Can You Really See the World from Another Person’s Point of View?

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One of the most often quoted and pro-offered bits of advice is “walk a mile in their shoes.”  Another version of this wisdom is to try and see it from their “point of view.”  Jesus said “ “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” — Luke 6: 37-42

I submit that all of these bits of wisdom are more than admirable; they are essential to a life of wisdom and justice.  The problem is that all of them are impossible to follow.  You can’t walk a mile in another person’s shoes because their shoes won’t fit you.  You can’t see it from their point of view because you are not standing where they are.  You will always suffer from a plank in your own eye since this is nothing more than cognitive bias which we all suffer from.

Ergo, how do I see the world from another person’s point of view?  How do I reconcile the fact that there are often many other points of view?  Most of our lives we will live in an ocean of viewpoints.  They are like waves washing up on the shore.  One after another they roll in, break on the beach, and wash back into the ocean.  I couldn’t stop the waves from coming in if I wanted to and I could not stop for a second to deal with all the viewpoints that I am constantly bombarded with.

2c087c4a21acb3d800bbee0ce8d4df62The internet has made the problem even worse.  We are deluged with a tsunami of viewpoints every day.  From right, left, central, religious, agnostic, scientific, spiritual, communal, familial and hundreds of other perspectives our viewpoints of the world are bombarded by messages that challenge our thinking and our very reason for being.  Whose shoes should I stand in?  Whose perspective should I try to take?

Another problem with taking someone’s viewpoint is even more basic and problematic.  What if I don’t like or can not even imagine myself in their shoes?  I don’t sympathize much with pedophiles, racists, sexists, homophobes, and white supremacists.  How do I walk a mile in their shoes?  I would have to take a few years of character acting classes to even begin to imagine what a member of the KKK feels and thinks when he/she burns a cross on someone’s front yard.

Finally, the world may not like you for trying to understand the perspectives of the underdogs or those less fortunate in life.  You may lose friends and family for challenging viewpoints which are hardened by narrowmindedness and prejudice.  I doubt few people want to hear about the perspectives of a rapist or pedophile.  Taking their viewpoint will not help you to win friends and influence people.

Those of us who are unwilling to try to see things from another’s point of view will find ourselves in a deep pit of myopia.  The effects of not being able to comprehend things from the points of view of others is narrow mindedness, prejudice, and bias.  Solutions to problems become more difficult as we narrow our perspectives.  If we cannot see the world from the viewpoint of a pedophile (regardless of how abominable they may be), how can we ever understand their problems enough to create solutions that will eliminate this scourge from the earth.

What are some ways that we can actually walk a mile or maybe even just a ½ mile in the shoes of someone else?  Here are some recommendations.

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Experience It First Hand

This might fall in the category which I dismissed above to “walk a mile etc.”  This idea will work for some things.  You can experience what a canoeist experiences by going for a canoe ride.  You can experience what some writers feel by trying to write a short story.  However, if you are White, it will be impossible to feel what a Black person does when he/she is treated badly because of their color.  This is true for many other demographics besides race including age, gender, education level and intellectual capabilities.

You will not be able to experience what many people experience either because it is impossible to walk in their shoes or it might even be illegal.  For instance, you might not be able to experience the thrill or fear that a bank robber does when she/he walks in a bank to rob it.  You will also never be able to experience what somewhat with a mental disability feels as they navigate the world.  Thus, while some say that “experience is the best teacher” when it comes to understanding the perspectives of others, experience may not always be the best choice.

However, there are a great many things that we can experience first-hand if we are only willing to try them.  I know too many people who will not try things.  I am sure we all know people who will not do things even though they have never tried them before.  They might have tried them once and decided on the basis of one try that henceforth and forevermore they would never do it again.  It takes a certain amount of gumption, open-mindedness, and just plain courage to experience new things.  If you are glued to your couch watching the TV or if you are afraid to risk and dare you will find the opportunity of experience a closed door.

A few of the “I won’t try it” items that I hear and that irritate me include:

  • I don’t eat fish
  • I don’t like to travel
  • I don’t like Mexican food
  • I don’t like to read
  • I don’t like music or concerts

You can add some items that annoy you to hear in my comments section.

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Experience It Second Hand

Years ago, I wanted to try to understand sexism, racism, and prejudice.  I started out by reading about these subjects from the point of view of authors like James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Susan Brownmiller, Betty Freidan, Anne Frank, Hannah Arendt,  Ronald Takaki, Vine Deloria Jr., and many more.  I learned a great deal from the stories and experiences told by the people who experience discrimination first hand.

As I got older, I found more and more opportunities to attend lectures and discussions where I heard first hand people like Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, Jesse Jackson, Audre Lorde, Rosa Parks, and Sarah Lew Miller.  I attended anti-racism seminars sponsored by several different groups. I have watched many documentaries dealing with prejudice and bigotry.

I went to important cultural sites that included Indian museums in Oklahoma, the Holocaust Museum in Israel, the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, Jewish Cemeteries in Paris with memorials to each concentration camp and Dachau outside Munich.

My first-hand experiences with people of color grew through my friendships.  I went to places that many White people would have put off limits in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and New York.

Along the way to trying to understand the experiences of other people, I tried to help whenever possible fighting racism or bigotry.  I wrote a grievance for some fellow Black soldiers when I was in the service.  I supported organizations that fought racism like the Southern Poverty Law Center.  I conducted some seminars with a friend dealing with Gay rights.  I spoke out whenever I had the opportunity against racism and sexism.  My writings deal with many of these issues.

I note the above not to impress you.  If anything, I am unimpressed by my progress.  Somewhat like they say about Alcoholics, “Once an Alcoholic, always an Alcoholic.”  The best you can do is to become a recovering Alcoholic.  Growing up a White Christian male in a predominately White Christian Patriarchal society, it is very hard not to be a sexist racist anti-Semite.

