In the sport of American football, it is frequently said that “The best defense is a good offense.” This has made its way into the legal profession, as well, and seems, unfortunately, to be widely applied in many areas of life these days.
When both sides are engaged in offense, with no room for discourse, the cacophony is exhausting. I recently stated that judgment, in its true state, was reserved for the Divine. A member of my own Faith roared back that, essentially, he had every right to judge someone whose behaviour was obviously reprehensible.
Well, no, he does not. The defensiveness that leads to viciously attacking another person is rooted, completely, in insecurity. The same is true of political extremism, right and left. It is also found in religious fundamentalism, which exists in EVERY Faith on the planet. Jim Morrison, of the Doors, once sang, “People are strange, when you’re a stranger. Faces look ugly, when you’re alone.” The problem is, the more one attacks others, the more s(he) is likely to savaged in kind. We see the Far Right (QAnon, etc.) claiming that the Left is a collective tool of the Fascist “Deep State”. We see the Far Left (Antifa, etc.) returning the volley against the current Administration. This back and forth is fueled, as well, by the inconsistencies and secrecy exhibited by both sides. Secrecy, outside of an individual’s private business, or military strategy, is rooted in insecurity.
I was raised by parents who taught there is always a grain of truth to what someone is saying. Acknowledging that one truth CAN be a way to help the errant person move away from those beliefs and sentiments that are problematic. No, it may not work immediately. It may not, in some cases, work at all. It is, however, something to consider.
The best defense is, actually, being in it for the long haul.
Each day, as I walk downtown, Granite Mountain rises above the northwest horizon. I have hiked to the summit,twice. The first time was in April, 2011, with Aram. The second time was after I returned from Europe, in September, 2014. As it happened, the photos from that second climb were lost, when in a relapse into my mental fog of 2011-13, I put the SIM card into its slot in the computer, without using the guide sleeve. That took care of most of the photos from the latter part of my European visit (Metz, France to Berga, Germany and Frankfurt, Part II) plus Granite Mountain, Part II.
So, as it had been six years, anyway, and ,there is a two-day cooling off, before the July Oven heats up, I took a hike up Granite Mountain-not all the way to the summit, but to the closing-off point, past which peregrine falcons are in the last part of their nesting season.
I wanted to make this trip more about Granite Basin and Blair Pass, the approaches to the peak, anyway, so this was especially worthwhile.
Here are some of the scenes of those areas, and the lower part of the mountain.
All told, I met five people along the trail, including the runner. It was thus a bit more active than six years ago, when the only soul I met was a young lady, who appeared out of nowhere, took my picture and disappeared just as quickly. I encounter souls like that, every so often, but not today.
This was a perfect day, in an area where perfection can come as easily as a brief walk to a bouldered area for a picnic as from a hard march to the summit. I stopped upon hearing the first faint peeps, then headed happily down.
I listened to a couple of Bluegrass bands, this afternoon, as well. One of them was comprised of three little girls, who sang cheerfully and intensely. Listening to them move seamlessly through a nearly one-hour set, I had only one thought: Long may they know only peace and safety.
Yesterday, at the same time of day, I was participating in a wrap-up of a Unity Week Conference, online. We collectively traversed four socioemotional roads: Via Positiva; Via Negativa; Via Creativa; and Via Tranformativa.
The first, as the name indicates, was an acknowledgment and celebration of all in one’s life that is positive. We sang, swayed and shared happy sounds. The second, opposite to the first, was an acknowledgement of all that is negative in one’s life. People laid on the floor, wherever they were, and were given permission for catharsis. Many moaned, cried aloud, screamed and wailed. I was glad the neighbours were not coming to the window to check on me. Having had an emotional release, after watching a gut-wrenching video on the reality of the Confederacy, on Friday afternoon, I was pretty much catharsized out for this one. It was good for those who have been through extreme trauma.
When we came back together, it was to acknowledge the pain, as a group. We then proceeded on Via Creativa, and tapped into the inner talents and creative energies of each of us. Finally, we gathered in small groups, discussing, very briefly, the possible transformations we might bring to bear, from this conference and into the work that will lead to Peace Weekend (September 20-21). This longer road is Via Transformativa.
I had thought that July and August might be quiet months of toeing the line of those loud voices demanding that everyone stay in their homes. Upon reflection, though, avoiding criticism from the Left, or from the Right-for that matter, is not what is going to bring peace to this world. I have to leave Home Base, if necessary, to do Red Cross work, to help plan this event in September and if need be to go to the sides of those who are suffering.
The key to overcoming COVID19 lies not in timidity, nor in maintaining the appearance of ideological purity (a chimera, at minimum). It lies in being sensible about precautions (masks, yes, but mainly hand washing and being aware of one’s surroundings) and in obeying actual laws-not loudly expressed opinions.
