Wednesday Open Thread | Toni Morrison Week


Happy HUMP day, Everyone! Today’s novel…. SULA


Plot summary[edit]
The Bottom is a mostly black neighborhood in Ohio. A good white farmer promised freedom and a piece of Bottom land to his slave if he would perform some very difficult chores. When the slave completed the work, he asked the farmer to keep his end of the bargain. Freedom was easy, the farmer had no objection to that, but he didn’t want to give up any land, so he told the slave that he was very sorry that he had to give him valley land. He had hoped to give him a piece of the bottom land. The slave blinked and said he thought valley land was bottom land. The master said, “Oh no! See those hills? That’s bottom land; rich and fertile.”

Shadrack, a resident of the Bottom, fought in World War I. He returns a shattered man, unable to accept the complexities of the world; he lives on the outskirts of town, attempting to create order in his life. One of his methods involves compartmentalizing his fear of death in a ritual he invents and names National Suicide Day. The town is at first wary of him and his ritual, then, over time, unthinkingly accepts him.

Meanwhile, the families of the children Nel and Sula are contrasted. Nel is the product of a family that believes deeply in social conventions; hers is a stable home, though some might characterize it as rigid. Nel is uncertain of the conventional life her mother Helene wants for her; these doubts are hammered home when she meets Rochelle, her grandmother and a former prostitute, who is the only unconventional woman in her family line. Sula’s family is very different: she lives with her grandmother Eva and her mother Hannah both of whom are seen by the town as eccentric and loose. Their house also serves as a home for three informally adopted boys and a steady stream of boarders.

Despite their differences, Sula and Nel become fiercely attached to each other during adolescence. However, a traumatic accident changes everything. One day, Sula playfully swings a neighborhood boy, Chicken Little, around by his hands. When she loses her grip, the boy falls into a nearby river and drowns. They never tell anyone about the accident even though they did not intend to harm the boy. The two girls begin to grow apart. One day Sula’s mother’s dress catches fire and she dies of the burns. Eva, her mother, sees her from the window and jumps out into the garden.

After high school, Nel chooses to marry and settles into the conventional role of wife and mother. Sula follows a wildly divergent path and lives a life of fierce independence and total disregard for social conventions. Shortly after Nel’s wedding, Sula leaves the Bottom for a period of 10 years. She has many affairs, some, it is rumored, with white men. However, she finds people following the same boring routines elsewhere, so she returns to the Bottom and to Nel.

Upon her return, the town regards Sula as the very personification of evil for her blatant disregard of social conventions. Their hatred in part rests upon Sula’s interracial relationships, but is crystallized when Sula has an affair with Nel’s husband, Jude, who subsequently abandons Nel. Ironically, the community’s labeling of Sula as evil actually improves their own lives. Her presence in the community gives them the impetus to live harmoniously with one another. Nel breaks off her friendship with Sula. Just before Sula dies in 1940, they achieve a half-hearted reconciliation. With Sula’s death, the harmony that had reigned in the town quickly dissolves.


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17 Responses to Wednesday Open Thread | Toni Morrison Week

  1. rikyrah says:

    Get ready for Ryancare, America! Why GOP’s all set to end Medicare as we know it
    Republicans say their 2015 plans include passing Ryan’s Dickensian budget. Here’s why America will hate it
    Joan Walsh

    I’m not someone who saw a silver lining in Democrats losing the Senate. But if there is one, it may lie in letting Republicans lay out their wildly unpopular plans for “governing.”

    As if walking into a trap set by the other party – except Democrats are too broken to set traps right now — GOP congressional leaders are promising to act immediately on their budget-slashing ideas when 2015 begins. High on their list, according to the New York Times, is implementing Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to “overhaul” Medicare by replacing it with “premium support” vouchers designed to privatize the system over the coming decades. They will also form a commission to examine “options” for Social Security, which Ryan has also long favored privatizing.