When I was a kid, I was told it was a mortal sin to walk into a Jewish Synagogue.  That was because “Jews Killed Christ.”   There were no Black people in my neighborhood and a woman’s role was in the kitchen.  After our Italian family get togethers on Sunday and holidays, the men would all retire to the living room to smoke and watch sports while the women retired to the kitchen to clean the dishes that they had prepared dinner on.  Italian men loved boxing and would always root for the White boxer over the Black boxer. No amount of argument would ever convince my Italian relatives that Rocky Marciano was not the greatest boxer of all time.   How could he not be?  He was White and an Italian.  Case closed.

BedtimeNoozOne year at a Martin Luther King memorial service on the University of Minnesota campus at Northrup Auditorium, the keynote speaker was Dave Moore, a well-known news and television personality.  Karen and I attended many of the MLK day celebrations over the years.  I had never seen a White keynote speaker.  I was somewhat surprised and wondered what he could say about Martin Luther King or any other issue dealing with racism.  It turned out to be quite an interesting talk.

Dave Moore, spoke on growing up in an all-White Minneapolis neighborhood.  He noted that because there were no Black people in his childhood, he assumed when he was older that he could not be a racist.  He admitted how wrong he found this assumption to be.  He told the audience how many racist attitudes he found that he grew up with from simply assimilating the prejudices of his White culture.  It was a very moving talk coming from a man that was so admired by many people.  He essentially admitted that he grew up racist without ever knowing a single Black person.

Later in my life, I had a more diverse group of friends.  Many of my White friends would say that because they had a Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, or Gay friend that they were not prejudiced.  I have found that most colored friends of White people tend to be the “good” guys as opposed to their non-friends who are usually “They and Them people.”

1006OPEDnegley-superJumboNow we get back to the difficult if not impossible people to understand.  How do we put ourselves in the shoes of a rapist or pedophile?  There are many that would think I am crazy for asking this question.  I believe we will never eliminate these problems if we do not understand the causes.  We cannot cure the problem simply by locking up all the pedophiles and rapists in the world.  I do not believe that these are inherited characteristics.  There have been times and places in the world where practices bordering on rape and pedophilia have actually been legal and condoned.

Marital rape is criminalized in many countries. Throughout history until the 1970s, most states granted a husband the right to have sex with his wife whenever he so desired, as part of the marriage contract.”Wikipedia

Although there is substantial evidence in the historical and anthropological record of the sexual use of children by adults, surprisingly little is known about the etiology of pedophilia or its relation to other forms of sexual aggression.”  —

Thankfully, attitudes have changed about many behaviors and while cannibalism may still be a practice in some obscure parts of the world, it has largely been eradicated.  Unfortunately, rape and pedophilia although largely recognized as crimes  throughout most of the world have not seen a similar level of diminishment.

But if we cannot and would not walk a mile in the shoes of a rapist or pedophile, it still behooves us to understand their motivations.  What are the kicks they get out of these anti-social behaviors?  Why do they do it?  What can we do besides lock them up to effect permanent cures?

The second-best way (through second-hand experiences) would no doubt help us answer some of these questions.  The problem is that no one wants to read about what a rapist or pedophile thinks.  I remember years ago reading “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

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In Soledad state prison, I fell in with a group of young blacks who, like myself, were in vociferous rebellion against what we perceived as a continuation of slavery on a higher plane. We cursed everything American—including baseball and hot dogs. All respect we may have had for politicians, preachers, lawyers, governors, Presidents, congressmen was utterly destroyed as we watched them temporizing and compromising over right and wrong, over legality and illegality, over constitutionality and unconstitutionality. We knew that in the end what they were clashing over was us, what to do with the blacks, and whether or not to start treating us as human beings. I despised all of them.” — Eldridge Cleaver, “Soul on Ice

Both of these books gave me some insights into the prison experiences of a Black man.  Both Malcolm X and Cleaver were once engaged in criminal and violent behavior and both men turned their lives around.  Their stories are profound and moving.  They also give the world some insights into the pros and cons of a prison experience.

Perhaps more insights provided by rapists and pedophiles might help us to better understand how to deal with these behaviors.  I cannot say with any certainty that it would help.  The one thing that I am certain of is that nothing we have done in the past seems to be making a difference today.  The statistics for child sexual abuse are horrifying.

  • There are more than 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America. (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse)
  • 1 in 3 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. (The Advocacy Center)
  • 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. (The Advocacy Center)
  • 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the Internet before the age of 18. (National Children’s Alliance: Nationwide Child Abuse Statistics)

The statistics for rape and sexual violence in the USA are equally horrifying.

  • In 2019, over 652,676 women were raped.
  • Over 40% of women in the US have encountered sexual violence.
  • Nearly 80% of female sexual assault victims experience their first assault before the age of 25.
  • Around 20% of American males have been the victim of sexual violence.
  • Rape Statistics show that less than 20% of rapes are reported.
  • Women and men with disabilities face twice the risk of sexual assault than able-bodied individuals.
  • Sexual violence incidents, preceded by stalking, increased by 1.9% in 2019.

These statistics are from “32 Shocking Sexual Assault Statistics for 2022” by Jennifer Kuadli at Legaljobs.

In Conclusion:

  • First-hand experience can help us understand the minds and hearts of others, but we are sometimes limited in the experiences that we can actually undertake.
  • Second-hand experiences have pros and cons. Not all Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Indians, women, or any other group that you can think of will have the same experiences.  No one on this earth can speak for all people for all time. 
  • We need to try and try and try again. If the bell really does toll for all people, then we have a responsibility to understand what makes other people happy and what makes them feel miserable. 
  • We share this planet with other human beings and other species. The more we understand others, the more we can make the world a beautiful peaceful and happy place to live.

 

The Beauty of Diversity

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Diversity is the most beautiful thing in the world.  If you can suspend your judgements and look at the world through the perspective of diversity, you will be treated to a kaleidoscope of colors, patterns, habits, traditions, ideas, beliefs, and stories.  You will see a world that is complex beyond belief.  A world that no artist or musician or writer could even begin to describe.  Take away diversity and the world is a grey amalgam of people who look alike, think alike, and act alike.  Diversity makes the world interesting and challenging.

