June 19, 2021- In the latter part of June, 1969, one of my fellow trainees, of African-American descent, confronted me about what he thought was my negative attitude towards people of colour. I had no ready answer for him, as truth be told, I had no attitude of any kind towards African-Americans, since until entering Basic Training, I did not know any. I believed then, as now, that all people are equal in the sight of God, and that therefore I was to show kindness and respect to Black people, as I did towards Whites and Asians, who were far more numerous in my hometown. What that meant, in practice, was far more complicated. I was to learn that the historical treatment, of all people of colour and of lower class Whites, was woeful in general and that each subgroup was treated in such a manner as made that group’s genetic memory needful of particular attention, distinct from other “minority” groups.
Lavern and I reached an understanding, and there was no further animosity between us. I continued to learn, from other men of colour, throughout my Army enlistment- and afterward, of the difficulties faced by their ancestors, and by they themselves, on a daily basis. Although it may be said that everyone has a hard life, at one time or another, most of those difficulties are transitory happenstance- a stock decline here, a broken down car there, a sick family member over yonder. They are no less problematic in the interim, but they are not compounded by the genetic memory of generations who were, and in many cases still are, excluded from equal treatment by society and by those in their midst.
So it is, that I welcome the national observance of Juneteenth-NOT as a replacement holiday for Independence Day, but as a day of affirmation of the principles upon this nation was founded. I have read much and learned much, about the abhorrent treatment of people of colour-and of lower class people of pallour, across the span of our nation’s, and other nations’ stories. I hope one and all are able to likewise reflect on the course of becoming more equal.
March 20, 2021-So many times, I have been knocked down and gotten back up-sometimes right away, other times after a fashion. It is a solace that I am far from unique, in that respect. Mohandas Gandhi was knocked down, by a South African policeman, at least half a dozen times, and simply got up-not to attack the officer, but to move along, independently of what anyone in authority thought. The Civil Rights crusaders of the Twentieth Century moved through targeted assassinations, betrayals and studied indifference, to build the framework that has so changed at least the trajectory of social discourse, to an elevated place where hatred is rightly seen as the fruit of ignorance and psychological instability.
My own struggles pale in comparison to those faced by so many, across the globe. The best of those, especially the indigenous people in so many countries, have withstood centuries of degradation, squalour and deprivation of human dignity-only to spring up anew, and lend their life learning to the betterment of some of the very people who oppressed them. I have learned far more from the First Nations peoples of North America than I ever imparted to their children. African-Americans have imparted a goodly amount of common sense solutions and the importance of maintaining presence, which have gone a long way towards bringing my often convoluted thinking processes in line with what is needed on the ground floor.
South of the Equator, people are getting ready to reap what they have cultivated over the past year- both in terms of agriculture and social action. We, who are north of the Earth’s midsection, are preparing our soil and our societies for another season of productivity. Will we struggle aimlessly, or keep our focus on what will bring relief and power to all concerned?
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.
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.
I relaxed, this evening, with a group of African-American entertainers and public figures, presenting a Facebook Live performance called Black Wave 2020. There were a wide variety of musical styles and civil presentations by competing office seekers. There was no vitriol, no cussing, and no displays of rage.
There was a very up front, definite commitment to acting towards justice, towards the systemic changes that need to be brought to bear. There was also the understanding that there will be resistance to such changes, and a few racists did show up in the comments section, to spew their nonsense. All in all, though, we who were watching were genuinely interested and appreciative of the show.
Change has to be made, and it has to be deliberate and transparent. We cannot have the history of THIS day and age presented to the people of the Twenty-second Century, in a sanitized form. That will take fortitude, and commitment. There are those who don’t understand the Oneness of the Human Race. I heard from one such individual today-with regard to the rights of unborn children, in his view, not mattering to anyone other than religious zealots. There are others who, don’t understand that People of Colour don’t want to be regarded with special treatment-just regarded with dignity and respect.
Growing up in a lily-white town, albeit in suburban Boston, I had to learn the reality of People of Colour, piecemeal: The African-Americans in my childhood and adolescence were authority figures: The cafeteria monitors in our Junior High and the first police officer to give me a speeding ticket. I’d have been punished, very swiftly, once I got home, if I ever gave them any lip. That told me that real African-Americans were not any different, to my parents, than anyone else.
