New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


The Homeless Bach

February 21, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

‘Can Anyone Spare a Pair of Bootstraps?’

by Pat LaMarche

In June of 2009 PBS predicted that — according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness — “The recession will force 1.5 million more people into homelessness over the next two years.” That was 1.5 million MORE people. That makes best estimates for the number of homeless people in the U.S. anywhere from three to five million. The same PBS story says that 1.5 million of the overall total are children.

These numbers are so large that it’s difficult to imagine the typical homeless person. Because homelessness is at such epidemic proportions, there is nothing typical about the conditions, circumstances, or character of the homeless.

So rather than try and imagine the entire spectrum — from aging military veteran to colicky new born — let’s just talk about one of these newer homeless folks.

Allow me to introduce a man who became homeless as a result of our nation’s economic downturn. He’s one of those million and a half extra folks added to the already existing crowd experiencing chronic homelessness. Only recently and unexpectedly, this gent found that he couldn’t keep his bills paid and a roof over his head for the first time in his life. (more…)

The Barbara Tree

February 16, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Family, Robert C. Koehler

How Do We Face the Future Against Impossible Odds?

by Robert C. Koehler

My daughter went jogging to the lake. When she came back, she reported: “Dad, someone hung a bird in the Barbara tree.”

When I went out to investigate, sure enough, it was still there, a brightly painted, reddish-orange papier-mâché bird, daggling on a wire from a low branch.

I live in the far north corner of Chicago, half a mile from Lake Michigan. Some years ago, I donated money to the Chicago Park District and they planted a tree of my choosing (a linden) in honor of my late wife. This is the Barbara tree, which I visit regularly. It has no plaque announcing its name or status; it’s just a tree, barely more than a sapling, standing on a tiny rise in Loyola Park, overlooking the lake. About 12 feet away stands the Fred tree, a silver maple, planted in honor of my sister’s late husband, who died a year and a half after Barbara did. Both died of cancer.

I haven’t written about these deaths, or the nature of grief, in a long time. Life goes on, unfolding unpredictably every day. My long-ago sense of irreplaceable loss has been given over, in many ways, to the tree, to life, to my grown-up kid, to the column I write and to a wary optimism that love is shaping the future despite so many reports to the contrary. (more…)

Works in Progress

February 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Robert C. Koehler

Participating in Our Lives and Histories

by Robert C. Koehler

I’m sitting in my daughter’s Baltimore apartment thinking about works in progress. This city is a work in progress and its pockets of vibrancy delight me, partly because, like my own hometown, Detroit, it is too frequently written off in the national mindset as broken, dying — above all, an undesirable place to live.

My apolitical thought on this rainy January afternoon is this: Shatter in your own mind the prejudgments of popular culture, the grinning media dictates of who or what is in and who or what is out. Shatter also any notion of what you can and can’t do.

My daughter the artist. I spent the day at the art school she attends, sat in with the students doing oil painting – painted my first egg. The experience was a stunning exercise in the observation of light and shadow, and the instructor joyously allowed me to be a beginner. I was able to participate.

The physicist David Bohm and others have used the term “participatory consciousness,” which I take to mean the awareness that no truth is complete or solid or locked into place without us. (more…)

Hard to Describe

January 17, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Christine Baniewicz, Culture, Family, Politics

The Freedom Theatre Honors Political Prisoners with Live Performance

by Christine Baniewicz

The house lights dim around me and I settle into my seat. The theater hushes. Two pools of white light flood onto the stage and the performance begins.

It’s Wednesday in Jenin and The Freedom Theater is packed. Journalists, international peace workers and locals from the refugee camp fill the wooden benches. Today’s Playback Theatre performance, Midnight Raid, is the second in a series of creative responses to the Israeli military’s recent incursions and arrests in the camp.

“Thank you again for joining us,” says Ben. He stands onstage before a line of actors, aged 19 to 25. They are dressed in black. “Today we will honor your stories.” (more…)

Let’s Watch

January 03, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Christine Baniewicz, Culture, Politics

Telling Stories Through the Healing Medium of Theatre

by Christine Baniewicz

Khaleena enshouf!” Faisal calls. The crowd settles. Let’s watch!

I’m sitting in Jenin refugee camp, surrounded by Palestinians — men, women, children and adults. We are crowded together on blue mats, carried over from The Freedom Theatre down the street. It’s three in the afternoon. I bat a fly from my face and lean forward to watch the enactment.

To my left, a staff member snaps photos. Mustafa lies in the rubble, stretched out across the uneven ground and squinting down the barrel of a video camera. He aims it at the actors, who stand in silence before us. (more…)

New Year’s Wishes

January 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Krieger, David Swanson, Guest Author, Politics

Art Prayers for the New Year

by Ellen Greenblum

It’s New Year’s Eve and some of us may be feeling hopeful and some of us may be feeling hopeless after yet another year filled with local and global violence and tragedies. The Occupy movement reminded us that we still know how to gather up and say “No,” but it also reminded us that we may be hauled off to jail for standing up for love and justice. And it’s difficult for a mother or father or employee to publicly fight for basic human rights when we have family members depending on us for a plate of spaghetti and a good night story with a happy ending.

Where do we begin when we find ourselves haunted in the wee hours of the night by thoughts creeping into our psyches when we’re most vulnerable? What if we’ll fail in our role as a human being in the face of everything we strongly believe in about working toward a just and peaceful world? (more…)

Bench Strength

November 21, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Guest Author, Politics

Public Art Controversy Brought People Together for a Cause

by Kristin Anthony

{Editor’s Note: In Prescott, Arizona, a work of public art created with the participation of over a hundred community members was recently destroyed by local officials in the middle of the night. The controversy set in motion a range of reactions, including the resignation of a city council member and calls for a coherent public art policy. The originator of the art project, which was a mosaic-tiled bench, reflects on the issues and overall experience.}

During my time in Prescott, I had the opportunity to create a community bench as a senior project for Prescott College. I had seen many of these structures in Nepal where there is a deep sense of connection between people and nature.

Enthusiastic to bring this idea to the U.S., I received approval from the Parks and Recreation Department and worked with the city for many months before the bench finally came to life. After eight weeks of work we were asked to stop construction, and three weeks later the bench was torn down. (more…)