For some, diversity conjures up the idea of race.  Many people think of diversity only in terms of race or gender.  I remember when I used to facilitate leadership teams and project teams.  I would use the Myer Briggs Personality Inventory to balance out specific psychological characteristics for my teams.  My primary thought was that we needed a balance of viewpoints and ways of looking at problems.  The Myer Briggs rated people on 4 scales that included:  introversion versus extraversion, thinking versus feeling, perceiving versus judging and concrete orientation versus sensing orientation.  I wanted to ensure that I had a diversity of thinking styles and not just gender or ethnic diversity.

There are many kinds of diversity.  Scientists have shown that the concept of race is not very scientific.  I shall call the various skin colors in the human race as pigmentation diversity.  We can also have cultural or ethnic diversity, intellectual diversity, gender diversity and religious diversity.  Each of the aforementioned types of diversity can add flavor and spice to life, IF and that is the big issue IF.  IF, you are open minded to the differences in the human race, diversity can be a blessing.  However, diversity can be a two-edged sword.  By its very nature, diversity tends to be exclusive rather than inclusive.  Many people think that they are superior to others because of some attribute that they possess. 

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Some types of diversity are more exclusionary than others.  Income diversity, political diversity, education diversity and pigmentation diversity have led many people to unsubstantiated feelings of superiority.  Rich people may feel that they are superior to poor people.  Light skinned people may feel superior to darker skinned people.  More educated people may feel superior to less educated people.  The beauty of diversity gets twisted around like a pretzel until it is no longer recognizable.  It is hard to grasp the fact that some people are opposed to diversity and prefer to live among people who are exactly like them.  For these humans, diversity is something that they would eliminate from their lives.  The concept that “variety is the spice of life” fails to inspire those who think that they may have to share the world with people who are different. 

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There are too many people who do not understand the distinction between the concepts of difference and deficit.  Diversity is always a difference.  A deficit is something that is inferior to something else.  Only fools make the claim that diversity and deficits are the same.  Rich people are not better than poor people.  Educated people are not more intelligent than less educated people.  Lighter skinned people are not superior to darker skinned people. 

The words better, intelligent and superior have no causal relationship to groups of people.  People have a wide range of knowledge, skills, and abilities but none of these have been inextricably linked to color, gender, education, income, culture, religion, or numerous other aspects of diversity.  Of course there are some characteristics (particularly age) that can be linked to physical abilities but to assume that all younger people are better than all older people when it comes to physical abilities would be meaningless.  It would certainly not be a bias that anyone would choose to use for excluding older people from the human race.  I am thinking of the movie “Soylent Green” where older people were turned into food for the younger people when they were deemed too old to be useful to society. 

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When it comes to diversity, only the Vulcans had it right.  Their IDIC principle stood for “Infinite Diversity through Infinite Combination.”  The history of humanity exhibits a love hate affair with diversity.  The world is divided up by culture, ethnicity, religion, tribes, clans, and castes.  “Mine is better than yours” could be the motto for the human race.  My god, my religion, my skin color, my beliefs.  Small wonder that so many tragedies are brought on by our small-minded beliefs. 

Never before in history have we seen such stupidity and narrow mindedness circling the globe.  Stupidity and intelligence are two very different things.  In the past four years, I have witnessed stupidity among many highly intelligent and accomplished individuals.  Stupidity is a lack of breadth and depth when looking at the world.  When one only sees the benefits of their own tribe and sees the differences of other tribes as a deficit that is stupidity.  Two major factors account for much of the misery facing humanity today.

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The first factor that is driving volatility and unrest in many parts of the world is the availability of low cost and relatively high-speed transportation.  We are now capable of mixing the world with one big stirring spoon.  People have been warned in the USA that in so many years, white people will no longer be the majority.  This is perceived as a threat.  Elsewhere in the world, countries are facing a dilution of their traditional populations due to both forced and chosen migrations.  People who have lived with the “same” neighbors for years are now threatened by people of different backgrounds.  In the US, we have seen a huge increase in “gated” communities.  “Let’s keep out anyone who is different!”  Data from one survey in 2015 showed nearly 11 million Americans living in gated communities.  This number has surely increased dramatically in the past seven years.  Borders may serve the same purpose.  A large number of American citizens supported Trump’s building a border wall with Mexico.

One pundit asked and answered the question: “Why does America have so many gated communities?”

“Gated Communities are mainly successful because millions of Americans tend to seek happiness in their way of life.  Many of them are willing to pay a high price to live their own American dream while isolating themselves into artificial perfection with people and rules they chose.”

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The second factor driving much of the unrest in the world has been the availability of low-cost communication systems that are capable of both uniting and dividing cultures the world over.  The Internet and the cellphone are tools that can be used to improve the world.  They can be used to help people understand and appreciate the differences that exist in the world.  However, they can also be used to create greater animosity and divisiveness throughout the world.  People who are afraid of change and fear differences are much more likely to resort to media that allows them to join tribes of like-minded people.  Instead of becoming tools to improve civilization, the Internet and cellphones are used to destroy civilization.  By spreading misinformation, disinformation, and distortions, modern media has encouraged a negative rather than a positive view of diversity.   

Much of what I am saying is not new.  These characteristics of bigoty, ethnocentricity, xenophobia and racism have always been part of humanity.  When we mix fear and greed in the “melting pot”, and give pathways to these attributes, the result is violence and devastation. 

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On a minor scale think of a sporting event where people adopt an “identify” based on some misguided loyalty or egoistic need to a particular team.  The Packer fans sit on one side of the football stadium while the Viking fans sit on the other side.  The Japanese sit on one side of the soccer stadium and the South Koreans sit on the other side.  The Indians sit on one side of the cricket stadium and the Pakistanis sit on the other side.  Each side cheers the scoring and plays of “their” team while booing the plays of the other team.  When things don’t go well for one side, the result may be violence off the field as well as on it.  Soccer has a well-deserved record of riots and hooliganism.  I tried to count the number of soccer riots and lost count.  Hardly any sport in the world has been immune from instances of violence and mayhem.  People don’t enjoy having their “identity” defiled by being part of a losing team. 