    The GOP won voters over 65 by 16 points last week. Culture and conservatism may keep most of those voters Republican, but if congressional conservatives go along with those plans, Democrats might have a shot at them.

    That the GOP will move against Medicare still isn’t a done deal. The House will do it, of course, because the House has passed the Ryan budget before. In the Senate, the plan will face a warm reception from incoming budget committee chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an advocate of the Ryan budget. Still, Mitch McConnell may have problems inflicting such an unpopular plan on vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection in 2016. It will make it difficult for Karl Rove to make Democrats the party that is menacing Medicare if Republicans in both houses of Congress vote to voucherize it.

    Yet even some blue-state Republicans say they’re on board with the Ryan-crafted budget blueprint. “I’m quite comfortable with the reforms contemplated in those budgets,” Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey told the Times. “There are no political implications that I’m thinking about.” The Times notes that the last time the Ryan budget faced the Senate, five Republicans voted against it – including Sen. Ted Cruz, who thought it didn’t go far enough. But at least four new GOP senators, including Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, are on record supporting it.

  2. rikyrah says:

    Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 8:20 PM UTC
    Wall Street and Hillary Clinton: The risk Democrats run by embracing the “big tent”
    New report shows that Wall Street is as ready for Hillary as it gets. Here’s why that should make Democrats nervous
    Elias Isquith

    It’s been a while since I checked in with my friends at Red State — so there may be some bits of trenchant analysis that I’ve missed — but from what I can tell, it looks like most pundits have responded to last week’s midterms with an unusual degree of perspective. In marked contrast with what happened after Republicans won in 2004, and after Democrats won in ’06, ’08 and ’12, there have been few declarations that Americans now lived under de facto one-party rule. The fact that turnout last Tuesday was so historically atrocious is probably a key reason. It’s hard to credit an outcome to the people’s will if they don’t show up.

    We’ve had low turnout elections before, though; so that can’t be the only explanation. More influential, I’d guess, is the role currently being played by Hillary Clinton, whose impending 2016 campaign looms over the rest of American politics a bit like the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001.” Among Republicans, the specter of another President Clinton is being used to tamp-down internal division and call a truce in the GOP’s ongoing civil war. And among Democrats, her front-runner status is being used as an excuse to chalk up the midterm blowout to demographics and avoid any further introspection.

    On both sides of the aisle, in other words, the assumption that 2016 is Clinton’s to lose is so dominant that it’s causing a kind of political stasis, with both sides deciding to more or less hold steady and see what happens. But while this is probably a smart move for a Republican Party that lost in 2012 due in no small part to internal squabbling that pushed its candidate too far to the right, a new report from Politico Magazine on Clinton’s relationship with Wall Street shows that, for Democrats, the wisdom of staying the course — especially in this increasingly agitated, restive political climate — is far less certain.

  3. rikyrah says:

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014
    The Sinister Six
    Posted by Zandar
    Senate Republicans seem pretty confident they can get things past a Democratic filibuster in the Senate to force president Obama to veto things. There’s three scenarios there:

    Mitch McConnell will use budget reconciliation tricks to require a 51-vote majority with no filibuster on things like Obamacare,
    Senate Republicans will get rid of/severely limit the filibuster altogether,
    There’s enough Democrats that will vote with the GOP to break a 60-vote filibuster.

    TPM’s Sahil Kapur looks at scenario three there and identifies six Dems who can be flipped. Regular readers should be able to guess who they are already.

    If he does manage to keep his caucus united, here are McConnell’s six top Democratic prospects for reaching 60 votes.

    Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri

    It took Todd Akin of “legitimate rape” notoriety to save McCaskill from electoral doom in 2012, and this second-term Missourian recognizes that she can’t vote in lock-step with her party if she wants to stay in the good graces of her conservative-leaning state. Look for her to side with Republicans from time to time to appease her right flank, on issues such as the Keystone pipeline.

    Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia

    This conservative Democrat has always looked for ways to make himself attractive to West Virginians, from literally shooting the cap-and-trade bill in a campaign ad to voting against Reid on filibuster reform. With the ranks of conservative Democrats diminished in the wake of the 2014 blowout, Manchin will look for opportunities to tout his bipartisan bona fides.

    Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota

    Heitkamp won her first Senate election in 2012 by a razor-thin 1 percent margin in deep-red North Dakota. Not shy about breaking with her party, she was one of just four Democrats who voted to block the popular gun background checks legislation in 2013 — the other three have retired or lost reelection. Expect her to hunt for issues where she can align herself with the new Republican majority.

    Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana

    Donnelly largely owes his seat to Indiana Republicans who threw out an untouchable incumbent in 2012 in favor of a candidate to imploded amid a rape gaffe in the general election. One of the more conservative Democrats, he’ll likely be willing to partner with McConnell’s Republicans in some cases, such as reversing the 30-hour work week definition under Obamacare.

    Sen. Angus King of Maine

    King, a progressive-leaning independent who says he’ll continue to caucus with Democrats, has often looked for ways to polish his nonpartisan credentials. In two years as a senator, King has tried to play deal-maker and split with Democrats on issues like gun control and student loans.

    Sen. Jon Tester of Montana

    Tester survived reelection in the Democrat-friendly year of 2012, but his party got wiped out this year in the race for Montana’s other Senate seat. Tester has been willing to buck Democratic leaders at times, most notably when he helped kill the DREAM Act by filibuster in 2010.

    • eliihass says:

      We’ll have to watch these rats closely especially as some may align with the evil republicans (deliberate lower case) in desperation as re-election looms for them. I’m looking at you Heidi, Joe, and Claire. The whole thing sucks, but grass root Democrats need to start rallying and pushing back at those who want to sell us out to keep their seats!!!

  4. rikyrah says:

    From POU:


    Valerie Jarrett was just on Rev. Al’s radio show. She talked about the Women and Girls of Color report, the new climate change deal with China, and Rev. asked her about the recent articles written about her. Here’s what she said:

    “When you break glass ceilings, you’re gonna get nicked by a shard or two.”

    • eliihass says:

      Good for her!! And great to see some push back happening on Valerie’s behalf. That Mrs Obama would get some of the same supporters who fight so hard for her husband on social media, occasionally speak up for our first black first Lady too when she’s so maliciously attacked and dehumanized for no reason. Ain’t she a woman too??

  5. rikyrah says:

    Alabama gets ‘F’ for preterm births while states that expanded Medicaid improved
    November 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Alabama is one of 3 states in the country to get an ‘F’ for their preterm birth rate, joining Mississippi, and Louisiana with the highest rates in the country, according to a March of Dimes analysis.

    Alabama’s rate is 15.1 percent. Its goal, according to the March of Dimes is 9.6 percent.

    Louisiana also had a 15.1 percent rate while Mississippi’s was 16.6 percent.

  6. rikyrah says:

    The best worst president ever
    By Mark Morford on July 8, 2014 6:16 PM

    Notes & Errata by Mark Morford
    The best worst president ever
    By Mark Morford on July 8, 2014 6:16 PM

    “Obama is the worst thing to ever happen to this country,” declares the wealthy, rakish, silver-haired Newport Beach white guy to his small group of perfectly tanned 50-something females sitting just a few feet away from us at a stunning restaurant patio overlooking the sun-kissed California coastline, just off of Highway 1, as he sipped his pinot and adjusted his wraparound Ray Bans, flush from the economy’s spectacular recovery that has benefitted his exact demographic most of all, stroking his purebred dog and taking various selfies with their $500 phones, oblivious to the furious swirls of irony and hypocrisy fluttering just above their heads.

    I laughed out loud. Couldn’t help it; I had just overheard Mr. Newport Beach say something about how Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster (despite how, of course, it’s not), and if America were to somehow actually develop a health care system similar to, say, Canada’s, that would be the end of America for certain; we’d never recover from such a devastating blow. Or something. And then came the “worst thing to ever happen” quip, and I couldn’t hold back.

