Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Monthly Archives: July 2016

See the Uncut “Dawn of Justice”

I saw the Uncut Batman v. Superman “Dawn of Justice.” It got panned by the critics but my movie maven nephew, Vincent Aguilera, insisted that I see it. He was, as he almost always nearly is with respect to movies, correct in his assessment. It is fine film masquerading as one of the latest litany of superhero flicks. It is a dark, layered, and complex visual narrative with an excellent script. Superman is not at all straightforward and Batman is Frank Miller’s classic brooding vigilante, played with nuance and feeling by Mr. Affleck. The humor is dark, the men are manly, and the women are tough, gorgeous and palpable. Rent it at home and have 2-3 of your favor drinks ready. On a warm summer evening in Los Angeles, mine were ice cold Victorias with two of my best childhood buds.

These two were magnificent but the entire film was well casted:


Mr. Khan’s America, My America


Photo Credit: Getty Images, from Politico, “Seven Minutes that Shook the Convention.”

This courageous man, an immigration attorney, delivered one of the most powerful things I have ever seen at convention. It certainly is my favorite. The details are in the linked essay but you can see the speech here for yourself. Rafael Suarez Jr. characterized it this way on his Facebook page: “Capt. Khan’s father is the star of the Democratic Convention. Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, this grieving father, this dignified immigrant is delivering a love letter to his adopted country.”

Andrew Sullivan, live-blogging, said:

9:19 p.m. This I can clearly say: that last speech was the best of the last two weeks, and the most necessary. When that father brought out his own copy of the Constitution and waved it at Donald Trump, it was the fulcrum of this election. This is what is at stake – the core values of this country under threat from a man who has no understanding of the Constitution he would swear to uphold.

9:13 p.m. Okay, this is jaw-droppingly powerful: the dignified father, Khizr Khan, of a fallen Muslim soldier, refuting the rancid divisiveness of Trump by his very composure and gravity.

I was moved by this man and this most numinous moment that was anything but the usual rhetoric and rodomontade of a political convention. I was touched by Mr. Suarez’s description, “delivering a love letter to his adopted country.” The Politico story nabbed this tidbit, said by Mr. Khan before his speech: “It is my small share to show the world, by standing there, the goodness of America.” As a fellow immigrant — I came to the US when I was five, undocumented, with my family — I felt like I was standing there with him in his dream, sharing his pride and his concern.

Mr. Khan appeared on the stage as if brought to life by Mr. Obama’s words from the previous evening. He too took as his starting point the law of our land, contrasted this America to the Orwellian one posited by Mr. Trump, and then eviscerated his lie with the simple eloquence of truth, hanging this epitaph on the GOP candidate: “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

September 11, like most violent shocks to a nation, triggered good as well as evil as we all are aware. Together with the war on terror, there has also been a growing divide in our body politic across several dimensions such as race, religion, immigration, and rural-urban landscapes, just to name a few. Add to these the effects of globalization and technology that have hammered low-skilled workers, and we are where we are, perhaps on the precipice of Trump’s America.

But I don’t think so, at least not quite. I expect candidate Clinton will methodically wear down and defeat Trump in the battleground states handily. This, however, is the easy part. I am less doubtful that we will, as a nation, turn the corner and begin to invest more in the right things in order to improve the well-being of those who are now clinging to Trump. Hard enough as this will be, I’m afraid that the decay in working class America might already be beyond repair, setting us up for more Trumps.

One thing is certain. Mr. Khan’s America, my America, has eroded.






Sunshine and Rain

Rain and sunshine together still flummox after all these years. They do so especially with the backdrop of Alabama’s pastel flowered trees that give the place a spring-like feel.

Lincoln Says Goodbye to Springfield

No one paints Lincoln better than Shelby Foote. Here is an excerpt from The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume I (p.35). Lincoln is leaving Springfield for the White House:

The President-elect, and those who were going with him, boarded the single passenger car; those who were staying collected about the black platform, the rain making a steady murmur against the taut cotton or silk of their umbrellas. As he stood at the rail, chin down, Lincoln’s look of sadness deepened. Tomorrow he would be fifty-two, one of the youngest men ever to fill the office he had won three months ago. Then he raised his head, and the people were hushed as he looked into their faces.

“My friends,” he said quietly, above the murmur of the rain, “no one not in my situation can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of these people I owe everything. Here I have lived for a quarter century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested on Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

The train pulled out and the people stood and watched it go, some with tears on their faces. Four years and two months later, still down in Coles County, Sally Bush Lincoln was to say: “I knowed when he went away he wasn’t ever coming back alive.”

Hal’s Great Transformation (#1)


Can no man tell me of my unthrifty son?
‘Tis full three months since I did see him last;
If any plague hang over us, ’tis he.
I would to God, my lords, he might be found:
Inquire at London, ‘mongst the taverns there,
For there, they say, he daily doth frequent,
With unrestrained loose companions,
Even such, they say, as stand in narrow lanes,
And beat our watch, and rob our passengers;
Which he, young wanton and effeminate boy,
Takes on the point of honour to support
So dissolute a crew.

The quote above is from the end of Richard II, from King Bolingbroke (Henry IV).  The two, of course, are foils beginning in this second play of the Henriad, which consists of Richard II, Henry IV (1 & 2), and Henry V. The king is asking out loud about his ne’er-do-well son. At that time Prince Hal is hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking, and generally embarrassing the King.

We first see Harry Percy (Hotstpur), Northumberland’s bold son, in Richard II.  Hal (Henry V) is only mentioned in passing at the end of that play (quote above). In the quote below, from the beginning of Henry IV (1), we hear the King’s frustration with his underachieving son, whose lassitude is contrasted with the achievements of Hotspur.

This quote captures the depths of the King’s frustrations with his son (O that it could be proved…)  who at this point is barren of achievement and appears to have a most unpromising future ahead. The language is evocative and shocking. As we read it, we must resists the temptation to look forward and force ourselves to feel the King’s despair that has him wishing against hope that Hal was not his son. The despair is acute because the civil war – “civil butchery” – is coming. We do not know, yet, of Hal’s gifts and virtues. We do not know yet his ambitions.


In faith,
It is a conquest for a prince to boast of.


Yea, there thou makest me sad and makest me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,
A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant;
Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride:
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry. O that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And call’d mine Percy, his Plantagenet!
Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.
But let him from my thoughts.



Shilling for The Abuela #TeamAbuela

I want to be perfectly clear, friends and readers: it is ruthless necessity that makes me a shill for The Abuela. In politics, necessity rules. With apologies to LBJ, it is important to remember that it is not the main business of politicians to run around saying and doing principled things. Their job is to govern, by crook if necessity demands it. The Trumpistas and Bernistas, not to mention decent people with Hillary derangement syndrome, would do well to remember this. The other guy is a menace to the republic, your loved ones serving in the military, and your pocketbooks. It’s on you if The Abuela loses.

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