A Child Is A Child

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November 19, 2021- I have friends and family, on both sides of the Chasm, when it comes to discussions of race. Just so we’re clear, I am dead set against ANY policy or action that limits or prevents a person from following his/her life plan-so long as that plan does not itself involve limiting or preventing another person from following theirs.

It started, in a sense, with Emmett Till. When he was killed, I was four. An older cousin saw the news on TV and commented: “That is just plain SICK!” I asked what was sick and he told me that a kid, not much older than he, was killed by some crazy people in a place called Mississippi. I knew that name, because the older girls in the neighbourhood spelled it out while jumping rope. It bothered me, from that time on, that adults would kill a child.

As time went on, I witnessed and experienced all types of adult behaviour towards children-mostly good, but some very wicked things as well. I was, thankfully, never beaten or abused-but I knew plenty of boys and girls who were.

Growing up in a mostly White town, I saw and heard people of all ages-including some of my mates, express hostility towards people of other racial groups. In fairness, they were just as caustic towards people of other European ethnicities. I never felt such animosity towards anyone, but as the saying goes, “You stand in chalk, you inhale the dust.” It took time in the Army and frank discussions with people of other backgrounds, in which I chose to listen more than talk, for me to truly understand their experiences.

It is the duty of adults to teach teens in the ways of maturity. Maturity, as my father explained to me, means not rushing furiously into a situation, unprepared and likely overmatched. Now, we see what happens when the reverse is true. Kyle Rittenhouse went into battle, in his own mind, against an imagined foe that he barely understood, and of whose diversity he was completely ignorant. Someone in his life owed him a hand of restraint- not a violent hand, but a firm one.

Like many people in adolescence, he seemed to think he was capable of rising to the occasion and fending off those who had trouble in mind. Ironically, it was not the thugs on the periphery of the social justice movement whom he faced down, that awful night. It was three grown men, who likely fancied themselves allies of that movement, coming at him, a boy of 17.

I question how he was able to bring an AR15 with him, when the minimum age for BUYING such a weapon is 18. Yet, there it was, in his hands, after who knows how much training and practice he had been given in its use. Even people in the military, who are, with rare exceptions, 18 and over, have to have a minimum of eight weeks of training in the handling, use and maintenance of firearms, especially automatic weapons. Kyle should not have been there alone. Adults should have been with him, and then as a force of restraint.

There is, additionally, the research into the maturation of the human brain. The brain is not completely formed until the age of 25, if then. I look back on myself, in my teens and twenties, and sometimes shudder that I am still alive- my parents’ best efforts to raise me aside.

We are, however, in a crisis of adulthood when, once again, people at the street level are left trying to explain to the wider society why People of Colour are frustrated and angry-while not exactly hearing the voices of reason from those above them, in the halls of power. We are in a crisis of adulthood when a child is castigated in the court of public opinion, publicly coddled by a sitting judge and probably just as confused as he was on that awful night. We are in a crisis of adulthood when the voices of the nation’s leadership use vitriol, rather than step back, breathe deeply and foster healing. We are in a crisis of adulthood, when we just go back to the same sides, across the Chasm, that led us here in the first place.

A good-hearted, gentle family member remarked this evening that she just wants to see love for everyone. She is a conservative Christian. I am a gadfly, who leans progressive, in most matters. My sentiments, though, are the same.

A child is a child; raise him (her)!

Debris

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January 7, 2021-

There was a lot of debris cleaned up, yesterday, by the custodial staff of the United States Capitol complex. They also had to do a lot of sanitizing, not because the mob which found its way inside the buildings was inherently any dirtier than any other group of people. It had to do with the sheer numbers-perhaps as many as 2,000 people, over the course of 5-6 hours.

Harder to cleanse, will be the debris in the national psyche. As always, in our society of artful dodgers, those whose words contributed to the mood of mayhem yesterday and those who act as apologists for the wirepullers, were quick to raise the specter of “Antifa”, a will’o’the wisp that always seems to pop up these past few years, whenever there is mayhem in the streets. There is even a whole line of “Antifa” posters, uniforms and bumper stickers, which invariably get trotted out, by any group that aims to dodge responsibility, either for its own actions or for the actions of those with whom it is sympathetic.

The sitting President has a forceful personality. He commands a lot of loyalty, from those for whom the world is moving too quickly along for their liking. He also has sycophants, who toss out such lovely phrases as “Let’s have trial by combat” or who raise a power fist while walking past a group who already agitated enough. The sitting President also has done just enough good for small business owners, some of whom I know, that they are frightened of life without him. Then, he has cultivated just enough good will among fundamentalist Christians and Jews, that it’s easy for his minions to raise the specter of Islamists and Atheists emerging, in his absence.

I appreciate what he has done for small business and for small investors, like myself. I also know that his successor, like his predecessor, will not be a raving, frothing, God-hating, communist, atheist, socialist baboon, surrounded by Islamists. Fear has been stoked, far beyond what was raised four years ago, when my advice to anyone who asked was-“Give this President a chance.” (This was the same thing that Barack Obama said, during the transition, by the way.) Fear needs to be released, and not by violence. It needs to be expressed as it was during the last, long night, when Trump supporters who were NOT running through the halls of Congress, but were instead conducted themsleves with decorum, abided by the processes of discourse and voting. It needs to be heard, addressed and then it’s time to let the fear go.

