The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 43: Be Not Proud

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July 13, 2020-

In 1949, John Gunther wrote an account of the decline in health, and passing, of his son, Johnny. I read this book, “Death Be Not Proud”, in 1962, at the age of 11. It has informed my own attitude and reflections towards the transition of people from this life. My father also read it, and it informed not only his attitiude towards death, but the ferocity of his devotion to us, his five children, especially to his youngest, Brian, and in facing my youngest brother’s disabilities.

The book’s message, of indomitable courage and ferocity, in facing life’s worst challenges, came to mind today, with news of the passing, yesterday, of the actress Kelly Preston, after a two-year battle with cancer. This evening, I learned of the passing, late last month, of a maternal second cousin, after an EIGHTEEN-YEAR battle royale with the same disease. Neither woman lacked the slightest bit of courage and dedication to things far greater than herself. Both were sterling champions. I kept looking at one or more of Penny’s photos, as I prayed for the departed souls. My beloved fought a thirteen-year battle of her own.

Death is any number of things, but one thing it is not- is surrender. I am convinced that every person who has ever faced down danger or disease takes the strengths acquired in the struggle, right along with them, in transitioning to the next series of adventures. I am also convinced that the soul sends clarion calls to those left behind-to remember the struggle and apply the lessons learned, that they, the remnants, and this, the world left behind, can rise and truly shine, brighter than ever.

“Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)”

John Donne – 1571-1631

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 39: Oppression

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July 9, 2020-

The Baha’i world commemorated the Martyrdom of al-Bab, the Herald of our Founder’s coming and a Messenger of God, in His own right. Al-Bab announced His Mission, to a lone seeker, in May, 1844. Just six years later, despite having been incarcerated three times, in three separate prisons, by a fearful Muslim clergy and government, His followers numbered in the hundreds of thousands. In that sixth year of His Mission, on July 9, 1850, al-Bab faced a firing squad, in the main public square of Tabriz, a large city in northwest Iran. Accompanied by a steadfast young follower, named Anis, He stood with confidence, as 750 soldiers fired at Him. When the smoke cleared, Anis stood alone. Al-Bab was found, in a room in another part of the prison, completing business He had with another follower, which had been interrupted by the execution. Once the papers were signed, He went with the guards, back to the courtyard. This time, 750 other men stood in file, and fired. When the smoke cleared again, the bodies of al-Bab and Anis were fused together, and their faces untouched, and serene.

This has been corroborated by foreign emissaries, who witnessed the event, and had no impetus to weave a falsehood. As Christ suffered horrifically, at the hands of the Roman Centurions and the Sanhedrin priests, so did al-Bab suffer at the hands of the Muslim clergy and representatives of the Shah.

Oppression has ever been the lot of those whose existence is marginalized by those in power. This is true today, in a good many nations of the world, whether it be directed at African-Americans, First Nations people and cross-border immigrants, in nearly every country of the Western Hemisphere; at Roma people, across the European continent and in the Middle East; at Palestinian Arabs, in several west Asian nations-not just Israel; at lower caste people, Christians and Muslims in India, as well as Christians and Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh; at Dravidians and Black First Nations people, across south Asia; at non-Bantus, across sub-Saharan Africa; and at those not of the Han nation, in China, at non-Burmese, in Myanmar or those not Javanese, in Indonesia. Australian First Nations people face an uphill battle in their country, as do Maoris and other Pacific Islanders, in New Zealand. Whites in South Africa and Zimbabwe find the tables turned on them, with a vengeance. Ainus in Japan, and “Negritos” in the Philippines are still struggling for acceptance.

There are those who want to turn the tables on conservative Christians, in this country. This reflects poorly on those taking that stance. I stand, now, for those oppressed, according to the historical record. This will not be addressed, or corrected, by counter-oppression. The conservative, for one thing, will not change his/her own behaviour, or opinion, by being subjected to reverse oppression. I will not stand idly by, if this happens.

We are all sacred beings, and the time to change our behaviour towards other sacred beings has drawn nigh.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 34: Independence

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July 4, 2020-

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.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/300-santee-sioux-sentenced-to-hang-in-minnesota

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 30: The Best Defense

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June 30, 2020-

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 26: Why Is The Ground Itself Steaming?