I mentioned that “sports” is a minor scale event compared to events concerning religion, culture, politics, or economics.  Just imagine the potential for violence when Muslims versus Christians or Communists versus Capitalists or Democrats versus Republicans.  The amazing thing is that the world is not less civilized than it currently is.  People in the USA today bemoan the divisiveness in politics as something seemingly new.  I submit it is not new but that it has become more evident with the Internet and media.  The media love to hype every event to the nth degree in hopes of selling more advertisement.  Due to the numerous channels of communication that distort and bias events according to the prejudices of the perceiver, we now have chasms of truth, glaciers of lies and mountains of deceitfulness.  Stupidity and intolerance are beyond the pandemic stage and have become endemic the world over.  We have more to fear from bigotry than we do from the Corona virus. 

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How can we learn to see beauty in diversity?  How do we hope to overcome the ugliness that some people see in the differences that exist in the human race?  Can we convince people that a difference is not a deficit?  I think of words like tolerance, respect, understanding, open-mindedness, progressive, merciful, kindhearted, loving, and compassionate.  Is it too much to expect that we can show these later attributes to people who are different?  If we could only extend these thoughts to people who do not belong to our tribe, we could change the world.

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“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior, and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war.  And until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes and until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war.  And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.”  ― Haile Selassie I, Selected Speeches

Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Malcolm X:  Police Brutality Speech

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Perhaps no speech that I can “reconstruct “has more relevance to our country today than the speech given by Malcolm X on police brutality.  I first “discovered” Malcolm X during the seventies.  I was in my early thirties.  I was totally enthralled by his ideas and his passion for his ideas.  I will not bore you with a history of Malcolm Little, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, or Detroit Red.  Each of his names signifies a life that Malcolm X lived through.  There are many books written about him.  He wrote many speeches and an autobiography.  There are numerous videos on YouTube of his speeches and talks.  I would highly recommend watching his debate with James Baldwin which I found to be thought provoking and relevant to the world today.

Malcolm X Debate with James Baldwin September 5, 1963

Malcolm X was an intellectual, a radical, a revolutionary and a man who had a family, wife, and children that he loved.  He was a man who was not afraid to speak his mind and to tell the truth as he saw it.  His truth telling got him into trouble and was the primary reason for his murder and assassination.  By the time of his death, he had created many followers and perhaps as many enemies.  The US government regarded him as a threat to the American way of life and democracy itself.  Malcolm X’s death was proof to a comment made by Bernardine Dohrn (Leader of the Weather Underground and once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List), that “You can say anything you want in America, until someone starts listening to you.”

Context:

Malcolm X, birth name Malcolm Little, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19th, 1925.  He died on February 21, 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in NYC.  His remarkable life spanned almost 40 years.  Few people have ever made such an impact in so short a time as Malcolm X.  Malcolm X was in the middle of a Civil Rights Movement that had America in upheaval.  After two hundred and fifty years of slavery, Blacks in America had endured another 100 years of systematic and overt legal discrimination in every area of the country.  Finally, sick of riding at the back of the bus, inferior schools, voter discrimination, inability to sit at a White restaurant or a White hotel, Black folks and many White folks started a movement to end racial discrimination.

One element of the movement led by people like Martin Luther King believed that “non-violence” was the answer to overcoming racial discrimination.  Another element led by people like Malcom X, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and Eldridge Cleaver believed in the idea that you meet fire with fire.  Malcom X said: “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”  There was a respect among African Americans for all of these leaders, but arguments abounded on what would be the most successful path to end racial discrimination.   Ironically, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X died by assassination.

Fifty-five years after Malcolm X’s death.  It is now almost 2021 and racial divides and unrest still permeate and separate Americans.  Slavery has been abolished.  Jim Crow laws have been overturned.  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  Nevertheless, racism seems as prevalent as ever in this country.  The number of White Supremacy groups has increased dramatically in the past twenty years.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia, there are over 700 racist groups in the USA.  Noted politicians continue to make racist remarks and a soon to be past president of the USA openly applauds and supports these racist groups.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is born to protest the seemingly wanton discrimination and murder of Black men, women, and children.  Hardly a day goes by that a Black person is not egregiously murdered on some public street in America for the most trivial of offenses and many times for no offense at all, except being Black.  Walking while Black, driving while Black, sitting on your porch while Black are all possible reasons for a Black man or woman or child to be murdered in America.  The primary instrument of these murders is not the White Supremacist groups but the police.  The same police whose duty is to “Protect and Serve” and who all too frequently think this means to “Protect and Serve” only for White folks.

“On April 27th, 1962, Los Angeles police fatally shot Nation of Islam member Ronald Stokes. Officers mistook him and a group of Muslims removing clothes from a car outside a Los Angeles mosque for criminals. The conflict quickly escalated to a police raid inside the mosque, leaving a total of seven Muslims shot, one killed, and one paralyzed from a bullet wound to the back.

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Stokes’s death compelled Malcolm to engage in new dimensions of the black freedom struggle. He discovered a new center of political gravity by returning to the arena that had launched him: America’s racially scarred criminal justice system. Decades before protests against mass incarceration galvanized the black freedom struggle, Malcolm indicted the entire justice system as racist.” — Peniel Joseph, The Death That Galvanized Malcolm X Against Police Brutality

Against this backdrop, the words of Malcolm X ring as true and valid today as they did when he spoke them back in 1962 on a sunny day in Los Angeles, California.

Speech on Police Brutality: (Malcolm X comments in bold print)

1962 – Malcolm X

In order for you and me to devise some kind of method or strategy to offset some of the events or the repetition of the events that have taken place here in Los Angeles recently, we have to go to the root. We have to go to the cause. Dealing with the condition itself is not enough. We have to get to the cause of it all. (crowd concurs) Or the root of it all. And it is because of our effort toward getting straight to the root that people oft times think we’re dealing in hate.

2020

The KKK, the Proud Boys, The Aryan Nation and many other White supremacist groups are according to Homeland Security the most dangerous threat to America today.  They are responsible for numerous cases of violence and terror.  But while the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam were once labeled de facto as terrorist organizations, no effort has been made to label any (not a single one) White supremacist group as a terrorist organization.