    They didn’t hear me, of course; the orgasmic thrum of their perfect lives drowned out my chuckle, and as I turned and looked at this beautifully entitled, happy crew from my vantage point only a few feet away but a million light years in perspective, we all shared one of the most spectacular, envied locales in the world and all of us sipped superb regional grape and not a single one of us suffered the slightest personal, social or economic indignity, every first-world need instantly met, every crab cake perfectly formed, the sunshine as flawless as Jesus on toast and no lines at the restroom and lots of free parking for his Lexus SUV.

    A few thoughts struck me, all at once. The first was how nice this group all seemed – and of course they probably were – and I imagine if we had all had met under different circumstances and been chatting about, say, the weather or the soul-exploding coastline, I’m sure we would have been fast, easy friends – noting that, if we wanted to remain that way, we’d never talk about politics. Or religion.

    Even so, I desperately wanted to ask Mr. Newport Beach what his stock portfolio looked like a mere six or seven years ago, when Bush & Co. ravaged the country and led us into one of the deepest, most brutal social and economic pits in modern history. Did he lose half his net worth? More? Was he worried he couldn’t feed his family or pay his mortgage? Did he lose his house? His job? Did he blame Bush? Clinton? Islam? The gays?

    And by the way, how does he like the recovery so far? Which of his three perfect, multimillion-dollar homes was he on his way to, right now?

    I also wanted to know, when Bush/Cheney lied to the world, openly violated the tragedy of 9/11 and invaded Iraq, killing tens of thousands, was he furious? What about now, when even Fox News is calling out Cheney and declaring Iraq invasion a colossal mistake, a lie from which we’re still unable to extricate ourselves?

    Nevertheless, Obama ended Bush’s disastrous war, just like he said he would, on time and under budget. Does it matter?

  7. rikyrah says:

    Good Evening, Everyone :)

  8. Ametia says:

    China-US carbon deal: A historic milestone in the global fight against climate change
    Damian Carrington

    Be in no doubt, the agreement struck by the US and China on Wednesday to cut their carbon emissions is historic. It is the biggest step towards achieving a meaningful global deal to fight climate change in 20 years of tortuous negotiations. But also be in no doubt that, while absolutely necessary, it is a long way from being sufficient. As President Barack Obama says, it is a “milestone” – a marker on a longer journey.

    Without sharp and rapid cuts in greenhouse gases the world faces “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural natural world: floods, droughts and even wars. That conclusion from the world’s scientists was signed off on 2 November by 194 nations.

    But no progress was going to happen without the world’s two biggest polluters, the US and China. The deal they have struck has the potential to end the stand-off that doomed efforts to sign a global deal in Copenhagen in 2009. That coalition of the unwilling is now becoming a coalition of the willing.

    The difficulty of tackling climate change cannot be underestimated. Emissions now mean damage later, making it tempting to stall. It is a “global commons” problem – the solution requires all nations to act together, not alone. Moreover, in practical terms, it requires re-engineering the entire world’s energy system, which is itself the engine of the global economy. And there’s the huge challenge of solving global poverty along the way.

  9. Ametia says:

    Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan’s family has settled with Dallas hospital
    By Justin Moyer November 12 at 2:22 AM

    By the time Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Sept. 28, he had already been sent home once from the hospital with antibiotics. Though he told staff he had traveled to West Africa, they didn’t think it necessary to admit him.

    After returning home to his fiance’s family — which would later endure a 21-day quarantine — Duncan was brought back to the hospital in an ambulance after vomiting on the sidewalk in front of his apartment building. After exposing two nurses to Ebola, he died Oct. 8.

    Now, after alleging that Texas Presbyterian had not done right by Duncan, his family has reached what its attorneys called a “resolution” with the health-care facility.

  10. Ametia says:

    Good Morning, Everyone! :-)

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