Today was largely spent in a Zoom conference, concluding Unity Week, an 8-day conference, in which I only obliquely participated, largely through addressing topics that need to be faced, if true unity is to be achieved. The closing sessions, therefore, caught my undivided attention, addressing the Four Roads one must traverse, in reaching a point where contributions to society will be meaningful.
More about these Four Roads (or Vias), in the next several days. This evening, my mind went back to simpler times. I walked downtown, after the conference had reached its closing remarks and extended farewells. The aim was to sit up on the roof of Raven Cafe, and catch the salsa and funk that was emanating from the rooftop’s makeshift stage.
Wouldn’t you know it? There was an hour’s wait, for any spot on the roof. I’d already eaten dinner at home, anyway, and so went up the street to Frozen Frannie’s, and grabbed a refreshing cup of goodness, then headed further, over to the Courthouse steps, enjoying pina colada and berry frozen yogurt. A group of children buzzed around me, alternately sliding down the short incline, tussling, and engaging in a game of hide and seek. It’s always reassuring to see that, COVID or no COVID, life is going on, and parents are taking their families to places where fresh air and exercise are not monitored by draconian elements.
After enjoying my frozen treat, a seat in front of a tree beckoned, closer to the Bluegrass band that was occupying a festival stage. Sitting on the lawn, taking in a bona fide North American art form, was a perfect ending to the evening. Another group of kids was dancing up a storm, twirling around, as the band played the songs of Bill Monroe and John Prine, among others. When it was time to get up off my haunches, I noticed something was missing from my childhood: Grass stains. Lawns sure have changed, in 60 years.
It’s been hot and dry here, this month, as it usually is in Arizona, during the month of June, and often during the first half of July. There are high clouds, that keep the sun from becoming too blazing in intensity, and sometimes, we get the cooler air that’s left over from the storms that are hitting the Rockies and Great Basin. The monsoons, though, come from the south and southeast of us.
The very ground, though, doesn’t usually sizzle. I feel it starting to smoke, this year, though. Earth has a memory, of how her children, whose remains lie in her near crust, have been treated- often in the name of profit; sometimes in the name of convenience; most often in the name of ego gratification-which takes the other two along for the wild ride. She also has a memory of how she herself has been treated.
Reckonings have, historically, been very hard-and are resisted by those who are being asked to face the music. So it is now. There are events that have already happened and those yet to transpire, which have caused, and may cause, me to wince. Many of the great national heroes of our past are being lumped with those who challenged our country’s more enlightened social constructs.
The Confederates, even with the attempted revisionist history of the period 1985-2015, are still relatively easy to relegate to museums and scholarly study. I have visited Stonewall Jackson House, in Lexington, VA and learned that he taught his male slaves to read and write-using the Bible as text. I have learned that he was an organic gardener and herbalist. I recall thinking that, well, Hitler was a vegetarian. There is a difference between Thomas Jackson and der Fuehrer, in terms of degree of supremacism. Nonetheless, Stonewall OWNED people.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and John Tyler each owned people. They did great things for the Nation, but they OWNED people. The Presidents from the northern and midwestern states didn’t own human beings, but they supported the institution of slavery, to one extent or another, right past the Emancipation Proclamation (which only freed the enslaved people of the states which had seceded). New York City even had a plan to secede from the Union, in 1864, to guard Wall Street’s investments in cotton and tobacco.
All Presidents, with the possible exceptions of William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, had blindspots when it came to the First Nations-and, except for Lyndon Johnson, none had a true sense that African-Americans were the equals of European-Americans. There were limits to how much the country was willling to do, to set things right.
For purposes of this post, I will stop by saying that “Liberals” and “Progressives” do not have a sterling track record, when it comes to empowering and working WITH those for whom they claim to support. There are many paternalistic efforts being made, which only draw the condemnation of conservatives and their supporters among the African-American and First Nations communities. Doing things FOR people has only resulted in a lack of progress for these communities.
I remind those on the Right, though, of two things: The Democrats who actively engaged in segregationist policies, until 1970, or so, became Republicans, at the invitation of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, in the 1970’s and’80’s. Donald Trump is accelerating that effort, in the current era. Secondly, there is still a climate of fear being stoked, by the leaders of both parties, but the Republicans are in charge-and can fire up the machinery of pushback.
Personally, I see value in some aspects of both sides of the aisle. There remain these, however: African-Americans, for lack of a better collective, are not “Negroes”, “coloured people”, or even “people of colour”. There is no “Negro Problem”. Native Americans, asking for their land titles, are still not intent on destroying long-established communities with diverse populations. I was in Maine, duirng the Penobscot Land Settlement. The once and again owners of 2/3 of the state’s land did not evict anyone from that territory. The settlement was legal and financial, not socially disruptive. It was gratifying, as the Penobscot Nation includes some of my distant relatives.