Eric Garner (43) “I can’t breathe” July 17, 2014

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1962 – Malcolm X

The White man is tricking you! He’s trapping you. He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in South Vietnam. (applause) Please, please, please! He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in Berlin. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, he didn’t say get non-violent. He said, “Praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition.” But when someone attacks you, when someone comes at you with a club, when someone comes you with a rope, when someone comes at you with a gun, despite the fact that you’ve done nothing he tells you, “Suffer peacefully.” (murmuring) “Pray for those who use you to spite me.” “Be long suffering.” And how long can you suffer after suffering for 400 years?

2020

The Black Lives Matter Movement has been mainly peaceful with only sporadic violence erupting throughout hundreds of protest marches.  But the right-wing media portrays the Movement as communistic, anarchistic, atheistic, and espousing overt violence.  When White people stand up for themselves, it is called “fighting for freedom” or exercising our constitutional rights.  When Black people and other people of color even speak out publicly against racist and violent discrimination, they are exhorted to remain peaceful and let the courts handle the problem.  But to people of color, hundreds of years of court decisions have often made matters worse.

Michael Brown (18) “I don’t have a gun.  Stop shooting.”  August 9, 2014

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1962– Malcolm X

The controlled press, the White press inflames the White public against Negroes. The police are able to use it to paint the Negro community as a criminal element. The police are able to use the press to make the White public think that 90%, or 99%, of the Negroes in the Negro community are criminals. And once the White public is convinced that most of the Negro community is a criminal element, then this automatically paves the way for the police to move into the Negro  community, exercising Gestapo tactics stopping any Black man who is in this… on the sidewalk, whether he is guilty or whether he is innocent.

2020

Donald Trump calls it the “Fake” news.  It is not fake news.  It is exploitative news.  It is sensationalist news.  It is news designed to sell newspapers that are full of advertisements.  The newspapers today as they have always been are on the side of so-called “law and order.” Without order, they cannot sell their newspapers.  Newspapers are owned by billionaires who cherish order and predictability above all else.  Chaos is not good for newspapers unless it can be turned into a story.  A Black murder is not news.  A White murder is news.  A Black woman raped or abducted is not news.  A White woman raped or abducted will be headlines for several days.

Amadou Diallo (23) “Mom, I’m going to college.”  February 4, 1999

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1962 – Malcolm X

Once the police have convinced the White public that the so-called Negro community is a criminal element, they can go in and question, brutalize, murder, unarmed innocent Negroes and the White public is gullible enough to back them up. This makes the Negro community a police state. This makes the Negro neighborhood a police state. It’s the most heavily patrolled. It has more police in it than any other neighborhood, yet it has more crime in it than any other neighborhood. How can you have more cops and more crime?

2020

How many Black people do you know who live in a gated community?  A Black person entering a gated community takes their lives in their own hands.  White people fleeing from the media’s obsession with crime, rape, mayhem, serial killers, home invasions have taken to gated communities like ducks to water.  If you can’t afford a gated community, then you join the NRA and stockpile ammunition and firearms.  If you are White, you never know when the Black folks will stage an uprising and come in to take your silverware or your blond wife.

Trayvon Martin (17) “What are you following me for?”  February 26, 2012  

Trayvon Martin Dead 

1962 – Malcolm X

There’s no case against the Muslims. It has no case against these brothers whom they shot down. And because it has no case, it’s trying to create a case. It’s trying to manufacture a case. And therefore they set up a grand jury hearing of the case so that they could hear it behind closed doors, and after hearing what we have to say then they’ll… their particular strategy or defense against the actions that they committed on that April the 27th.

2020

Whether or not there is a case seldom seems to matter.  How many times have we seen “Grand Juries” ignore evidence and let the perpetrators off Scott free?  Every time I hear of a Grand Jury taking a case in hand, I assume no charges will be brought against the offenders if the victim was Black.  I am not sure how they pick Grand Juries but if a deck of cards always turned up aces for the other side, you would sure as hell know it was a crooked deck.

“Ferguson grand jury props up a rotten, racist system.” – December 2014

“In Breonna Taylor grand jury decision, Berkeley scholars see grave racial injustice.” – September 23, 2020

“The Persistence of Discrimination in Jury Selection”June 2018

Kimani Gray (16) “Please don’t let me die.”  March 9, 2013

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1962 – Malcolm X

He told the brother; ‘Put down your hands.’ Brother was talking, he’s not a criminal. A man has a right on the sidewalk to talk with his hands. ‘Put down your hands, don’t talk with your hands.’ And when the brother continued to gesture with his hands the Officer grabbed his hand, twisted it around, ’round behind his back flung him up against the car and then that’s when hell broke loose. That was when hell broke loose. A struggle ensued; shots were fired by the police.

Breonna Taylor a 26-year-old African American woman was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, 2020.  She was asleep with her boyfriend when the police burst into her apartment at 12:40 a.m.  Police fired 32 shots supposedly in self-defense wounding Breonna’s boyfriend and killing an unarmed Breonna.  Even on the face of it, consider what everyone admits happened and ask yourself “Does it sound logical, shooting into a dark apartment at night over thirty times?”

Police need to defend themselves when threatened and should use reasonable force to do so.  However, putting yourself into a situation where violence is likely to occur (consider how many White gun owners would not draw a gun should anyone suddenly burst into their house) and then claiming self-defense is not only disingenuous but it is the height of stupidity.  In such a situation with bullets flying everywhere and only thin walls separating apartments, the police endangered innocent people and killed a woman against whom they had no charges.

Breonna Taylor (26) “Who’s there.”  March 13, 2020

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1962 – Malcolm X

And two of the brothers who were shot in the back were telling me that as they lay on the sidewalk, they were holding hands. They held hands with each other saying Allahu Akbar. And the blood was seeping out of them where the police bullets had torn into their insides. Still, they said Allahu Akbar and the police came and kicked them in the head. Police kicked them in the head telling them to shut up that noise while they were laying on the sidewalk in front of our temple. Kicked them in the head. Shut up that noise.

2020

George Floyd lay in the Minneapolis street under the knees of a police officer.  The officer’s knees cutting off the ability of George to take a breath.  The plight of George was ignored by two other officers who stood by while George was strangled to death by their lead officer.  George was stopped for possibly possessing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.

