Black Listed Gifts

I was watching the “Black List” last night, “binging” on the latest season available on Netflix, an obvious US propaganda piece as is most of what comes out of Hollywood and its clones (the reality as far back as Woodrow Wilson’s epoch).  But amazingly, in that episode something resonated in a humanistically positive manner. 

Imagine that. 

For some unfathomable reason, I enjoy the program.  Perhaps it’s the acting, especially by James Spader.  And it provides insights into the manner in which US propaganda has culturally conquered much of the world with brazen distortions.  But I rarely find the really useful human element that permits us to better understand ourselves, and improve who we are.  The element essential in great works of art.

I did last night, and it involved a gift, the gift being a very used old portable radio.

Economically, today, I am not well off.  But like most among my current peers, I am living well enough, largely because I became an expatriate of sorts, living in a beautiful albeit affordable place, a beautiful city high in the central range of the Colombian Andes.  Beautiful mountains, snowcapped peaks, thermal springs, perpetual spring, but no oceans or beaches.  A place where social security is a bit more than enough to get by.  But where friends and family are a long way off.

I’ve been much better off, wealthy even, in a past where limousines were not an occasional luxury but a normal tool, where the making of an expensive gift was “no big deal”.  But I’ve also been much less well off than I am now, and it’s that time in my life that resonated with the “Black List” episode I viewed last night.  And it dealt with the character I find least interesting, least credible, most boring: Diego Klattenhoff as agent Donald Ressler.

The resonance involved the realization that the most important gifts I ever made where those that involved something I already owned, something I had to sacrifice under the circumstances of the moment because I lacked the wherewithal to merely “buy something appropriate”.  Usually it was a book, but sometimes a keepsake I’d picked up somewhere or other.  It involved a sacrifice of something for which I really cared, something I’d miss, but which to me, at the time, seemed important to pass on.  I’ve also received gifts like that and last night I realized that I’d not appreciated their worth at the time.  I do now.

In this materialistic and polarized world, one where empathy is hard to generate and harder to find, where a touch of humanity seems a rare thing but is actually omnipresent, hidden in the quotidian, especially in the lives of the least well-off.  Hidden in plain sight amidst the most vulnerable among us.  Hidden among that silent majority where almost everything involves a sacrifice, but where such sacrifices are joyfully made and never regretted, but also, perhaps, as in my case, where such sacrifices are not quite fully appreciated by the recipients.  At least not until it’s much too late to express our gratitude.

It made me think, especially of my mother.  Eventually a single mom who made the best of what I’ve become and accomplished possible without ever stressing the many sacrifices she and the rest of my family had to make, things I just took for granted until she was gone. 

Her case and mine, unfortunately, are not unusual.  Especially today when the generational shift is so bitter, and where too many of the young consider themselves ethically and morally superior, while concurrently entitled, and view their parents and their parent’s generation as out of touch bigots.  A generation that has no idea what the adage “it’s better to give than to receive” means, or worse, that it even exists.  Where giving is something that’s done with the taxes other people pay, and mainly given to industries dedicated to legalized murder on a massive scale, in the name of liberty and peace and equality.

Amazingly, the episode made me think, rather than just react and enjoy the action and the acting.

Talk about finding pearls in a dung heap!

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2023; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently the publisher of the Inannite Review, available at  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  However, he is also fascinated by mythology, religion, physics, astronomy and mathematics, especially with matters related to quanta and cosmogony.  He can be contacted at and much of his writing is available through his blog at

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