Today is Aram’s birthday. My calls to/from him are most often open-ended, both in terms of time and subjects of conversation. This morning was no different. Two hours and change about covered the gamut.
These sorts of exchanges with family are all too rare, even in COVID times, but they are invariably infused with love. Today’s topic for Harmonic Convergence was “The Leadership of Love”. There were a wide range of subtopics covered, from how to direct love towards someone who comes across as unloving, to the roots of materialistic society-and what a non-materialistic (love-based) society might resemble.
Aram used to raise the last possibility, in his late teens. I would always point out that we are hard-wired, as a species, to need a medium of exchange-and that currency has been with us, at least since the first coins were minted at the order of King Croesus, if not since his predecessor, Midas of Lydia, amassed gold.
There was a lengthy, and rather ultraconservative, argument presented, this afternoon, that the entire system of financial transaction, from monetized housing to wages themselves, despite having been in place for so many millennia, is not divinely ordained in perpetuity.
Indeed, Baha’u’llah teaches that man is free to continue using money and compound interest as tools to amass such wealth as can be used for the good of mankind-and yet, it is love, not material wealth, that will be the guarantor of the fullness of a spiritually-rooted civilization. Money’s present role as the “lifeblood” of civilization is not guaranteed to remain so.
This is quite simple, when one gives it thought. Money comes and goes, in the lives of most people, as does fame and even public approval. Love, however, can outlast all of these, as it is the bedrock of all life, of all consciousness.
The day started early, with the rise and shine spirits getting me out of bed at 5:30. The heat of summer is a pretty strong cue. There was also some inspiration for what I have been asked to do. I have thought to myself that, even if this is coming from a less than honest person, I will not be divulging any personal information, as I am a document preparer and little more. So, I cranked out the preliminary report and sent it to him for review, by 10:30.
Most of the day, again, was spent on Harmonic Convergence, which today addressed the topic, “Facing the Shadow”. How apropos for this time! Each of us is facing the shadow of opposition to our own views; the shadow of demands upon our time, energy and, if we’re not careful, our money; the shadow of self-doubt; the shadow of gaslighting of our experiences.
The greatest of these shadows, and one which could face us all, is the shadow of chaos. Christians identify this force as Satan, or Lucifer, the chaos of ego run amok and of opposition to the Divine.
Only courage, literally coeurage, the strength of the heart, can face down this conniving, but listless, absence of light and lack of conviction. Courage can, and will, bring caution those who seek to instill excess in the wake of true justice-as those who demand that figures of the past must adhere to the standards of the present, in order to be honoured in the least manner are attempting to do. Following the rightful retirement, of those who fought against our country, from public honour, it is wise to hit the pause button on destruction of honours given to those whose life stories are more mixed. Who among US has a sterling record?
There is much to tidy, to cleanse, from our national story, without tearing down more broadly-based monuments and without forbidding study of the dark chapters of our country’s treatment of people of African descent, whether free or enslaved; of those who are our continent’s First Nations, including, by extension, Native Hawaiians; of those who come to this country from our southern neighbours; of those who come from all parts of the Asian continent and from the southern islands of the Pacific.
White people have been mistreated, too, and by the same forces who profited from enslavement of Black people and slaughter of Native peoples. Nicola Tesla and Preston Tucker were threatened, marginalized and ultimately banished from pursuing technological advances that put the wealthy, the powerful and the mass media at risk of financial loss, even though that loss would have been short term. Each newly arrived ethnic group from Europe faced discrimination from those who came before them. Women faced a long, and often tortuous, fight for equality with men before the law, and it’s not over yet. Jews, and their distant cousins, the Arabs, face blame for anything that may discomfit European-Americans.
Courage faces all these, and if triage is necessary to stanch the bleeding of African-Americans, indigenous people or children who are at risk of separation from their parents, along our southern border-then triage it is. It will not mean amnesia, with regard to the legitimate claims of Whites, or of conservatives who happen to be Black or Hispanic. It will mean, as any parent with several children knows, that the greatest need gets addressed first; that the most vulnerable are made secure, first.
Courage is not fazed by criticism, rage or ridicule. Courage does what it does, because it is, along with truth and love, a basic element of Justice.
This morning, as I stirred my brain, I noticed that someone had stomped away from this page in anger, over what apparently was my disagreeing with those who see things strictly in black and white terms. (No pun intended).
I’ve always marched to my own drummer, and have seen no contradiction between the fierce independence and love for tradition of the conservative and the unconditional love and inclusivity of the progressive. It’s always the extremists, the disquiet ones-often, but not always, self-centered and self-absorbed, who wheedle their way in and among those on both sides of the aisle-and sow doubt.