Both sides would do well to get past hatred of the other and dispense with any air of superiority, especially when approaching the communities about whom they claim to care.
Here is a link to a very important, and challenging, presentation. It is worth a lot of thought, in my humble opinion. God bless America.
I see that Arizona’s Confederate Memorial, ensconced on the State Capitol’s Wesley Bolin Plaza, is cleaned up and the focus of more civil protests than that of a lone vandal, who splashed red paint all over it. The namesake of the Plaza himself had a checkered record on Civil Rights, having grown up in a rural area of west central Missouri, and adopting a “live and let live” attitude towards the former Confederacy. He readily permitted the erection of this monument, in 1962, and spoke at its dedication. At the same time, he did not stand in the way of the advances made by nonwhite people in Arizona, after the passages of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Many argue that Confederate forces were fighting against the United States of America. The heart of the matter is a bit more disconcerting. They were fighting FOR a vision of the United States that was doomed to failure-secession or no secession; victory over the North, or not. Chattel slavery was either abolished, or on its way to abolition, in the countries which had fueled the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, in the first place-by the time Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1863. This table gives a complete account of the installation and abolition of both slavery and serfdom, from ancient times: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_abolition_of_slavery_and_serfdom
It remains, though, that slavery is reprehensible, in all its forms. There is much to be done, in eliminating the chattel aspect of imprisonment, for example. Finally, there is enough civic awareness for people to recognize that the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution contains a loophole:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The involuntary servitude part has been used as justification for inmate labour, for nearly 140 years. More people than is often recognized have been incarcerated for relatively minor offenses, and the majority of these have been Black-or Native American.
Last July, I visited the South Carolina State Museum. It has, in aquiet corner of the first floor, a Cofederate Relic Room and Military Collection. There, and in small museums in Charleston and Greenville, is where the first state to secede from the Union, in 1861, has chosen to present its Confederate past. There are statues around the state, as there are across the South-and across the nation. These will continue to be problematic, as we move towards a true sense of unity in diversity.
My own thought is that, no matter where the statues, flags and memorabilia of the Confederate past are presently found, they are best placed in a current, or future, museum of history- or National Historical Monument. There is already a Museum of the Confederacy, that is nested under the National Museum of Civil Rights. No one is proposing razing Confederate cemeteries, or closing our National memorials to the event, anymore than we would want the institutions that commemorate the War for Independence, French & Indian War, the conflicts between First Nations and settlers, or the Holocaust of World War II, to be shuttered and forgotten. Conflict is a hard teacher, but it is a true one, and must remain so, if we are to avoid reverting to the very behaviours that brought on the conflicts of the past, in the first place.
We are already witnessing severe proposals, across the country-to remove memorials to just about every historical figure who had blind spots, when it came to some, or all, people who weren’t white. This has extended to other parts of the world, as well. Washington, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt despised Native Americans; U.S. Grant was of two minds towards the original inhabitants of this country; Churchill despised anyone who wasn’t European; Gandhi had to overcome his bigotry towards Africans. When it comes down to it, most of us have had to go through personal growth, when understanding and fully accepting people who “don’t look like us”.
Nelson Mandela had it right: Reconciliation, not revenge, is the most promising path forward.
This morning, I went to breakfast at one of my favourite counter spots. I had the counter to myself, as the rest of the regulars had shown up earlier than normal. Across the room, at a table, was a couple who were maybe fifteen years my senior. The wife got up to use a restroom, after their meal, but was about to try and walk without her assistive device. Husband quickly called her back and reminded her to use the walker. While she was away, he told me of her struggles. So much was familiar-he could no more leave her than I could have left Penny, during the eight-year joint grappling with PBD. Cognitive decline, in any form,does two things: It reduces a strong, intelligent, independent person to a largely dependent soul. It also shows the true character, and level of fortitude, of that person’s loved ones.
There was a lot that Penny didn’t understand, in her last year or so of this life. She did understand, though, that I was not going away-and that if I was not at the hospital, I was either working or tending to our son’s needs. I got the sense that this couple was operating on the same wavelength.
My closest friends now can expect the same loyalty, albeit without the romance and eternal vows that are particular to wedlock. I spent the afternoon helping one who is arguably my best friend, putting up a shelving unit-which, for reasons I will not belabour, took longer than it might have. We got it done, and it will help her nascent enterprise move to a more solid level.
This was another example of something my fifth grade teacher told us, way back in 1960: Men and women working as a team get more done than two men or two women. That may seem antiquated, but it has been true in my life, for several decades.
