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.

The Others

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Later this evening, I will post about the Prescott Historic House Tour, part of our city’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, and Chalk It Up, an annual chalk-art festival.  Both took place this past weekend, as did a Cinco de Mayo Block Party, in Courthouse Square.

First, though, a bit of seriousness.  Let me go further with what I wrote yesterday about the journeys on which each of us is embarked.

Human beings, alone among species, sort those they see as strangers into categories of “race”, skin tone, ethnicity, Faith, gender and sexual orientation( of course, we are the only species which experiences the latter as a life condition).  To be sure, other animals, from ants to prairie dogs to wolves and dolphins, sort by family group and/or territory.  This is all part of territoriality and population control.

Our extra selection processes, really, don’t make much sense.  There is no qualitative difference between me and any of my friends who happen to be Black, but in the 1960’s, there was no way any of them would have been able to live in a family home in the town where I came of age, outside of a small designated area on the south side of town.  That’s changed now, of course, and it was with great personal satisfaction that I learned, in 1996, that my maternal grandmother’s house was purchased by an accomplished attorney of African-American descent.

I thought of all this, while taking in the various events of Cinco de Mayo weekend, in downtown Prescott.   People of all backgrounds are welcome here.  Although Prescott has a tendency towards political conservatism, there seems little bigotry.  Those of us who indulge in politics at all, tend to be of Libertarian bent.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding prejudice, and while working to rid myself of my own pre-conceived notions, which I found confusing, the whole concept of “Other” had to be allowed to surface, and float away.  Young Black men, when I was in my twenties, did me the honour of challenging me to show that I was recognizing, and casting aside, the subtleties which I had picked up in childhood.  I was hurt and angered by my white peers’ callous reaction to the killing of  Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.  He hurt no one, and helped as many of us as would listen to what he had to say.

Still and all, I have had to recognize my own sense of  “Other”.  This separation is a worldwide thing, though.   Many East Asians have trouble with Whites and Blacks being in their midst.  Africans separate by tribe; West Asians, by Faith; Russians, by language.  Some of this “otherness” is rooted in hurt; some of it stems from fear.

The fact remains, however, that we are all connected.  I see this sense of connectedness increasing, incrementally, among Millennials and the current generation of children.  It’s definitely a process, not an event.  Racist teens and twenty-somethings, though, are regarded by the majority of their peers as having mental problems.  This cuts across all racial and ethnic groups, and political affiliations.

The kids are onto something.  “Otherness” is a learned paradigm.  Then again, so is helplessness.