I don’t buy their wares. I personally share all four of the traits mentioned above. As I’ve mentioned many times, my upbringing made this second nature. There is a hole in my heart, right now, in feeling that each side, more than ever, feels shut out by the other AND is more than willing to “simplify” matters, by reacting in kind.
Regarding historical figures, I remind one and all that every person who has ever lived is a complex, imperfect and not universally-loved figure. Public figures are all the more subject to this. Abrahma Lincoln, for example, was as enlightened on the subject of race, as a Midwesterner of the mid-Nineteenth Century could be expected to be. He opposed the expansion of slavery into Kansas, saw that slavery was an organically dying institution in the North, and thus focused his Emancipation Proclamation on the Confederacy-both to crash its economy and to release people from bondage. We have no idea how Reconstruction would have played out, had he lived through his second term. Yet, those who rush to judgment point out his having said that Blacks would never be equal to Whites (Lincoln-Douglas Debate, 1858) was proof of his undying disdain for the Black race. The eminent historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., however, leaves the door open, seeing the 16th President as being on “an upward arc”, with regard to his views on the subject. (“Lincoln On Race and Slavery”).
Here, for good measure, is also an assessment of his 1862 condemnation to death, of 38 (out of the 300 who were convicted) Santee Sioux warriors, in the aftermath of the Mankato Massacre. While not exactly sympathetic to their particular case, he was beginning to pay attention to the degradation being suffered by the Plains tribes. Again, it may be argued that he was on an “upward arc”. Then came Booth.
I maintain my own independence of both left and right, and seek only to grow further in the light. If I disagree with anyone’s baser points of view, it is for that reason alone. I love you all, regardless.
In the end, the Fourth of July observance at Mt. Rushmore did not result in death, explosions or wildfire. I don’t share, in wholesale fashon, either the conservative or liberal vision of America’s future-but I see good points in both.
I believe in hard work, and I believe in equal pay for that hard work. I believe in preserving, and learning from, history; I also believe in not sugar-coating the hard aspects of that history. If a story is brutal, tell it anyway. If a story is uplifting, so much the better.
I believe in freedom to innovate, and I believe in following a fair and just set of laws-which do not fall victim to either the urge for vengeance or the urge for unbridled anarchy.
I see many good things that have come out of our hybrid culture. I also see much room for improvement. I see goodness in a pioneering spirit. I also see that it is only a good thing for this country to acknowledge and celebrate the foundation that was already here, with my First Nations ancestors, when that pioneering spirit took root on the periphery of this continent, and our neighbour to the south.
European-Americans have given much to our society, but they are far from the whole ball of yarn. We would be, and could still be, a lesser nation, were it not for the African-Americans who are yet rising from the ashes of enslavement; were it not for the First Nations, who already had a civilization when Europeans arrived; were it not for the Asians who built the transcontinental railroads, only to be kicked and beaten, literally and figuratively, by those who saw menace in what they did not understand; were it not for the Hispanics, who also predated English-speaking people, in much of the country.
Some, on both ideological ends of the spectrum, have given in to a subculture of fear-with its propensity for violence, for lies about the other side and for hubris about the “superiority” of their arguments. In both cases, there is much anger, rooted in pain. That is why, while cutting off and deleting messages and comments that I know are completely false, I will listen to those of any philosophical position, who come from a place of truth.
No group of people is lacking in value, in strength, in beauty, in worthiness.
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.
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.
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?
Every so often, someone will raise the issue of one aspect or another, pertaining to the wall being built, in segments, along the U.S.-Mexico border. There are certainly very legitimate concerns about wildlife corridors and ecosystems, the desecration of Native American ancestral gravesites and sacred places. There is also no guarantee that this wall will succeed in achieving its goal of establishing law and order along the frontier, in perpetuity.
Of equal, or greater, concern to me, however, are the mental walls that have risen up, long before the physical barrier began taking hold. People, within our borders, have taken the stance of refusing to associate with anyone who expresses a viewpoint that is counter to one’s own. It does not take a genius to figure out that the underlying issue is one of personal insecurity. Too many have drawn the conclusion that, if the “other side” gets in power, that all their cherished values will be smashed to smithereens. The group in power draws the same notions about the potential replacement.
At the risk of being misinterpreted, which I will own, if that comes to pass, I can say that there are indeed good people, all along the political spectrum. Those who loudly fulminate against such an observation are, along with the violent and unsettled, on both sides, part of the problem. I have met fine white people in the rural South, who are curious as to why I show kindness to Black folks, and vice versa. That they are willing to hear someone who doesn’t share their fears, is a step in the right direction. The same has happened with people here in the West, who are wary of Native Americans and/or Hispanics.
Living without a need for walls has been a labour of love for me, and there was a time when I had little mental walls constructed in my psyche. Taking them down, one by one, has only made life better. I don’t know of anyone who expanded their heart, because someone came at them, swinging a hammer.