Archive | June, 2015

America is Growing Up

28 Jun

In the wake of the Confederate Flag episode, the one wherein Bre Newsome scaled the flagpole and removed that sucker – I keep thinking about the analogy of a dysfunctional family and how desperately the South needs a therapist. I’m serious. We need to talk this all out and acknowledge some past hurts. A recent NY Times documentary shows us that there is no pill for what ails us, we need regular talk sessions. The South that blossomed post-Andrew Jackson’s land grab was a rebellious teen-ager that tried to shake off its parents. The South went to war to declare its own independence, but in the end, was dragged back home and forced to remain part of the family. This insurrection was the most bloody war ever fight on our soil – brother against brother.

Call it what you will, before the war, black-skinned people were property, dehumanized, tortured, raped, and killed at the whim of white supremacist. After the war, that was supposed to stop. Thank you inter webs and the slow march of time, we are starting to get a more clear picture of how that actually went in our “post-racial” society that elected its first black president. America is finally looking like a multi-racial nation but there is still a co-dependency of abuse and compliance happening among us.

In order to cope post Civil War, too many compromises were made. The Union was tired, distracted and so happy to be a family again, they gave the rebellious upstart South way too much leeway way too soon. So during that time, like so many Southern families, stories were born to ease the pain and the shame of the reality. No, your sister didn’t have an illegitimate baby, she got an intestinal blockage and then went to recover at Aunt Lucy’s for seven months. No, the Civil war was not about holding people in bondage and denying them any scrap of human dignity, it was about State’s Rights. Secrets and lies can remain in the closet for a long time, but eventually, for any number of reasons, the truth comes out. You suddenly get a letter from a stranger who is actually your nephew, or worse, the anger and hatred brews up into a massacre – like so many that solidified the brutal terror of Jim Crow. A family steeped in lies becomes dysfunctional in so many different and disturbing ways – just as the South has.

What started as a distorted  story, invented around Southern pride and heritage to hide the awful, embarrassing truth grew into laws and customs that brutality that caused and continue to cause more pain. The Civil Rights Movement that dared to illuminate the injustices of segregation brought out the worst in Southerners. What is recorded in picture, word, and memory of the those risked everything to be free is nothing short of as we-inspritring. What was recorded in history books and newspapers owned by rich and powerful whites regarding such things as the Wilmington 10, or the Charlotte, 7, or countless others – well, to the victors go the spoils of controlling history.

But, imagine if a different story had emerged, one of love, remorse, and healing. Not one based in embarrassment, or pity but one based in empowerment. What if our forefathers had attempted to pay all those forced to work back wages, had formed large networks to reunite families, gave Freedmen part of the property they had been enslaved on, or any other ounce of human kindness? What might have happened instead? What if reconstruction had been truly rooted in truth and reconciliation and the whole nation had committed to equality?  But no, like most abusers, we continued to find new ways to denigrate, marginalize, and abuse and terrorize while repeating the mantra that it was their won fault. Abuse is not pretty. It takes a whole lot of courage for the victim to step out the fear and be free.

Just imagine if the South had chosen love. America would be in a much different place today. But that is not how prejudice works. Denial is effective. Fear is powerful. Fear continues to be wielded as a weapon – over and over. So, the South chose to perpetuate the lie, to allow the hate to fester, and now I think what we really need is a therapist.

We need a therapist to talk us through understanding how our parents, grandparents  and great-parents could have participated in a system so horrific that they either didn’t talk about it, or they made up lies about it.  We need a therapist to help us understand ourselves and how we, the privileged white people who told who children, “Hey we might be poor, but at least we ain’t black.”  could have stayed quiet and ignored the pain of others. We need a therapist to help us all form a new identify -one that recognizes that race is not scientifically based – it is a cultural construct. Many companies are making a lot of money trying to clarify for folks just how “pure” their blood is – xenophobia and eugenics go hand in hand for America’s desperate search for identity. In that identity, we all need a way to frame our history that is based on facts. The time for anger, defensiveness, blame and hate are over.

We must emerge with love in our hearts so that we can heal, focus, and move forward toward a more perfect union.

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My Fifty-first Year

26 Jun

I am so damned lucky. Last June, on my 50th birthday, I woke up in a luxury hotel, ordered room service for the first time in my life, took a hot bath in a giant tub, and sat on the balcony with my best friend. That is how lucky I am. That night we walked to a five-star restaurant two blocks from our house and had dinner where we were evidently so “cute and romantic,” that the couple next to us, “picked us up.” We stated talking, laughing, and before I knew it, she asked for my phone number. Since then, we have developed a wonderful, couple friendship. Over the last year a friendship has blossomed that I feel certain will deepen and grow over the years because we have so much in common and have so much fun together. All that was in the first twenty-four hours of turning 50 years old. I am so damned lucky.

While the 5-0 birthday itself did not freak me out, something inside of me did certainly shift. I became convinced that I had to “broaden my circle of influence.” That is not an easy task, it is not something I take lightly, and it certainly does not pay well. Within a few weeks of my birthday, I felt my desire for a major change overtake me, overrule reason, and lead me to resigning my job. It is not the first time I have left a job, but it is certainly the first time I have done it without a plan. I was stepping off into nothing. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time.

I jumped in with gusto to volunteering, reading, learning, networking, organizing, and fretting. There is a lot to be worried about. I have built up a bit of a following on social media, or atlas people tell me they read what I post – and I am sure some people have dropped me and blocked me because of my out-spoken, and sometimes radical views. But here is the thing – I am not stupid – I am a lot of things, but thoughtless and stupid are not among them. I am well-read, analytical and smart. But what people might not realize is that I am also deeply spiritual. While many, many of my friends are out-spoken atheist, pagans, and adamant non-beievers, I am not. I have a deep faith, one that steadies me in times of distress, one that comforts me in times of mourning, and one that speaks to my heart like a good religion should. While I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Muslim, nor Hindi, nor Buddhist, I am a person of faith. I know that this is confusing for people who do readily identify as one of the major religious beliefs. I have found that Christians are the ones who are the most confused and even offended by my beliefs. It’s okay – my beliefs are not in conflict with yours, I will not declare jihad on you, nor do i believe that my religion is superior to yours. I just need you to know that just because I don’t proselytize doesn’t mean I don’t have a deep and abiding faith – because I do,

I am a Unitarian Universalist. I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. I believe in compassion and fairness. I believe in acceptance. I believe that each person is responsible for their own search for truth. I will work for democracy, peace and social justice. I believe in the interconnected web of life. Simply put, I believe we as individuals, and collectively as a society can always improve, grow and become better if we follow the path of love. The best thing about my 51st year has been coming back to this idealism, to this community, and to this faith. It is because of my faith, that I work so hard for everyone’s freedom. Thanks for paying attention.