Indeed, watching Saturday morning cartoons, one day, when I was about eight, a character who was supposed to be Stepin Fetchit came out with “Everything I do is always wrong.” That cut through me like a switchblade. I asked my father why anyone would say such a thing. He told me that Black folks were conditioned to act that way, having been enslaved for over 200 years. He also told me to show all people kindness and treat them fairly. I often thought that if I ever met the actor who played Stepin Fetchit, that I would shake his hand and tell him he was a wonderful person.
There were, though, some tough conversations, awkwardness and hard lessons, that came my way, in young adulthood particularly, in learning the nuances and basic decencies of overcoming some very deep-seated social beliefs. I am glad for all of them.
The Baha’i Faith lends spiritual weight to the notion that all people are created equal-All ethnicities, male & female, all age groups, both neurotypical and disabled, all points of view-so long as they don’t preach exclusion of others. We view all life as sacred,from conception to death. Independent investigation of truth is the bottom line.
Juneteenth, with all this being considered, merits being made a National Holiday- a paid National Holiday. Let it continue to spark thoughts, words and action, to advance the cause of justice- and the increased equality of all people.
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.
Discombobulation was a term used by one of the more effective teachers, in my junior high days, to describe the constant shifting of one’s physical or social situation, without allowing for a reasonable explanation or period of adjustment.
The notion that change is a constant is widely understood. What does not seem to be as well understood are the notions that opinions can evolve and that people can’t be typecast by their ethnicities, genders, generations or even prior stances on issues.
Much is being made about the constantly changing positions of the president, some members of Congress, some state governors and some medical authorities, with respect to COVID19. I attribute most of that clamouring to fear of the unknown and a desire for some measure of consistency, that people may deal successfully with the disease, in their own spheres.
The public state of affairs caused by the pandemic, as well as the virus itself, are evolving, continuously. Thus, people, including those in positions of authority, need to be afforded some measure of flexibility, in their public pronouncements and in their assessments of the situation. This virus has variously presented us with a clearcut roadmap for flattening the curve of infections and hospitalizations, followed by what appears to be an insidious game of Whack-A-Mole.
There is, almost as a sideshow, the spectacle of the presumptive Democratic candidate for president making what he now says is an offhand remark, regarding the qualifications for being “black”. Whitesplaining is odious, in any context, and introducing a measure of cognitive dissonance, into the lives of African-Americans who have conservative political views, makes it even more so. I’ve pointed out, in a different context, that there are liberals, conservatives and all point in between, in every given community.
We each have our opinions, on just about everything. The fact that we have them, or that we feel strongly about them, doesn’t make them right. The fact that we are free to change these opinions, hopefully in light of new information, doesn’t mean that we are suddenly either in grievous error-or imbued with wisdome from on high.
A fellow blogger posted, this afternoon, that no one is entitled to rights, by decree. Yes, and no: Yes, a child has the right to a healthy diet, a safe and warm place to live, a solid, fundamental education and above all, loving adults by whom to be raised. No, one does not have the automatic right to a mate, a good paying job, a full refrigerator and pantry or a large contingent of friends. Those are things one earns by dint of character and hard work.
I was raised to know that my parents were there for me, that I had responsibilities that went with being part of a family, that boys and girls were equal in the sight of God, and that didn’t go away when we reached adulthood. As much as my immature, flawed self disliked it, I had to wait, a long time, to meet the love of my life. My mature, flawed self does not regret the wait.
Sometimes, the price of the good in our lives is paid up front- through suffering and seemingly innumerable setbacks Other times, the good comes first, and, as with the Biblical Job, torments and sorrows follow. I have learned, especially from my Native American ancestors, that hard times make one stronger and good times make one secure enough to withstand the next set of hard times. After 600-800 years of collective difficulty, Native Americans are still here. After 500 years of oppression and distrust, African-Americans are still here. Woman, collectively, has endured millennia of being regarded as a subordinate being. She is more present than ever.
Those who say each individual must earn certain rights and prerogatives are correct, to a point. Let them also, however, consider what rights each man, woman and child has already earned, by dint of character, suffering and, yes, hard work. To dismiss this, is to affirm the claim of the tyrant, the supremacist.
As I awoke, each morning, bright and early, in my old bedroom, thoughts went back to various points in my life.
