Lions at Leisure

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March 1, 2021- Contrary to popular wisdom, there were no signs of this new month “coming in like a lion”, although my special assignment included treating some special needs students to a viewing of the “Live Action” (CGI) version of “The Lion King”. Faithful to the plot line of the original Disney cartoon, there was a darker element to both the wayward Uncle Scar and his frenemies, the hyena pack; but, I digress.

March, like September, is a month for either beginning a new season of life or for reaping the harvest of the growing season. It is either a time for taking stock of a season of intense action or for adjusting one’s plans for the coming season of intense action, in light of the reality emanating from the prior season of rest.

There are few lions on the public stage these days. There are those who continue to plot, to blame others for their failings and are very clever at manipulating the fears and biases of those who feel powerless. There are those who mean well, but give too much leeway to others who, under the guise of “freedom of choice”, advance a dystopian, eugenic agenda. Neither group is particularly leonine. The real lions seem to be either quietly working behind the scenes, or are at leisure.

We will see how March plays out. I continue to support the efforts of long-time friends, whilst also helping newer friends with their concerns. I will spend some time hiking in areas that had been on the agenda, earlier this year, as well as for this month, and hopefully get out to see my geographically closest relatives, during the last week of March-and will be inteersted in just how “lamb-like” things are, around then.

The Gullah Land

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February 28, 2021-

One of my favourite areas of the South is coastal Georgia and South Carolina-particularly the Sea Islands. This is largely due to the presence, both physically and spiritually of the Gullah-the descendants of enslaved people, who largely kept their ancestral African culture and language.

While much of the Sea Islands region has been taken over by large hospitality and golfing interests, the flavour of the area has largely been impacted by Gullah cultural features. The Low Country Boil, a popular meal of seafood, greens and fresh corn, is a gift of the enslaved. So, too, are the products brought from Africa, by those carried here against their will. Africans brought rice, okra, coffee, cotton, indigo, and cassava to the Americas, as well as net fishing and even the use of poison to trap large numbers of fish. This last has, thankfully, been shown to be of no benefit to human health-and was abandoned in the Southeast, a long time ago.

The enslaved people showed their captors the techniques of rice, cotton and coffee cultivation. Africans, then as now, knew nothing other than sharing-and at least initially, showing love even in the face of harshness and brutality. Besides, they needed elements of their homeland, in order to maintain sanity, and a sense of purpose. A good source for understanding the complexity of Gullah culture and language is William S. Pollitzer’s “The Gullah People and Their African Heritage”, University of Georgia Press, Athens (GA), 1999, which I have just finished reading. Dr. Pollitzer grew up in the Sea Islands region and was immersed in Gullah culture.

Here is a more audiovisual description of Gullah life, from a story teller on Edisto Island: Theresa Jenkins Hilliard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0DGijYiGQU

Season’s Change

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February 27, 2021-

Often, around these parts, the approach of March brings somewhat warmer temperatures. This year, while the days are mostly comfortable-almost shirtsleeve weather, there is a cold tinge when the sun goes down. Maybe I am just too used to the warming phenomenon, of the past three decades, but I am feeling a throwback to the four seasons of my childhood- in which winter lasted until April and summer came in mid-June. Conversely, wearing a Halloween mask meant sweating profusely, even after dark.

The two times a year that I would get sick, and have to stay in bed for a day or so, were October into November and right about now. Bed rest and hot tea with honey and lemon did the trick, and it was back to business, the following day. This year, I had a half day of ennui and feel that tomorrow will be a lot more on an even keel. The hardest part is not being up to interacting with my friends, in a coherent way. Brain fog always accompanies change-of-seasonitis. So it was, earlier today.

I can only be grateful for the genes I was given, and the community that surrounds me-offering regular exercise options, wellness care and solid, caring friendships-for which I am honoured to reciprocate.

The Middle Passage of Robert Hayden

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February 26, 2021-

In drawing to a close Black History Month, it is critical to remember that no people’s story is ever confined to a month, or even a year. The endurance of the history of any given segment of a society,of any part of humanity, is ever worth drawing to ourselves. In a few days, I will look at the Gullah people, of the Sea Islands along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina-arguably the most enduring African-American group, managing to maintain key aspects of their culture, even whilst living among well-heeled vacationers who have been drawn to the Sea Islands, over the past 50 years.

