Reflections on A Day Taken Off

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June 6, 2021- Thirty-nine years ago, today, Penny and I formalized our commitment to one another-and the marriage would last, through thick and thin, for twenty-nine years. I was hoping for at least forty, but we take what we are given. Some people are married for fifty years plus, and are inwardly miserable. We were not either. Speaking of which, as an aside, an indie artist, at a gathering on Saturday night, played a clip of his, on which a local philosopher opined: “”One who claims to be miserable, and at the same time insists he is right, is stating the impossible. It can never happen.”

Processing the loss of one of my closest cousins, I received word that a fellow member of the American Legion Post to which I belong had suffered a heart attack and is in hospital, facing the now de rigeur bypass surgery. He is one of the regulars, at our Sunday morning breakfasts, holding court and waxing eloquent about everything under the sun, in the style of an English aristocrat. That he is of Sicilian descent matters not. T’s heart and soul are rooted in the Merry Old Isle.

My day was otherwise occupied with the mundane-getting laundry done, gluing the front right quarter panel of my Hyundai, with the same substance that’s kept the back left in place, for nearly three years and watching episodes of “The Underground Railroad” and “Peaky Blinders”. Five of us pondered another set of quotes from the Universal House of Justice’s (Baha’i Governing Body) compilation on Social Action. I got in another workout.

In all this, I am looking at what is going on in the wider world, and just shaking my head, keeping up with it all, yet feeling as if it’s all a dream. The most important things in my life are all revolving around family, friends and the children-always, the children.

One of the traits that my cousin, John, had was presence, centering on who was in front of him, for as long as the person needed. That has not been my strong suit, though I am getting better at it. I am still not great at the perfunctory- greetings or conversation for their own sakes, especially online or long-distance. Birthdays and anniversaries are different; they draw my attention, because they matter so much. The rest of it-well, maybe my agenda is too broad and the next thing is always on my horizon. Still, I am making progress at being present, with someone who is in front of me, at any given time.

Twenty-nine years did teach me something.

And Greenwood Burned

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June 2, 2021- Much long overdue attention has been focused, over the past week, on the Centenary of the destruction and massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood section, on May 31-June 1, 1921. The President has visited, and met with three survivors, commemorative events have been held around the country, and in other nations, and even the Murdochs, in their National Geographic Magazine, have commissioned well-thought-out articles on the horrific event, and on race identity in general. I will make my own visit of homage to Tulsa, and to Greenwood, after visiting with my son and daughter-in-law, outside Dallas, next month.

Many did not know of this stain on our history, until recently, but as a country, we have long known of the legacy of the slave trade and its aftermath. “The Underground Railroad”, whose televised depiction I am viewing now, on Amazon Prime, gives even more graphic illustration of what went on in many, if not most, plantations and smallholder farms, where slavery fueled the economy. That mindset died hard, where it did die at all, even in “Free” states. There is still far too much of the concept of “Us” vs. “Them”, even among those who say they abide the presence of people of colour. I can see it, in the readiness of so many to embrace restrictive laws, in the areas of voting, of residence and of taxation for the public weal. There are those who would summarily execute people illegally crossing both borders or homeless people in large cities-and there are more of the “I, the Jury” types than one would care to think.

I first learned of the Greenwood Massacre-and similar events in Chicago, Detroit, East St. Louis and Rosewood, Florida in 1973, during a class entitled U.S. History Since 1877. The instructor, Dr. Israelsohn, was a classical conservative, but had no use for race-baiting and the systemic segregation that occurred in every part of the country, to some degree or another, right up until the time that course was offered. Her conservatism was that of true free enterprise and self-sufficiency.

That people can mature and develop, admirably, in so many ways, yet be unable to recognize the futility of Zero-Sum, increasingly escapes me. Where there is enough to share-then there is room to share, as well. Where there is enough to cover the feet of the people around oneself, then why hog the blanket? To be sure, this is one reason why I travel-and it is one reason why community service is a priority. Where there is real connection, there is no “Other”.

Let there be no more Greenwood Massacres, of any kind.