I recall the woods, in Lynnhurst, a neighbourhood of Saugus, where we lived before moving to my mother’s present home (62 years, she’s been in the same house). I think of Russ, a year younger than me, who would walk everywhere with me- when we were three and four, respectively.
When we moved to the present home, I used to go over to one or another of the horse farms in our neighbourhood. Old Pierre’s farm was north and Mr. Conrad’s, was south. Both ended up subdivided, and became known as “the Projects”. These were different from the housing projects in Lynn and Malden. Saugus’s projects were made up of single family homes. Red-lining was in full force, back then, and the only African-Americans I met were the cafeteria ladies, at the Junior High and the three or four classmates, in high school, who lived near the quarry, on the south side, near the Malden line. Times have changed, and this town is now far more diverse.
It’s also more crowded, with the town office and Board of Selectmen wanting more growth, still. The roads really can’t handle the traffic, so I look for a hue and cry, for more infrastructure, before a whole lot more housing gets built. People in power seem to learn more slowly than many- and sometimes, it’s too late.
Some things don’t change, though. The Beach that runs from Swampscott to Nahanbeat, through a segment of Lynn, has been the primary place for us to cool off, for over a hundred years. Of course, to park in most sections of the beach, one must pay a $10 day-use fee, far cheaper than in Connecticut, Florida or California. Still, I found a free spot, so brother and I were able to just get out and walk, of a Saturday morning, from one bath house to another- a distance of 2 miles, round trip. He’s legally blind, but far from crippled.
The views, even of low tide, bring the comforting memories of when my tide was high, and young women were my primary interest.
This intriguing outcropping is Egg Rock, a favourite of those in sailboats and kayaks.
One of my main purposes, besides spending days with Mom, was to meet my youngest grand-nephew. The blessed little family, with his Mommy, Daddy and two big sisters, lives in a large and comfortable home, about six miles or so from our family house.
You can guess who my nephew’s favourite character was, when he was small.
Saugus, like life, is not the same as it was, when I was the small one. The house is much the same, though, and the area still has great restaurants, offering everything from signature seafood, through Italian, Chinese, and Mexican, to Brazilian. We did Italian on Thursday, at a place called Victor’s- delectable food, in slightly disorganized establishment. Saturday lunch was at a nearby branch of the Boston-based Legal Seafood- good fare, though at prices reflective of the name and reputation. The rest of the time, we did the frugal thing and indulged ourselves with what was in the house.
This time, I feel thoroughly pampered though, and Mom feels blessed to be able to still spoil her oldest. She did what she had to do, when I was growing up, so now-why not relax? I would have the chance to pay her back a bit, just before leaving, on Monday.
The Mini-Month is now upon us, with groundhogs galore waiting to be yanked out of the ground, tomorrow. I know there will be many enlightening programs and articles about African-Americans, this month, but I think people should be fully honoured for their place in America’s story, and the stories of the world, EVERY month, and regardless of ethnicity. Still, I’m glad the stories are getting out there. Too many people still think Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Irish-Americans, and even women, collectively, are making up, or exaggerating, the past, because “things aren’t so bad for ________________ NOW!” We have to know our history, and know it well, for the very reason that too many people see things on the surface, and have short memories.
The Italian martyr, Valentino, has become a symbol of unconditional love and thus a day devoted to love- and romance- has taken the English form of his name. St. Valentine’s Day falls on a work day, Tuesday, this year. I will be giving the same unconditional love to my students that I offer, every day.
The following weekend will be Presidents’ Day, ostensibly to honour two of our greatest Chief Executives: Washington and Lincoln, and, by extension, those of our presidents who have not harmed our nation. Who they are, remains a matter of intense debate. I have my opinion, but will not get into that, here.
Aram will leave for South Korea, in about a week. I will be at San Diego International Airport, to see him off. Then, each of us will get on with our respective duties, and other aspects of our lives. For him, there will be some familiar aspects, as he was born, and spent his first three years of life, in Jeju, and shore duty will be more of a routine, than sea duty. For me, the regimen will continue at school, the American Legion honours World War II’s Four Chaplains, my work for the Baha’i Faith goes on, and new outdoor adventures will present themselves- Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains, the Verde Valley’s Limekiln Trail and, a slightly-delayed visit to Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell.
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