A week ago I was in a Circle K gas station in Arizona when one of the men standing just ahead of me in line mentioned that he had been given a counterfeit ten-dollar bill in another Circle K a few days ago.  He had decided to use it at this Circle K.  I guess he figured that they gave it to him, so they deserved it back.  Anyway, the clerk saw that it was counterfeit and declined to take it.  I was standing just behind him with my wife Karen and I asked to see the phony bill.  For the life of me, I could not tell it from a real ten.  The guy did not seem bothered and laughed it off.  No police were called.  No harm done.  No need to kill anyone.  No major counterfeiters at the Circle K.

If you have the stomach, watch the video below of the death of George Floyd.  Let me know if you can remember the last time a White man died like this.

George Floyd (46) “Mama! Mama!” May 25, 2020

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lirHz93qJ50&bpctr=1605987468

1962 – Malcolm X

We are oppressed. We are exploited. We are downtrodden. We are denied, not only civil rights, but even human rights. So, the only way we’re going to get some of this oppression and exploitation away from us, or aside from us is come together against the common enemy.

2020

We are experiencing an unprecedented acknowledgement of the systemic racism and White privilege that permeates our police departments, courts, prisons, and entire criminal justice system including juries, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.  Millions of people who once seemed blind to the overt discrimination that exists in American society towards minorities have now become “Woke.”  Once you become mindful of something, you can never go back.

Nevertheless, there are at least as many people in America who still deny that racism exists and who still see Black Lives Matter advocates as terrorists and criminals.  A new chapter in the history of civil rights in America has been engaged and only time will tell where it will lead.  The one thing I am sure of (beyond a shadow of a doubt) is that the words and life of Malcom X still ring down the halls of time with an unbelievable power to skewer and penetrate the hypocrisy of American society.  We must continue to move beyond the denial that allows deaths like George Floyd’s to happen on a regular basis in Black and minority communities.

“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” – Malcom X

P.S.

Two days after I wrote the above blog, I purchased a copy of the Arizona Republic newspaper.  I found a very disturbing article in it called “When Police Dogs Bite, No One is Accountable.”  It was written by A. VanSickle, C. Stephens, R. Martin, D.Brozost-Kelleher and A. Fan.  The date of the article was Sunday, November 22, 2020.  It concerned an investigation into the use and abuse of police dogs.  It was based on research sponsored by the Marshall Project and titled “Mauled, When Police Dogs Bite.”  The Marshall Project is a non-profit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.  The following is an excerpt from the newspaper which I think you will notice reflects on my above blog.

“Investigations into the police departments of Ferguson, Missouri and Los Angeles, California found that police dogs bit non-White people almost exclusively.  Police dog bites sent roughly 3,600 Americans to emergency rooms every year from 2005 to 2013 according to a recent study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, almost all were men, and Black men were overrepresented.”  

Lest you think that most of the people bitten were hardened criminals who deserved it, the study found the contrary.  Most people bitten were unarmed and accosted for NON-Violent crimes like jay walking, problems with license plates, even a man looking for a lost cat.

Character, Culture and Race:  From a White Perspective

What do character, culture and race have to do with each other?  That is the subject of my blog this week.  I believe that each of these concepts is not well understood by people in America or in any other country for that matter.  There is a science to understanding these concepts but there is also an art that comes from experience and living.  Both science and experience are necessary to understand each concept and their relationship to each other.  Since my experience can only come from where I stand, I note that I stand as a white, USA born, male in the early 21st Century.  Standing anywhere else would no doubt give me a different experience and a different perspective on these ideas.  Let me start with first defining what the term Character means to me.  I am going to give you my take and not Webster’s dictionary definition.

Character:

I think there are four major elements of character.  I believe these are: integrity, wisdom, tolerance, and courage.  Integrity is standing up for what one believes.  Integrity is the opposite of sycophancy.  Sycophants go along imageswith someone for an underlying motive or future advantage that they hope will accrue for their fawning behavior.  People with integrity do what they believe is right whether or not any advantage will accrue from their efforts.  People with integrity are consistent in their stated ideas and do not read the polls to see which way public opinion is blowing. 

It has been said that: “Knowledge helps you to make a living while wisdom helps you to make a life.”  Wisdom is the ability to as Father Sthokal would have said “Exercise discernment.”  The Greeks would have said that wisdom is the ability to exercise the Golden Mean.  The ability to live life in moderation and not to be seduced by extremes or excesses.  Many a smart people there are who you know are very stupid.  I see college professors who can see no further than the myopia induced by their academic disciplines.  Thus, they see everything through only one lens. 

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A favorite quote of mine respecting tolerance and courage states that:  “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.  The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.” — Ralph W. Sockman.  It takes real courage to stand up for what you believe when everyone is against you.  In the USA today, it takes courage to stand up for immigrants and poor people.  The greed in American life has prejudiced so many people who mistakenly believe that the poor and needy are taking their jobs or money away.  People are afraid to speak out because they are afraid that they will be labeled as Un-American. 

downloadTolerance is the willingness to respect and stand up for someone when you are in the majority and they are in the minority.  Difficult it is to speak out against your peers and tribe.  When someone has an idea that does not fit with the normal conception, the tolerant person will try to hear them out.  Tolerant people respect those with seemingly strange and weird or wild ideas.  The tolerant person does not say “That is crazy or that is a stupid idea.”  A recent example I think that shows both tolerance and courage is the song by Tyler Childers – “Long Violent History.”  You don’t hear many country singers supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or speaking out against racism. 

Character is not limited to any race, religion, culture, nation, or ethnicity

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Culture:

When I met my current wife Karen, she had an adopted Korean daughter.  Susan or Lee Hei Sook was six years old when Karen went though the procedures to adopt her.  She was an orphan who did know where her mom and dad were.  Many years later when Susan was out of college and expecting her second child she decided to search for her birth mother.  Through her amazing efforts, Susan was able to find both her birth mother and birth father.  I was fortunate enough to travel with Susan and Karen to Korea to meet both of them.  They had been divorced for many years and the story of Susan’s being sent to an orphanage would require a blog of its own. 

