Take my hand

So then Sotomayor says to Alito…

So I’m thinking of a chorus. I’m thinking Palestinian kids and Israeli kids together, led by a prosperous pianist and an unemployed community organizer — of different faiths. They sit beside each other at meals; they take long bus rides to gigs all over the country — heck, all over the world. They sing “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Bad Romance” and of course “Imagine”. The place goes nuts. The boys and girls hold hands and take a bow together — except those who for religious reasons can’t touch a woman.

It’s a cry for peace in a strife-torn country. It’s a beacon of unity in a divided nation. It’s probably hopeless, but hope is always an obligation, even when it goes against conventional wisdom. Maybe someday one chorus member will be the Israeli Prime Minister and the other the Palestinian president, and they will meet in a quiet restaurant in Jerusalem, and sing two choruses of “We Are the Champions” and hammer out a two-state solution before the knaffe even reaches the table.

Beautiful, isn’t it? But we know it will never happen because the sides are too far apart, because of the brains distorted after generations of roiling propaganda, because of murders suffered on both sides. It’s sad. These Middle Eastern countries are so clannish.

Actually, I’m talking about the United States. We have a division in our nation that’s as crippling as the Israeli/Palestinian divide. People are dying over there, but it’s not exactly bloodless over here. I give you the Murrah office building in Oklahoma City.  Or Ruby Ridge.

And the divide is not just geographical. Most police departments are representative of Red State thinking, even in deep blue states; a public defender’s office in a deep red state would still most likely be filled with Blue State citizens.

We work together, have family gatherings together, but we don’t talk about politics. We just avoid it, because it will only lead the name-calling, rancor and resentment.

In other countries people with different ideas come together in cafes and argue fiercely. We don’t do that. Who needs the aggravation? We just go back to our polling places and start exchanging gunfire — that is, if people even go to polling places. That’s another consequence of the red/blue divide; it’s so simultaneously enraging and ludicrous that people just check out. They feel that it’s been a long time since democracy was about them.

A lot of us on both sides agree that the elites have conspired to distort and corrupt the government. But we can’t agree on which elites. Is it the New York Times and Planned Parenthood? Or is it the Supreme Court and the defense industries?  Corporations or gay lawyers?  Fundamentalist preachers or pornographers? Or greedy banks — no, wait, everyone hates greedy banks.

So, obviously, the only useful thing to do would be an attempt to make the United States, well, united. The only useful thing to do would be to attempt to start a dialogue.  My big brain tells me that, but my small brain is saying: Do I really want to talk to a person who believes that abortion is murder and that gay people are all secular devils? Can I stand five minutes with someone who believes that Muslims should be barred from entering the country?

No, let’s talk about the Third Amendment instead…

I can see agreeing with someone about, say, Hillary Clinton’s frightening devotion to the security state and its attempts to destroy privacy, but then I’d have to hear about Hillary’s terrible awful treasonous secret emails. And the other person would have to hear that Edward Snowden is, on balance, a patriot.

So that’s my dilemma. I understand about populist rage; I agree with people who say that conservative and rural people are the victims of class-linked stereotyping. I believe that community and faith have been unfairly dismissed as irrelevant to the political process. But then I say something like “systemic racism,” trying to be agreeable, and now we’re having a fight about whether black people are pushing too hard, and we’re right back to the foxholes.

OK, this is my fantasy. I’m fighting with a straw man. But I’ve seen many straw men come to life and start laying waste to the landscape. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump started out as merely loathsome outliers useful for parody; now they’re the Republican party.

I want to be a nice Palestinian lad singing Kumbaya with a sweet Israeli girl. I want peace to come to this troubled kingdom. Take my hand! And now try to find the hand of a Mike Huckabee supporter. It’s for the good of the children.


I get to the movies early. Heck, I get most places early. That way I’m never late! The logic is unassailable, but some people disagree.

So I have a chance to observe seating patterns. People will always leave  open chairs between them and the people on either side, because it’s a known fact that touching the elbow of a stranger can bring about disastrous consequences, from convulsions to pregnancy. We must always be vigilant.

