The 2018 Road: Honours, Learnings and Observations- Part 1

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September 2, 2018, Prescott-

The forty-day journey, whose chronicle I have just completed, is now well-past the reflection stage.  The longest trip I have undertaken, since 2015, has passed without controversy, among those of my family and friends who have viewed my travels in the past, with some consternation.

There were mostly good things that happened, this summer that is nearly passed.  I want to first note those who have honoured me with their presence, in the deepest of ways.  Then, I shall note the learnings I picked up from the trek. Finally, some observations are in order.

Honours-

The first of these always goes to my family: Being in Christ Church, Philadelphia, for the wedding of my beloved youngest niece; having my son, Aram, and his girlfriend next to me during the service, throughout the reception and for much of Father’s Day.  I’m grateful to her, for having given him much happiness; being with all of my siblings, nieces and nephews and nearly all of my extended family.

My northern Nevada family has always been there for me, as well.  This year, over Memorial Day weekend, was no different.

My sister in spirit, Corina, drove an hour each way to visit with me a bit-once I got to Wilmette, but to no avail.  My arrival was way too late, so back she went, to spend Sunday afternoon with her beloved. I feel honoured, nevertheless.  Just being in the embrace of the Baha’i House of Worship is a singular honour, in itself.

Having dinner with friends in Mishawaka, IN, was a sublime blessing.  Thanks, Val and Sparky.

I cannot say enough, for the staff and fellow hostelers at Auberge Bishop, Montreal, for confirming my worth as a human being, in the aftermath of a serious loss.  I am also grateful to the agents at USAA, for mitigating that loss.  It was a joy to take lunch at one of  the restaurants of a friend’s establishment:  La Panthere Verte.  I would feel similarly honoured, again, at hostels in Baltimore and in Memphis.

One of the greatest honours is to connect with the spiritual energy of one’s ancestors. My maternal grandmother’s hometown, Plattsburgh, NY first welcomed me, and a few weeks later, my sister and a maternal cousin connected with some of Grama’s grandnieces and great grandnephews.

Penny’s family will always be my own, as well.  They helped me greatly, in the wake of Montreal.  A few days’ respite, in the family home, in Spring Hill, FL helped me rest before the home stretch, and reaffirmed our bond.  Paying my respects to her departed cousin, a few days before, in Maryland, was essential.

There are many, across the nation and world, who I regard as spiritual family. They are of all Faiths and of no Faith.  Connecting with a woman who is like a daughter to me, in Virginia Beach; an immigrant friend who is like a brother, in Salisbury, NC; and my Tennessee brother and sister of the heart, in Crossville, have made all the difference in healing a part of me that still grieves, somehow.

Being in Memphis, and feeling the pain that all of us who are of good heart experienced, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. died, was cathartic.  I had not cried in a good long while, and this overwhelming sadness brought out a lot.  Later in the day, walking along the banks of the Mississippi and along Beale Street, felt like a dirge was playing.  Dr. King honoured us all.

NEXT:  Learnings

 

The 2018 Road, Day 38: Memphis, Part 2- Martin and The Mountain Top

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July 2, 2018, Memphis-

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From the time I was a nine-year-old, trying my best to vicariously understand why Black people were struggling for the same rights my parents seemed to have, I have been fascinated by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Fannie Lou Hamer.  Rosa Parks and her story came a bit later to my consciousness, when I was in high school, and the works of Langston Hughes were part of our tenth grade English curriculum.

The murders of Emmett Till, the children in the Birmingham church bombing, the Civil Rights workers in both Alabama and Mississippi, Medgar Evers- all hit me hard.  I remember my Dad being pissed about the assassination of Malcolm X- “He was just starting to be reasonable”. It struck me that maybe that dialogue with White America was what got Malcolm killed; that maybe the powers that be don’t want the common folk to get along.  His death turned me from Goldwater youth to angry leftist radical.  The common denominator, for both alt-Right and Far Left seems to be the sense that the poor are just fodder-for those with money to burn.  1968 just added gasoline to my fire.

Time has made me recognize the complexity of the whole ball of wax.  I remain committed to a solid implementation of social justice, though, and visiting the National Civil Rights Museum brought me to my knees, in silent, shaking tears.

Martin Luther King, Jr, indeed made it to the mountain top. While his last physical gaze was at the eastern edge of downtown Memphis, his spiritual gaze saw the heights of recovery from a deeply-embedded misogyny, from a dalliance with classism and Marxism and from narrow focus on the cause of Black folk.  He spoke of, and was moving towards, leaving no one out:  Opposition to the Vietnam War was a part of his new credo, but so was the plight of hardscrabble farmers and miners in Appalachia and the Ozarks. Forging ties with La Raza Unida and Native American activists was a rising tide, but so was listening to the children of European immigrants who were living increasingly precarious lives, in poor urban neighbourhoods and rural slums, alike.

