and toward a son, a brother, someone they once loved as a child.

Someone told me recently that if he starting talking about “What does my family stand for?” he’d wind up writing a book. And I said: Well, what’s holding you back?

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