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June 26, 2020-

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 25: Monumental Possibilities

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June 25, 2020-

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 23: Calming the Conniptions

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June 23, 2020-

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 15: By Definition, Part 2-Does Behaviour Define Us?

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June 15, 2020-

I referenced traits,yesterday, in considering how people sometimes define who they are, by their external qualities or, unfortunately, how OTHERS see them.

We have also reached the point where many are judged, defined, by something they did, or said, years or even decades ago. There will always be those who look under rocks, to find fault with others. There will always be those who jump out from behind a bush, and scream: “I remember when YOU did this to ME!”

I am not referring to heinous crimes, like rape, molestation, gross physical assault, calumny or theft. Those need to be brought to justice, and there should be no statutes of limitation. I am referring to personal slights that are stored away and used like traps-often by mentally ill people, for whom treatment is a far better option than revenge.

Essentially, what I want to say here is: For those personal slights, those shortcomings that were not heinous, I will apologize, and I claim the right to live the changes I have made in my life. Everyone else who is in similar straits deserves the same right.

These are what define me: Unconditional love; commitment to the health and safety of children, adolescents, women and the elderly; commitment to equality and dignity for all, regardless of physical traits, level of development; sexuality or philosophical stances; the prevalence of humaneness over profit-motive or doctrine.

Each can find redemption. Each can make the change.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 11: More Than One Wall Must Fall

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June 11, 2020-

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 8: Persuasion and Fake Rain

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June 8, 2020-

Today was a good day. I got to visit Raven Cafe, and while I wore a mask into the establishment, and while ordering and paying afterwards, I found the al fresco dining experience both comforting and free of any worries about COVID19. The young ladies who work there, like all those I encounter during this Twilight Zone of a year, are worthy of no less than the utmost care that each of us who patronize the place can muster.

I finally have restored all the photos that I eliminated from my 2012 posts, whilst still in the limited storage space of Word Press’s free account. Writing means more to me now, so maintaining a Pro Account, with its unlimited storage, has made such restoration possible-and with better quality versions of the older photographs.

Now, to the title subject. As is my wont, I have engaged in reading and listening to both sides, or all sides actually, of the various debates on both COVID19 and the episodes of violence towards individuals, the vast majority of whom have been African-American. I have engaged, as well, in discourse with people who bring up seemingly minor details of these matters, both by way of expressing their concern with the matters at hand and by way of denying such problems exist. There are also those who don’t want to hear what is being said, and interject-sometimes, but not always, with pejoratives and catcalling.

Into this cacophony, have come Black Conservatives-loudly, almost tearfully, denying there is systemic racism extant in this country. The “you low life cousins of mine are bringing it on yourselves” take on the issues MAY have SOME ring of truth, in SOME situations. What it tells me, more immediately, is that these are people who have either lived more comfortable lives than many others of their skin tone or they are just hard-wired to tough out life, without thinking much of misfortunes.

I have never had to endure the day-to-day ignominies faced by, say, Appalachian whites, or trailer dwellers who work day labour, in many small cities and towns across the continent. That doesn’t mean I look down on them. I am hard-wired to tough out misfortunes, but those who aren’t, are deserving of a leg up, along with encouragement to build up their emotional immunity, so that life is not an endless cycle of tears and self-loathing,

On the edges of the cacophony, and often in the middle of it, stands our nation’s 45th President. I have to say this- I do not think he is a well man. I don’t think he’s an evil man, but he is not acting like a well person. It would be far better for all concerned, if he were to step aside, preferably at the end of his current term, as our nation’s 36th President did. Lyndon Johnson was also not well, and did what he could to save himself and the country.

If the voters of this nation want to stay the course of conservatism, there are plenty of others, men and women, who could take the reins. If, as current polls indicate, the electorate is shifting leftward, there are plenty of competent men and women who could serve, from that political stance, as well. (I am far from sold on the current presumptive alternative to Mr. Trump).

The cacophony, however, is unlikely to let up until a critical mass of one end of the spectrum either sees, or experiences, the legitimate concerns of the other. There is far too much urination, to put it indelicately, that is being sold the public as “rain”. Only independent investigation of truth can bring this to an end.