(The same dynamic happens in men’s rest rooms, where an open urinal is always left between peers. Or pee-ers. The next person in  the room fills in the space, but no one is happy about it).

More people enter the theater. Only seats at the sides and way down in front remain. And yet, there are many vacant seats left in the good seats. Single patrons fill in the blanks, with the longer-serving audience members grimacing and shuffling. But couples — what do they do? Do they ruefully separate and find seats in the hygiene gaps? Or are they so invested in hand-holding and cheek-nuzzling that they find two seats in the first row and tilt their heads back to view the film looming above them?

But then there are the bold couples, the take-n0-shit probably-from-New-York folks who say, “you know, if you’d just scootch down one, we could sit together.” And then there is much sighing and coat-flinging and mutterings about the rudeness of latecomers, and the elbows of strangers are inevitably touched.

And yet somehow, the magic of movies take over, and a flickering peace descends on the dark room.


Jon Carroll Prose will be taking a vacation with Mrs. Prose, so there won’t be any posts for 10 days or so. Probably the next post will be about wildflowers in Death Valley, because that’s where we’re going. In the meantime, go read Dahlia Lithwick.


Photography by Tracy Johnston

Marketing help by Michelle “Sunset Cruise” Mizera

33 thoughts on “Take my hand

      1. You’re still set at Greenwich Mean Time (UTC 0). From your home page, look down on the right. Under META is Site Admin. Go there and, under Timezone, click Los Angeles (that should switch automatically to Daylight Saving Time and back, as opposed to choosing a UTC number). Good luck.


  1. “Take My Hand” goes with the Australian aborigines photo. I didn’t see you use it…. >


  2. Enjoy the wildflowers. I’ll be hitting Joshua tree march 15. Hope not too late. Meanwhile off to pick up 16+ year old cat Cusco (no autocorrect I did not mean Cisco) who had tooth pulled today. You are down to one kitty now I believe. Aloha Patricia

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Love the Dahlia Lithwick article. (Had already read it.) My favorite part of the article:

    “Then it’s Kagan who moves in. Calmly, poker-faced, she asks [Texas Attorney General] Keller: ‘You said that as the law is now … Texas is allowed to set much, much higher medical standards, whether it has to do with the personnel or procedures or the facilities themselves, higher medical standards … for abortion facilities than for facilities that do any other kind of medical work, even much more risky medical work? Am I right?’

    “Keller agrees. Then Kagan asks: ‘And I guess I just want to know, why would Texas do that?’ The room erupts. Keller says complications. Kagan says that liposuction actually has greater complications. Keller says Kermit Gosnell [horrible Philadelphia case of criminal abortionist preying on women]. Kagan says nothing that happened in the Gosnell case could have occurred under Texas’ pre-existing regulations. Sotomayor says colonoscopies have more complications. Finally, Keller says, ‘But legislatures react to topics that are of public concern.’ And that is what matters. Not women’s health. Politics.”

    I’ve read the transcript. At the part where the article says “the room erupts,” the transcript says (as it usually does), “(Laughter)”.

    Assuming that this laughter was — as Slate reports — eruptive, it shows that EVERYBODY in the room knows “why would Texas do that.” It will be tragic indeed if this case is disposed of on some BS legal theory that nods to Texas’s purported reasons for the regulations at issue, without addressing this elephant in Texas’s room, namely, that these “protective” laws were passed in support of an entirely different agenda than women’s protection.


  4. Halleluia, Brother! Ain’t it the truth. Enjoy your vacation — it should be beautiful this time of year.


  5. If I had to pee next to someone in public, and see, smell their pee, hell yeah, I’d leave a space, but don’t they have actual stalls with actual doors in the men’s facilities? Please tell me you use those, Mr. Prose!


    1. They have those, but usually just a few, intended for those cients who have something to do beyond just peeing. Urinals are lined up against a wall. In the classier places there are little partial barriers, about 24″ x 18″, separating them. In the middle-of-the road places there is the same lineup with no barriers but you stiil have your own fixture, in the really down and dirty places, like the ballpark, there is just a long trough with water running along the bottom.


