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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 10/7/20

Good morning!



I’m going to recommend that you watch a seven-part miniseries on TV—one that I haven’t yet seen. It’s The Good Lord Bird, streaming on Showtime, based James McBride’s National Board Award winning novel of the same name. I recently read McBride’s Deacon King Kong, an interesting read about a different world with colorful characters, language and circumstances. I recommend it.

The Good Lord Bird is the story of the famed abolitionist, John Brown, known for fighting in “Bleeding Kansas,” the precursor to the Civil War, and leading the ill-fated raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The novel, which I’m about to start, has as its central conceit the fictitious character of Henry, a young Black boy, whom John Brown mistakes for a girl. It’s a picaresque story, seen through the eyes of Henry (or Henrietta), a sort of Huck Finn-esque character. The great Daveed Diggs (who played Lafayette and Jefferson in the musical, Hamilton) plays Frederick Douglass.

This is supposed to be a smart and entertaining story, starring Ethan Hawke, who advocated for this production, as John Brown. It allegedly is a non-preachy, yet moving and instructive, a story of slavery, the abolitionist movement, religion, and zealotry in antebellum America. It was very well reviewed by the New York Times: Here’s from the “Robert Ebert” movie review:

“The Good Lord Bird” is smart, entertaining television that doesn’t highlight or underline its timeliness or messages as much as it allows the viewers to do half the work. As long as you don’t come to it for a direct history lesson, it is as entertaining as almost any new show of 2020, a razor-sharp seven-episode stretch that flies by with such determination that I’m tempted to watch it again.



One of my favorite gifts from a friend is a t-shirt Tom Masenga brought back to me from Kansas. Tom is an inveterate Notre Dame partisan and we both trash talk and admire the other’s team. When he saw this t-shirt for the “mighty” Osawatomie High School Trojans, he knew I had to have it.

A little bit about Osawatomie:

• Its name is a portmanteau of the Osage and Potawatomie Rivers that meet at the town.

• It is the location of the famed battle in 1856 between John Brown’s forces and the pro-slavery “Border Ruffians.” Brown was forced to retreat and the town was sacked.

• After this battle, John Brown became known as “Osawatomie Brown.” After seeing the devastation of the town, he said “God sees it. I have only a short time to live – only one death to die, and I will die fighting for this cause. There will be no more peace in this land until slavery is done for.”

Let’s watch this together. I’ll write again after I see it.



Just so you know, I get some commentary from Trump supporters, who don’t agree with me. Here are a few of their comments, without editorial embellishment:

I don’t judge a book by its cover or whether the author is an asshole. I judge it by its substance. It is bizarre, the guy with all the right values is a total jerk while the guy carrying the water for the commies is a likeable wimp. The choice is easy for me. Read up on Henry Wallace...

And this:

Glenn, you’re in denial.

No doubt Trump is often crass and obnoxious but he’s not senile. He easily passed the cognitive test that Biden refuses to take. Why wouldn’t Biden take that test to end the speculation about a man who had a life-threatening aneurysm in the not so distant past?

Any cursory internet check will yield dozens of recent Biden video clips that show far more than just his constant-not occasional-slips of the tongue... That doesn’t even include his strangely inappropriate repeated physical behavior with women and children. And this has been going on for a decade or more and is only getting worse, a clear sign of cognitive decline.

He often has no idea which city or state he is in when he speaks. He very often loses his train of thought, resulting in long silences and odd mumbling, and therefore now requires a teleprompter even to make a short presentation or answer questions. Then he reads verbatim from speech instructions on the teleprompter or papers, as if those instructions to him were actually part of the speech...and has no clue that he is making that mistake.



This Saturday, October 10, is Mental Health Day. It couldn’t come at a better time. This year’s theme is “kindness.” A perfect theme for a time that has been noticeably unkind to all of us, but particularly unkind to those who have become ill or lost jobs.

At first reading, the theme of “kindness” would seem to relate to kindness toward others. And certainly that is something often in short supply and something that we should practice more. But another form of kindness is kindness to oneself. We are all under a variety of pressures and anxieties brought about by the pandemic, the political climate, the physical climate and weather-related traumas. It is in times like these—when we are most vulnerable, insecure, and anxious—that we need to practice a little kindness toward ourselves. We shouldn’t be so judgmental when a day goes by, seemingly unproductively, or when one feels down. These are natural results of the circumstances we find ourselves in. The pandemic educes our human contact and enhances our loneliness and the times of idle self-criticism. Since we know all of this, we should all redouble our efforts to be kind to each other and ourselves.

Happy days are ahead,


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