So, my morning was focused, in three museums in and around  Lorraine Motel.

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This establishment had been one of a relative handful of inns, across the country, where African-Americans could stay in safety, whilst traveling.

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In the main hall, there are replicas of key episodes in the Civil Rights struggle. Below, is a depiction of Rosa Parks, taking her rightful place on a Montgomery bus.

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This credo has been, to varying extents, followed by the greatest of those who have sought to bring about meaningful change.

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Those kids were my age, or younger, and that this did not matter to the bombers will forever burn in my heart.

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These two bedroom photos show the room occupied by  Dr. King (top) and by one of his top aides(bottom).

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This museum, across the street from the Lorraine, features two floors that exhibit details and archives of the assassination and the investigation into James Earl Ray and his suspected associates.    The  killings of other key figures of the Civil Rights Era are also examined here.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

My evolution, as a compassionate soul, is far from finished.  Being a “woke white man” is a worthy goal, but I still feel a bit drowsy.  This has nothing to do with my visiting places associated with the Confederacy or pondering conservative statements:  One must know what the “other side” thinks, and why, if there is to be a lasting peace in society, and in the world.

Lastly, before heading to the musically significant Beale Street, I stopped for a late lunch at one of Memphis’ oldest eateries.  The Arcade has been around since 1959.  The crew definitely made me feel at home, at the counter.  I’ll be back again.

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Rising

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March 26, 2018, Prescott-

I attended a gathering, yesterday, at the Native American Baha’i Institute, which is 4 1/2 hours’ drive from here.  The occasion was an intensive flute making and playing workshop, by a long-time flautist, who is a friend.  Kevin visited our home, years ago, when Penny, Aram and I lived on the Navajo Nation.  His work is always worth supporting.

I will have more to say about the flute, and about the event, in my next post.  Today, though, a brief word is in order about the rising of those who have been subservient.

In the mid-1990’s, my mother-in–law would insist on the Victorian dictum, regarding children maintaining silence.  She would later come to regret that stance, but at the time, it was her way of keeping our son and his girl cousin in check. I disagreed, vehemently then, and do now. Children should be seen, heard, believed- and properly educated and guided.

Women have largely been relegated to a subservient role, over the centuries- across the globe.  Thankfully, this nonsense started to unravel, as far back as 1965, though people like my mother have never been content to have their voices go unheard.  The presence of so many strong women in my life has made such a state of affairs seem totally absurd to me, forever and a day.

When I was a senior in high school, one of the seminal events was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., fifty years ago, next week.  In my social studies and English classes, I would raise the issue of civil rights, to a largely deaf audience.  My school, at that time, had five African-American students.  I knew two of them, brothers, who were kept at home, the day after the senseless murder.  There were hoots and hollers, expressions of satisfaction, by young men who have long since overcome their prejudice, born, as all prejudices are, by ignorance and fear.  There were tears shed by more enlightened young women, who dared to date young Black men, from the next town over.  My hometown is a more open-minded place, nowadays, and people are increasingly, though not completely, expanding their circles of friends.

There is a new world, a better place, rising from various ash heaps.

Monster, Part I

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January 15, 2018, Prescott-

Last night, I was lovingly, but forcefully, admonished to turn away from what I know in my heart to be the greatest Source of Light the world has yet seen.  I will not, ever, do that, even under pain of death.

This morning, someone I thought I could trust, has attacked me on Facebook Messenger, for refusing to pass judgement on the President of the United States.  While I take umbrage at his remarks, concerning nations of colour, I will not, ever, judge another human being’s inherent worth, even under pain of death.

We, as a nation, and as a human race, mark the birthday of a powerful, if flawed, personage, who did as much, if not more, to advance the cause of human dignity than any other American in the Twentieth Century.  Quite frankly, if there is such a thing as a body rolling in its grave, I am sure Dr. King is turning somersaults, at the back and forth verbiage that has plagued our nation, for nearly two years.  Remember his words: “Hate cannot overcome hate.  Only love can overcome hate.”

There is a monster loose in the world.  We know him as Satan.  He has no power, save what we give him, as Jesus the Christ and Baha’u’llah have both said.  Satan is not an actual physical being, but the personification of our own egos.  These days, though, ego is rampant, as rampant as ever.

I have been told my deepest beliefs are only my opinion.  I have been told that if I don’t attack other human beings, that I am just as guilty as they are.  I, have been told, by different people, to conform to their beliefs and expectations, or else.  Sorry, my beliefs will only change when the Holy Spirit guides me to change them.  Even if I have no friends left in the human race, that will be the bottom line.  I’ve always been a loner, so that is no big deal.

The only way to fight a monster is to not give it an inch.  I will respond to any comments made below, in Part II.

Janus Blinks

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January 31, 2017, Prescott-

Reminiscences,

New Year’s Day, and a San Diego rain

More rain, as the nation remembered

Martin Luther King.

