America is Growing Up

2 Jul

White people need to talk about race – often.


In the wake of the Confederate Flag episode, I keep thinking about the analogy of a dysfunctional family and how desperately the South needs a therapist. 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 Jacksons 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. In order to cope, too many compromises were made. The Union was tired, distracted and so happy to be a family again, they gave the rebelious upstart way too much leeway in the post war era. So during that time, like so many Southern families, stories were born to ease the pain and the shame of the reality…

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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.

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.

Board Games: A Trip Down Memory Lane

30 Mar

We have played all of these games in our family. Now that the kids are older, we include adult beverages in game night, making it all the more fun and amusing. I love to play Words with Friends and its a good thing I can find willing partners because my family will not play Scrabble with me anymore. xi and xu are so words!

Friend For The Ride


A post by blogger George Schalter:

As a father and an admirer of technology, I love the time I spend with my kids – putting a gadget together, racing cars (toys, of course), and playing online games (educational, of course). But these times, splendid though they are, take me back to my own boyhood and how our family bonded when we were younger. Rest assured, you wouldn’t have seen my father bellowing while swiping his finger madly around a rectangular piece of screen. No, sir. Those were the days when we sat at the kitchen table with steaming hot cocoa mulling over a game of Monopoly or Clue. Whoa! That makes me a living testament of changing times.

Of course, I was delighted when I discovered that they had digitized some of those old classic board games. While it is a rather addictive experience, it is not the same. It…

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HSBC ya’

18 Feb

Three years ago, Steve and I rented out our house in NC and moved to London. His company has an office there and he accepted a two year assignment. We went over in August to secure a flat and set up our bank accounts.  HSBC had a branch office just below Steve’s company and so we popped in to get the accounts set up.

We arrived, looking like two American tourists – blue jeans, sneakers, no name brand nothing. After a few minutes, we were escorted back to a a very nice woman’s desk. We explained why we were there and what we needed. She handed us some papers, then asked for Steve’s contract letter as proof of employment. He handed it over, she glanced at it, and she started on a profuse apology rant as she nearly climbed over her desk to retrieve the papers she had handed us.

“I’m so very sorry, I should have looked first.  Of course, you will be a premier customer.” She produced a gift box from under desk.  The lid featured two beautiful people with dark skin and hair wearing designer clothes, expensive jewelry, and dining by candlelight. Steve and I cut our eyes at each other and snorted. We are neither dark-skinned, nor mysterious, nor used to Premiere status treatment. HIs salary was barely enough to support the four of us (who lived in three cities, one paying Central London rent and still carrying an NC mortgage), Then, she went on to offer to set up our off-shore accounts “for tax purposes.” Let that sink in – an off-shore account to hide our money from taxes.

Steve and I have often referred to that encounter as “what is wrong” with the banking industry and people in general. The anti-tax mentality goes beyond the US border and banks are complicit in helping people hide their wealth from the governments that provide those very people with the safety, security, and most importantly, here in the US- the opportunity to even have that wealth.

My heart soared just  a bit today when I read the headline about HSBC being raided. I hope the officials are quite successful in finding each and every entity that has illegally evaded paying their fair share, but moreover, I wish regulation would forbid off-shore accounts all together.  It is time for international business laws to favor international governments and cooperation and not individuals.

Cookies for Kindness

20 Nov

What could be better than dropping a LOVE bomb on a middle school? That is just what Lindsey Bauer, sophomore at Elon University pulled off on November 20, 2014. Lindsey wrote an inspiring essay on her entrance application to Elon that landed her in the Dean’s office to receive a grant and eventually to Graham Middle School, a Title One Middle School in Alamance County, NC. She was advised to partner up with the school’s anti-bullying club, Stand Up Be A Hero (SUBAH) where she met me, the SUBAH coordinator. Since leaving GMS, I volunteer one day a week to keep the club going for the student services team as a way to address bullying and promote a positive school culture. Here’s the full story in the Burlington Times News.

Historic Thousands on Jones St (HKonJ) Feb 8, 2014

9 Feb

MMMYesterday I turned out to join the Rev William Barbour, NC President of the NAACP and hundreds of other organizers and tens of thousands of other marchers to demonstrate in protest of recent NC legislation that brought national attention to our state – not because we are being incredibly innovative in solving issues, not because we have ended unemployment, or cured a disease – nope, because Jon Stewart found fodder for political satire and parody in the lunacy. Yes, NC is the brunt of national attention because of the litany of bills that were passed and signed into law in our state that set  progress back fifty years. My favorite sign at the march read, “Too many issues for just one sign.”  That’s how I feel – there is just too much that went wrong in one legislative session to pick it apart.  Rev. Barbour spoke for a five solid minutes just running down the list.  But for me, it comes down to one issue: one point that so salient in my mind, and so offensive to my heart. One idea that conjures up every ounce of patriotism and passion in my soul. America is a democracy.  It is founded on the idea that the government derives its power from the consent of the people and without that consent, the government has no power or authority. When voting rights are infringed, in any way, it is an affront to our democracy and a call to action. Every single citizen in this country has a voice and that voice is heard at the ballot box. Every effort, every new law, every new technology should be used to make sure that each and every voice is heard without long lines, without government issued identification, without any obstacle between that citizen and the ballot box. That single issue is what got me to my feet, sent me out on a cold morning after a long week of work, and into the streets. If the politicians think they are representing the people, then make no move to block those people from the ballot box. And people, get out and vote. There is a lot of work to be done.