The Gullah are, of course, one group of descendants of the enslaved people brought from Africa, most via the route known as The Middle Passage. The late, great former United StatesPoet Laureate Robert Hayden (1913-1980), first African-American to hold this honour, and a member of the Baha’i Faith, depicted the experience of those brought along this treacherous route on the Amistad, a Portuguese-owned slave ship,which had been the scene of a slave rebellion led by Sengbe Pieh, also knoiwn as Cinque. The rebels eventually won their freedom, courtesy of a vigourous defense before the US Supreme Court, by John Quincy Adams and 34 of them returned to Africa, with help from American Abolitionists.

Let Robert Hayden tell their story, in his own voice. Let us always remember that all human beings are created equal, in the sight of God.

Loyalty and Ego

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February 25, 2021– I spent parts of the past couple of days watching a series that dealt with issue sof loyalty, betrayal and role switching. The show, called “Luna Nera”, is an Italian SyFy drama, set in the 17th Century. It is rather Byzantine, in its plot sequences, being all over the place.

It outwardly features conflicts between the mainstream Catholic Church, of the post-Inquisition era, and a small group of Wiccans. There is plenty of virtue and vice, loyalty and betrayal, transparency and deception on both sides, sometimes with all of it coming from the same characters. In other words, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the villains.

Life can be like that, especially if those of a certain mindset see only themselves, and those who agree with them, as good and all others as bad-even making the distinction, as a priest in the show did, between those who say what’s evil is virtue and what’s virtue is evil. Thus, their basis for determining virtue wells up from each one’s ego. That, and the inability to forgive slights, leads to even more pain and suffering, for all concerned.

The parallels between the main characters in the series, and the present American sociopolitical climate are so telling, that Luna Nera could be just as easily set in Washington and Mar-a-Lago, as in the north of Italy. The Bishop/Warlock is a wirepuller of the first order and the Wiccan/Demoness has an ego that spills over into even the acts of decency that she tries to pull off. There is a pure Saviour character, who has to disguise herself, for most of the series. The rest of the cast could pass for the “Sheeples”, who makie decisions based on whatever they are told by whoever is in charge at the moment.

It still strikes me that independent thinking depends upon not being willing to have one’s ego stroked-but maybe that’s MY ego talking.

A Few More Random Thoughts

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February 24, 2021- Today was a day for accompanying a friend around Lynx Lake, which both of us found enjoyable. The lake’s water table is down, as we might expect-given our long dry spell of last year, but the water birds are already coming back- noisy ducks and showy cormorants.

I picked up two of Isabel Wilkerson’s books: “The Warmth of Other Suns”, about the African-American migration out of the South, starting in the 1930s and “Caste”, about the role of that system in the stratifcation of American society-and the true connection between that stratification and Nazism. These ought to be very insightful. I don’t see an immediate tie between “Trumpsim”, which is largely personality-based and Fascism, which has systemic goals-but there are people who subscribe to both-just as there are doctrinaire people, who also are personality-driven, on the other end of the political spectrum.

I have meditated on the mercurial nature of several people in my circle, at present. Having gotten past feeling a personal affront, when those who have been uniformly pleasant over the past several months, suddenly turn icy, I can sense that the sameness of the pandemic-driven regimen is getting to too many people, just a tad too soon. I can also sense that we are getting a handle on the disease- the “variants” aside.

Finally, just an observation: Those who act out of fear are less the problem than those who stoke that fear-and privately mimic their followers. Yes, there are people egging the masses on, who take Lenin’s view of “useful idiots.” They are the true problematics.

Baby Steps to Justice

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February 22, 2021-

I spent most of today waiting for my tax return to be done. I ended up having to make a certain adjustment in my personal financial structure, so as to be in compliance with government regulations. It will end up costing the government more, in the long run, but who’s counting?

After that, I checked on my jury interview for tomorrow, and it’s still on. If I get chosen, it will likely be my first and last time, given that the pool is large and I have only five years until the cut-off age of 75. So, I will go and get at least a taste of the selection process.

Justice, at least in the human realm, is an odd thing-as everyone’s concept of it is different. Even among those who adhere to the Golden Rule, there are varying notions of what justice is, and how it ought to be applied. I have, by and large, been fortunate in the course of life events. When misfortune has happened, though, it has taken some time and effort to overcome the urge to deflect blame and to focus, instead, on how I might learn from the unpleasantry.