  6. I know the point of going to Death Valley is to see Death Nature but I cannot help but feel sad that Scotty’s Castle is closed (flood damage)…

    It would be nice if our differences were seen as petty but…

    Trump stuck his nose under the tent and here they come!

    Let us know if there are still wagons pulled by teams of 20 mules.

    Your readers await you return, refreshed and with new words to share.


  7. I miss your weekly column but being retired myself I can understand your freedom. I am hoping Callie Miller(sic)? with take your spot. Leah is fine but we need a political pontiff thanks again


  8. Should you wander down to Joshua Tree, you could stay at the laid-back, very agreeable Joshua Tree Inn. ( I was just there over the Xmas holidays.) You may know that a bit of rock and roll history, or was it mythology, happened there way back when. Personally, I’d opt for the Emmylou Harris room, but it’s your call.


  9. I was one of the early adopters. But jon said to sign up formally on his site, so I did. I GET TWO MAILINGS NOW.

    can you fix this?


  10. Hope the wild flowers are wondrous!
    In 1971 my wife and I drove from Berkeley to Death Valley with our kids to see the wildflowers. As we were pitching our two tents the winds descended out of nowhere along with a fierce blizzard. It was impossible to set up our tents, and we decided to retrace our steps. All the hotels were filled. Unless one had chains the Tehapichis (sp) were impassable. We had to drive hundreds of extra miles home, almost through Las Vegas.

    When we got back to Berkeley the California poppies and other wildflowers were suddenly blooming!
    So much for our first winter in the Golden State.


  11. Palestinian-Israeli music groups include Daniel Pearl world music days, West-eastern Divan orchestra. Nearest impossible to agree with citizens include anti-vaccers, anti-fluoridators, who are nevertheless good musicians and friends.


  12. Dear Jon,

    Have fun in Death Valley. We just returned from seeing the Super Bloom. The desert floor is carpeted with yellow flowers…quite spectacular. Be sure to drive through Artist’s Drive and view Artist’s Palette…no flowers there, but beautiful colors in the hills.

    Enjoy! Annette


  13. How about an occasional cat column again, just for respite? ( The rest, we all know, is preaching to the choir )…. and how about asking Adair Lara to join WordPress columnists?….


    1. & the guy who posted comments with the Fat Freddy’s Cat logo?…& Anne Lamott?….literate, local voices all….


  14. As you know, I engage in the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name in Berkeley, and we’re having a little jubilee period right now. Wonder of wonders, we both hate Trump, and for the first time in several decades, we can talk politics! God, it’s great. Thanks, Donald! I’m moving to Germany if you’re elected. They got laws against fascism there.


  15. easy, easy now, Andrea – no need for Reactionary reactions – most people I talk to are planning to move to Canada or New Zealand – where english is the lingua franca…..


  16. The chorus of Israeli and Palestinian youth is happening! HEARTBEAT unites Israeli and Palestinian youth musicians to develop critical awareness, harness music’s transformative power and become leading voices for change. Saturday, March 20, 1 pm, United Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Free – donations requested. RSVP at live.heartbeat.fm/uucb


  17. ?????????

    > Begin forwarded message: > > From: quotation socompa > Subject: Re: Private trip > Date: October 5, 2016 at 10:44:31 PM PDT > To: Tracy Johnston > Cc: federico > > Dear Tracy > It was me Fabrizio. > > Tracy, i have to inform you that as you will see in your trip, our exclusive room in Antofallita is still under construction. > > I spoke with Federico, who has already booked for you the Hotel in Tolar Grande, Casa Andina, with no extra cost for you obviously. > > This mean that day you will have a longer drive, 7 hours in total , during an amazing drive. > > There is the possibility to sleep in ANTOFALLA close to Antofallita, but rooms there are really really basic. So we thought it was better to pick Tolar Grande Casa Andina, as we do for all our PUNA Tours. > > I am sorry about this Tracy, it is always difficult to have a construction plan on time here. > > I remain at your full disposal > > Warm regards > Fa > > El 6 oct. 2016 02:29, “Tracy Johnston” <tracyherey8@gmail.com > escribió: > I paid you the USD 690 via wire transfer a couple of months ago. I got an email from someone in your office saying you got it. > > Tracy >>


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