Chills in the air,

and chillblains,

in the lungs of many friends.

Two good workouts,

with snow to be removed.

Winter can’t help

but be fast about its business.

So, as the Sun gets higher,

in the northern sky,

boreal winds begin to fly.

Snowmen and frosty flakes

get nudged, ever so slightly,

by crocuses, roses and chocolate.

The Road to 65, Mile 53: The Same Boat

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January 20, 2015, Prescott- “We may have arrived on different ships, but we are all in the same boat.”  This was one of the messages being carried by the some 400 marchers in Prescott, AZ, yesterday, during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, from Prescott College around Courthouse Square and to the United Methodist Church, where a rousing rally, with gospel music and a stirring address by Reverend Michael Cannon awaited our assemblage.

My parents raised us to regard each person we met, on an individual basis.  They were prisoners, somewhat, of their generation’s tendency to fear “the other”, but my folks desperately wanted out of that box, and looked to us to show the way towards a more inclusive world. There were classmates of Asian descent, in my high school, who were congenial.  I did not, however, have friends who were African-American or Hispanic until I was in the Army, and it was much later that my circle grew to include Native Americans and people who hailed from the Middle East.

We are in a far more open world now.  My son does well with people, regardless of ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation, as do I.  The Baha’i Faith, to which I adhere, enjoins anyone from acting out of prejudice.  Our task is to root out the bias and replace it with an understanding of the people whose backgrounds differ from ours.  The thing to be opposed, in this great Age, is an unseemly character.

That was the bedrock of Dr.King’s speeches, and actions, in the 1950’s and ’60’s.  It was the overriding theme of Rev. Mr.Cannon’s address, yesterday morning and again last night, at St. Luke’s Ebony Christian Church, where he is Associate Pastor.  It is the foundation of that which every person who seeks uprightness in this life, does every day.  Imperfect souls own their flaws, and still march towards the light, casting the burden of foulness aside as they go.  I know of many people, myself included, who have aspects of their past which, if left unaddressed and uncorrected, would serve as a personal Tar Pit.  On we go, though, grateful for forgiveness and grace.

This is huge boat, and we each have a part to play in its successful voyage.  So, if you are African-American, come to the table.  If you are a lower-income, or lower-middle-class person of European descent, come to the table.  If you are of a family indigenous to these continents we call America, come to the table.  If you are from the world’s most populous continent, anywhere from the eastern Mediterranean to the western Pacific, come to the table.  If you came from Africa, during the past century, or from Australasia, come to the table.

You may be, like me, attracted solely to the opposite gender- and you belong here.  You may be drawn to those of the same gender, or both, or may feel you need gender reassignment, or already have had it- and you belong here.  Regardless of age, ability level, or employment status, you belong here.  Whether you are Liberal, Conservative, Moderate, Tea Party or Occupy Anything With A Corner Office, you have a part to play.

We need to uphold the rule of law, AND the law has to be humane.  We surely need to expect those entering our country to respect and obey our laws, just as those of us Americans who visit other countries must adhere to their laws.  We do best to remember that the task of the individual is to show mercy, and that of the human institution, from the family to the nation-state, is to show justice.

The great boat will not list, will not leak and will not sink, so long as we all remember:  Each has a place.

The Road to 65, Mile 12: The Age of Unreason

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December 10, 2014, Prescott- It seems so much these days is decided by emotion, accompanied by sloppy fact-checking, and the need more and more people seem to have, for external verification.  These processes don’t bring communities and nations together, and never will.

I have lived a fairly solitary life, for the past 3 1/2 years.  My family members all have full cups and don’t need anyone else’s concerns to address, no matter how great or small those are.  It’s for that reason that I have learned to rely on my own resources, and it’s why I am leaning more and more towards taking the bull by the horns, with regard to a full-time disaster prevention and relief position, in mid-February next year.

I have friends at all points on the political spectrum,  while maintaining my own sense of right and wrong.  My Dad was a social and fiscal conservative.  My mother is a social liberal, who nonetheless ran a tight ship, based on us taking responsibility.  So, I was compelled to listen to both points of view, growing up, and have the bounty of seeing many shades of opinion today.

I will not, though, go along with anyone who advocates oppression or harm to an innocent person, or group.  There are those who derive their power and satisfaction, from dividing people and groups.  We see this in everything from the camera hogs and pundits who are first on the scene of an episode of unrest, to the Deep Pockets who fund entities which seek to keep information from the people-at-large.

My parents liked and respected Martin Luther King, Jr, the Kennedy brothers, Cesar Chavez and even Malcolm X, after his return from Hajj.  My latter-day heroes are mostly international figures:   The late Nelson Mandela, Aung-san Suu Kyi,  Malala Yousafzai and the new President of Indonesia:  Joko Widodo.  Those who can see beyond the current atmosphere of “dodge and cast blame” are the figures who will lead us through the darksome night.