The lessons I have acquired and internalized, however, made today’s challenges much easier to face and the tasks brought on by them quicker to complete.

Yes, and No

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February 20, 2021-

One of my co-workers, yesterday, made the curious remark that everyone, from the age of two onward, is responsible for their actions. Yes, and no. A child needs to be taught right from wrong, from the time that receptive language can be processed. It is well to teach the child to not make excuses for one’s actions, also from the time he or she can act independently. However, to the extent that a child is dependent on parents or other adults, he or she is not entirely responsible for what happens in his/her life. This same person made the statement that the recently-retired president, a poster child for plausible denial, was a great leader. I will leave that statement to bathe in its own irony.

It is said that large amounts of money are needed, in order to bring this nation to full recovery from the pandemic-induced economic doldrums. Yes, and no. There are several groups deserving of cash infusions-among them: Workers being, or so to be, displaced by downsizing in the fossil fuel industry; workers suffering workforce cutbacks in the restaurant, hospitality and transportation industries; landlords facing economic hardship, due to the inability of renters to pay their monthly due; renters unable to pay their monthly due, owing to having been out of work; any combination of the above. There are also those, presently due to receive another stimulus check, who are not in as dire straits as the people mentioned above. (Disclosure: I am one of those in the latter group.) While we all could find a ready use for a stimulus check, at some point- and sooner, rather than later, the needs of the nation as a whole have to come first.

One of the codiciles in the American Recovery Plan is a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Yes, and no. Those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder deserve a living wage. It should be enough to allow the worker to pay a reasonable monthly rent and have enough left over, after bills are paid, to set aside savings (in fact, to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice, and “pay self first”, by setting the savings aside before paying any bills.) and to enjoy a reasonable quality of life. Such a Federal minimum wage should not, however, be buried in a fiscal stimulus package, which is supposed to be a one-off. It is worthy of being legislated and signed into law, in its own right. That such an occurrence is at all in doubt is the fault, not of the progressives who advocate it, but of the obstructionists who see their own greed stampede being interrupted.

Finally, at least for this post, there are those who call for education to be privatized. Yes, but mostly no. As a matter of fact, fiscal accountability, discipline and transparency, as many agents of the Internal Revenue Service could attest, is in woefully short supply, across all walks of life. I had to build these skills the hard way; yet many, using sleight of hand and kicking their debt cans down the road, have yet to build them at all. This applies to virtually all school systems, where adminstrative costs (including money spent on the services of Big Testing) siphon a huge chunk of the children’s money. Taxpayers, who provide the lion’s share of the funds available, rightfully expect that their assessments go to the legitimate learning of their children, grandchildren and neighbours. To the extent that charter schools can be the impetus for system-wide transparency and rectitude, long may they be part of the education scene. There is, however, no reason, save territoriality and a laconic mentality, that a public school district cannot do as much, if not more, for the good of our children than a private, or semi-private, institution,

Most coins have two sides, and some are cubes- or polyhedrons.

The Heirs of Railroad Passengers

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February 18, 2021- It is commonly known that many people who successfully escaped enslavement, from the 19th Century South, made their way to Canada, via the Underground Railroad. The majority of these folks settled in three Canadian provinces: Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The last was chosen because of its relative proximity to Maine, one of two northern termini of the clandestine route.

Although life for people of African descent in Canada was not perfect, and remains problematic in many respects, slavery had by and large been abandoned as a social construct, by the 1820s. There was no economic impetus to the system, in a country with mostly small holders as farmers.

Afro-Canadians kept many aspects of their culture, both that preserved by genetic memory of Africa and more recent cultural elements which evolved in the American South. Later migrants from the Caribbean region have also influenced this enduring cultural scene.

Here is a sharing of African-Canadian musical heritage, from someone who moved from Toronto to Nova Scotia, finding welcome among the longtime Black residents of that Atlantic province.

Conundrum

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February 17, 2021-

As many are concerned about the planet heating up,

there is snow on the beach,

at Galveston, Texas and

chilly nights in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Snowball fights were going on

at the foot of the Acropolis.

Mercifully, there is no converse extreme heat,

in the southern hemisphere,

at least not yet.

The strange thing is,

that the polar vortex comes our way

even as the arctic permafrost keeps melting

and the icebergs keep calving, off Antarctica.

We must be flexible, and adapt-

but to what?