Taking part in a lively debate, in the Age of Hypersensitivity, is no small thing. Most of those who operate from a place of political correctness have at least recognized that I operate from a humble posture of learning, and if I can be proven wrong, by facts rather than well-presented emotion-based opinions, I will actually be grateful.
Any man who voices opposition to abortion is going to get pushback, unless that opposition acknowledges that the mother of the fetus and has the final say. Making that acknowledgement, and prefacing my own qualms about the matter with the sacredness of being, from the moment of conception, has been, for all but the most fervent abortion advocate, enough room to set common ground.
The same may be said about the dispostion of controversial historical monuments. I have reservations about the wisdom of wholesale destruction of statuary. Certainly, those figures whose presence causes extreme anxiety for African-Americans , First Nations people or anyone else who has faced systemic persecution, need to be removed from public view-not because there is a need to comfort the overly sensitive, but because there is a deeper genetic memory than is commonly accepted.
I will discuss this last, in another post, insofar as it pertains to my own being. For now, note that the practices adopted by enslaved people, over the period of chattelhood and right up to the end of the Jim Crow Era, in order to ensure the safety of both their children and of themselves, have found continuity, in the seemingly draconian disciplinary practices of a good many African-American families. Keeping the child safe, by limiting his/her freedom to explore, is one feature of this. It goes back to keeping the child safe from exploitation.
Thus, the strength of an emotional trigger is far different for a person whose forebears faced oppression, than it is for one whose hardships have been more in line with the struggles inherent in earthly life, in its generality. Life is complicated like that, and we do best to grow a thick hide of patience, along with a strong spine of fortitude.
June 22, 2020-;Dad transitioned, 34 years ago, today, All of us, except Brian, who was 22, and in hospital at the time, were on our own and looked to our father mainly for guidance with adult issues. This memory enveloped my day.
I took part in an online discussion, of sorts, in which the moderator tried to conflate the deaths of African-American adults and teens with what he sees as an excessive number of Black fetuses being aborted. It was too large and broad a conflation, for most people, and seemed to have upset many.
One person analogized the abortions, though, with a person picking up coins from the street, which he characterized as a minor theft. (I’ve happened upon both coins and bills on pavement, and have either given them to destitute folks or used them for charitable causes.) I see it as more than a bit sad, though, that intellectuals, mostly men past the optimum age of child-rearing, view the life of an unborn child as no more than small change. It’s as if anyone with whom one can’t have a deep discussion is not worth one’s consideration.
The same blind spots occur in many situations- almost always among people who have a very narrow view of who is and isn’t as human as they are. Isn’t this the whole reason we are going through what we are enduring now? I’ve always been viewed as strange, for being holistic in my view of humanity. Somehow, though, we will need to broaden our collective view on this matter, if we are to know peace as a species.
This was a Father’s Day of my own making. My Uncle Walter told us boys, for years on end, to learn to make our own fun. So it has been, for nearly seven decades.
After hosting a heartfelt and meaningful devotional on Zoom, I hopped over to Ms. Natural’s and had a quick and healthful lunch, on the downstairs patio. Then, it was off to Sedona, for a relatively short hike, along a trail called Big Park Loop. It was hot, so I walked fairly slowly and drank a good amount of water. The scenes were of Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock from a southern angle.
The past two months have been very dry, as usual. The great rushing creeks and rivers of the “Monsoon” season are flowing only underground, right now, if they are flowing at all.
I stopped in, after the hike, at a normally favourite and welcoming coffee house, but found the mood a bit tense- largely over who got to use a device which soothes muscle pain and can heal skin disorders. A friend who works at the cafe managed to get some use from it. The device, it turns out, belongs to the cafe owner, is quite expensive, and was not to be used by anyone but the employees. The owner was not amused, when friend offered it to me for a session. Fortuitously, it operates off cell phones, and mine was not co-operating. I quietly left, after enjoying a refreshing and healthful cool drink.
Father’s Day dinner was at a barbecue place, called Colt Cafe, in Old Town Cottonwood. The tried and true brisket sandwich and Triple Crown potato salad restored my physical balance. It was a fairly easy drive back, after dinner.
My father taught us He showed us that strength is not brutish, not overbearing and is never selfish. Strength shows respect where it is due, but is not fawning or sycophantic, as no human being is worthy of such adulation.
At the same time, strength avoids excessive fault-finding. If a person is praiseworthy, on balance, clebrate that which is good about the individual, neither dwelling on, nor ignoring, the person’s frailties. I wonder what Dad would think of the current campaign to denigrate most, if not all, of our nation’s, nay our planet’s, people of renown? In an age when everyone from George Washington to Mother Theresa has detractors who have managed to find a ready audience, can we truly approach anyone’s legacy objectively?
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