What is remarkable about the above story for me is Karen’s effort to help Susan retain her culture, heritage and language and even support her efforts to find her birth mother.  Karen cooked Korean food for Susan, sent Susan to Korean Camp each summer and learned how to eat with chopsticks.  Too many people in the USA believe that culture must be abandoned and that being having an ethnic or cultural identify is incompatible with being patriotic.  I know many of my generation who were not taught their parents’ language since there was a strong drive to become assimilated by many immigrants.  To desire to learn Korean would strike many of the “Greatest Generation” as a useless activity.  It did not strike my wife Karen this way.

Many older and younger people feel that our American culture is the best culture and that immigrants must discard other cultural affiliations in order to become assimilated.  The holy grail for Black people (at least as indicated by many white people) is something called integration.  This basically means abandoning any idea of “Blackness” and becoming as white as possible.  The same holy grail of assimilation or integration was foisted on many Native Americans.  Indians were forced to attend white “culture” schools and were not allowed to practice their native languages or wear indigenous clothing.  This rejection of culture has led to a considerable degree of prejudice and outright racism in the USA.  Witness the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. 

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What is culture?  Culture is a universal phenomenon.  There is no such thing as not having a cultural identify.  Culture is forged for every living human being regardless of where they live.  Culture is the norms, habits, rituals, protocols, traditions, and beliefs of a group that you identify with.  Everyone has a culture.  Even hermits develop a culture based on their habits and ideology.  Gangs, tribes, schools, companies, organizations, ethnic groups, countries, nationalities, and any group with a set of shared norms and patterns develops its own unique culture.  I grew up with an Italian father and a mixed Irish-German mother.  I always lived in an Italian neighborhood when I was growing up.  I never learned to speak Italian, but I learned many Italian swear words.  I hung around with a gang who were mostly Italians.  My family had one culture.  My gang had another culture. 

I went into the United States Air Force when I was 18 years old.  The Air Force had its own culture.  The Army had its own culture.  I would guess there is not a person on the face of the earth who does not belong to more than one culture.  I would bet that most of us can identify with many cultures.  Thus, the term “cultural appropriation” is rather quixotic in many ways.  On the one hand, people might feel flattered that you want to merge symbols of their culture in your own traditions.  However, many other groups feel insulted and abused by such appropriation.  I can understand Indians who think that white people have no right to acquire their culture.  When your culture has been denigrated by the majority group and you have been maligned for trying to practice your culture, outrage against any outside group using your cultural icons for profit or fame would be a normal reaction.

Belonging to more than one culture does not necessarily mean that you should or must give up your identification with another culture.  Culture is a grounding for humans.  Culture helps us navigate life by adopting behaviors and norms that will help us fit in.  Culture is a means to share life with others.  As a veteran, I have many stories and fond memories of times spent with men whom I initially had nothing in common with.  Yet years later, I still enjoy meeting with veterans because we share so many of the same experiences concerning life in the military. 

“Culture does not make people.  People make culture.  If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”  — ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

Race:

What is race?  Scientists say that there is no such thing as race.  How can this be?  Employment applications, loan applications, credit card applications and hundreds of other official documents include demographic questions where you must identify yourself as Black, White, Native America, Asian American, Latino and sometimes Other.  Black people identify with Black people as members of a common race.  The same is true for Caucasians, Indians, Latinos and Asians.  If there is no “race” how can there be “racism”?  Yet, the concept of “racism” is enshrined in laws both for and against “racism.”  If there is no race, why do I see people of different colors and backgrounds who have common acceptance of the idea that they are different from me.”  What can we attribute these different physical characteristics to if not race?

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“Researchers who have since looked at people at the genetic level now say that the whole category of race is misconceived.  Indeed, when scientists set out to assemble the first complete human genome, which was a composite of several individuals, they deliberately gathered samples from people who self-identified as members of different races.  In June 2000, when the results were announced at a White House ceremony, Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, observed, “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.”  — National Geographic, Elizabeth Kolbert, March 12th, 2018

Most of the world’s citizens outside Africa originally migrated from Africa.  These early immigrants through genetic mutations and adaptation to different environments gradually gained different features.  The most predominant feature being skin color.  Skin color is not uniform throughout the world as we can see in places like India, Southeast Asia, China, South America, and even among the indigenous people in the USA.  Many people with “dark” skin coloring in the world would not say that they were Black or White.  I have been to more than thirty other countries.  I have noticed that “Black” people or people from an African Ancestry are not called African in these countries.  In the USA, we have used the term African-Americans but in Sweden, Africans are not called African-Swedes.  The same is true in many other countries across the globe.  Here in the USA, we seem obsessed with the concept of race.  Evidence shows that the genetic differences between individuals are greater than the genetic differences between the so-called “races.”

A randomly-selected American can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Korean than to a fellow randomly-selected American.  Similarly, a randomly-selected Ethiopian can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Norwegian than to a fellow randomly-selected Ethiopian.  This kind of occurrence is so common that simply comparing the genomes of two people will not help you classify them into what the world currently recognizes as their “race”. — Kristen Hovet, There Is No Such Thing as Race at the Genetic Level

But let’s get down to some common sense and away from science and genetics.  Adolf Hitler said that “Race” mattered more than anything.  Blood and Soil or “Blut und Boden: was a key ideology of the Nazi Party.  Hitler black-people-lynchedbelieved that German blood defined a German race which was superior to other races.  This superiority led to the extermination camps wherein “inferiors” were eliminated.  These inferiors included many people from other “races”, religions, ideologies, and with different physical characteristics.  There was one tribe of Germans and not belonging to this tribe was a potential death sentence.  Hitler set up a pseudo-scientific structure to discriminate between “True Germans” and other inferior “races.”  There never was and never will be a scientific basis for a German race, but this did not stop millions of Germans subscribing to the Nazi ideology of Germanic superiority. 

Conclusions:

prov-12-15If race does not exist but culture exists, what does this mean for group identity?  How strong should group identify be?  Should I sacrifice all for my group and fight to the death for my cultural identify?  What if I believe that my culture is better than your culture?  Could culture become just another banner to wave for those who want to commit acts of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of some perceived differences?  I think this is a distinct possibility and has indeed occurred throughout history.  How then can we have a cultural identify without resorting to racism and discrimination?