Finally, there are the public expression questions: Is there a difference between people, (of various political philosophies), who ask that the lives of people of colour be held in as high a regard as the lives of those of European descent, and people who ask that those same Euro-Americans not be left behind, as the world moves towards a truer equality-when it comes to the right to peacefully protest? Is there a difference between the two mega-groups, when it comes to how they are inherently viewed by those in power? Is one group to be judged guilty, as a whole, because some of its members are Marxist, while the other group is given a pass, despite some of its members being Fascist?

The answers, as stated over the past 24 hours, by several thoughtful people from across the political spectrum, are self-evident: No, no and no. I would be just as angered by a mob of people yelling “Black Lives Matter”, whilst running through the Capitol Building, and creating mayhem, as I am at the spectacle we saw yesterday. The fact is, though, that such a thing did not happen, last summer. There were anarchists raising mayhem then, as there were yesterday, but there was no invasion of a House of Governance by some of the main body of those gathered-as was the case, yesterday.

The debris will be long in clearing. We need all hands on deck.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 19: Juneteenth

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June 19, 2020-

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.

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part VIII: Thin Skin

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February 21, 2017, Prescott- 

The young fitness center worker,

seeing people of a certain age,

makes a stink face and hides,

when one of us approaches the desk.

A boy of ten,

never acquainted with people of colour,

inveighs about how ugly he thinks they are,

until warned by the teacher

that this is an outdated way of thinking

and is a serious offense.

The President of the United States,

fearful of those who have differing opinions,

rallies those who care for him,

and succeeds in deepening divisions,

which he swore to end.

I go about my life,

needing no approval from anyone,

except my God.

Sticks and stones…..

 

And Now…..

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January 20, 2017, Prescott-

The snow came, in the afternoon.  Then, it turned to rain, for a while, this evening.  Now,snow is back, is falling lightly, here, and heavier, in higher parts of Prescott.  The snow discombobulates our students, but we were able to get everyone in an orderly line and to the bus, without incident.  I hope they get a lot of activity and enjoyment of the snow, this weekend, just as I did as a child.

The bluster was tame, in Washington, this morning. I caught the new President’s Inaugural Address, on my laptop, when I got off work, this evening.  It was neither among the best, nor was it the worst, speech I’ve heard, from a sitting President.  Mr. Trump gave us, basically, what he felt necessary to say.  I do want to see a better shake for the nation’s long left-behind towns and cities, of the Midwest and Northeast- the Eries, Dubuques, Zanesvilles, Wheelings and Tauntons of our collective back-burner memory.  I also do NOT want to see a back-slide, with regard to the rights and well-treatment of people of colour, of gender transversal or of either gender.  I don’t see any need for a dichotomy between the two; no cause for an either-or mentality.

So, there has been a changing of the guard.  It’s not how I would have wanted things, but as the now-former President said, on Wednesday, this is our system and we each need to do what we can, to make it work.  I will be very vigilant, watching closely so that no one in power misleads the blue-collar people, with whom I grew up, and that no one mistreats the people on the margins, whose safety and well-being have been close to my heart, for at least the past fifty years.  My prayer is that we all hold our leaders accountable and guard those we love.

This Living Dream

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February 4, 2016, Prescott- It’s been nearly three weeks since the nation took time to honour the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It’s been three weeks, since we heard this year’s iterations of the speech he gave, sharing his dream of a nation whose people were at peace with one another.

I have thought, long and hard, about the years that have passed since then, and the years that have passed since his slaying.  We no longer, thankfully, have full-on urban riots, at least not since Los Angeles, and 25 other cities, in 1992.  We no longer tell people of colour that they cannot live in certain neighbourhoods, or parts of the country. We have, on the one hand, made an attempt to include people of colour more fully in the outward cultural fabric of our world-with HipHop and rap becoming de rigeur, worldwide.  On the other hand, there is so much unfinished, and even some progress at risk of being undone.

I have to say this, sans hard hat:  There are still several areas of daily life, mostly involving how I, and people who look like me, are perceived by law enforcement, especially on the road at night, that are not experienced the same way by people of colour.  As a nation, we buy too easily into stereotypes, still.  It was not so long ago that I would lapse into a lilt, when speaking with African-Americans.  That had to rankle the people with whom I was speaking and I apologize, profusely.  It said volumes about my own gap in self-identity and deficit in self-confidence.

I am over that personal roadblock.  The Dream that Dr. King shared with us, while speaking at the National Mall, those 53 years ago, was meant for all of us.  It was meant for Blacks, Native-Americans, Latinos to claim a place in the true life of the nation.  It was meant for women to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men.  It was meant for Caucasians to recognize that sharing the full life of the nation with people of colour, in no way diminishes who we are as a dynamic force in the progress of mankind.  It was meant for those of both sexual orientations to be afforded the opportunity to share their God-given strengths and talents, in making the world a better place.  It was meant that the Dream be truly universal. I believe the Dream is alive.  I believe that this is truly the Day that will not be followed by Night.