I think the solution lies in a hierarchy.  One hierarchy is evil and leads to racism and discrimination as well as genocide and war.  One hierarchy is good and leads to respect, tolerance, acceptance, and harmony among people. 

The Evil hierarchy puts culture, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, patriotism first and character is second. In this hierarchy, the notion of character is not as important as the notion of skin color, ideology, tradition, language, norms, and many other common bases for group acceptance.  You are first and foremost either a member of my group or not.  If you are a member of my group, I will then judge you on the basis of your character.  However, if you are not a member of my group, your character does not matter. You are evil by virtue of being an outsider and as an evil person, you need to be punished. 

The Good hierarchy puts character first and group identify second.  I don’t care if you do belong to my tribe, if you lack character, integrity, and wisdom then I need to deal with you accordingly.  I must of course exercise good character for myself.  I judge you first on your character.  I should also be judged on my character.  If we belong to or have similar tribal, ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological ideas or traditions, so much the better.  However, my relationship to you is based first on your character and only secondarily on which tribe you belong to.  I do not dismiss the importance of tribal or cultural affiliation.  If I am not of your culture or tribe, I will respect, understand and hopefully even be able to share some of your cultural traditions.  Diversity is a means of obtaining knowledge and ideas that can help us all become better than we are.

I will sum up my message here with the following points.

  • Race is a chimera and a substitute for genuine relationships with people
  • Racism is a negative stereotype based on ignorance and bigotry
  • Culture exists and is real. It can define us and allow us to lead more interesting lives
  • Culture if used as a measure of goodness or excellence can lead to prejudice and discrimination
  • Character is the most important criteria for valuing people
  • Tread lightly on all judgements of others

Here I must issue a warning and an extremely strict caveat.  Beware taking the role of judging others on the basis of what you think character means.  I have no doubt that character exists, but I would be very uneasy thinking that I should or could be the ultimate judge of good character or bad character.  Character is a little like quality.  Many say they know it when they see it but defining it can be very elusive.  If someone lies, cheats, steals, robs, rapes, assaults, abuses others or breaks the law, we may well think that they are a bad character.  On the other hand, a person who is honest, truthful, compassionate, and helps others may well be thought of as a good character.  However, time and circumstances may well render judgements made today as inaccurate in the future.  No one has the insight or knowledge to ever know the goodness or badness of another human being fully.

“We don’t care whether you are Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu; all we care is the goodness inside you because only the goodness inside you can make you a good human!” — Mehmet Murat ildan

“We are brothers and sisters not because of the color of our skin but because of what is inside of us.” —- J. Persico

Notes from a Trump Hater and That Includes Trump Supporters.

free-speech-churchillOnce upon a time I had more friends on Facebook.  I had both Democratic friends, Republican Friends and friends who cared not one whit about politics.  Many of all political persuasions were friends who simply wanted to ignore politics.  During the run-up to Trump’s election, I discussed, debated, argued, reasoned and fought with many friends who wanted to support Trump.  The results were not pretty.  Zero changed their minds.  I was angry and frustrated.

I unfriended many Republican friends.  Many unfriended me.  There seemed to be no middle ground.  It was like the Civil War.  You had to choose a side and the outcome was hatred and disdain for people I formerly called friends.  The loss of many former friends (Or were they simply just acquaintances?) has caused a great deal of soul searching on my part.  I realize that I am not alone in this.

I doubt if anyone wants to be labeled as narrow minded and unwilling to listen to the other side of things.  For years, I accepted Republican politics as a counterbalance to some of the extremism of the Democratic party, particularly when it came to social spending.

Of course, the same extravagant spending by the Republicans was always accepted by my Republican friends since it generally went to building a “strong” military.  A military that it was taken for granted would protect us from the evil doers out there that hate democracy.  It was a party that would create a huge monster that was a glutton for military spending and ever more wars to be fought in the name of democracy and free enterprise.

Dietrich

I believe that choosing sides is not just a matter of politics but a matter of integrity.  It is easier when someone is only a “friend”, but it becomes much more difficult when it is your mother, sister or brother.  I realize that many people think I speak out too much.  I am too opinioned.  I voice my ideas and ideology too much, etc., etc.

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” –  Elie Wiesel

Furthermore, there is a certain hypocrisy coming from those who condemn people like me.  It goes like this.

Republican Friend to Me: 

“Why do you have to revile, criticize and make such pejorative remarks about Trump?  About Republican politics etc.  Why do you have to have such a negative attitude?  Do you realize that I am a life long Republican and you ‘hurt’ my feelings?”

Republican Hidden Message: 

Keep your mouth shut and do not speak out.  However, it is okay for people in my party to be racists, bigots, xenophobes, greedy and against policies to help the poor and needy.  We are very polite about this, while you are very obnoxious and impolite.  Hatred is ok if it is polite.

Republican Friend to Me:

“I don’t see why you are so negative.  All you do is complain about the way things are in this country.”

Republican Hidden Message:

I don’t see any problems.  All I see are needs.  We need more prisons.  We need more police.  We need a stronger military.  We need more guns.  We need more walls.  We need more free enterprise.  We need less government.  We need less taxes.

Republican Friend to Me:

“Why can’t you be ‘for’ something rather than against everything.  No one likes anyone who is continually criticizing and complaining about things.”

Republican Hidden Message:

It is okay to screw people, to take things away from people, to make life harder for people, to create a bigger gap between the rich and the poor if you do it without “complaining.”

The way many people speak out against anyone who is willing to stand up for their beliefs reminds me of the song in the play 1776.  In the play, John Adams is continually haranguing his colleagues to get them to agree to rebel against the British.  His efforts are often met with disdain by his erstwhile colleagues.

ADAMS –  Vote yes!

CONGRESS – Oh, for God’s sake, John, sit down!

ADAMS – Good God! Consider yourself fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!

CONGRESS – John, you’re a bore; we’ve heard this before, now for God’s sake, John, sit down!

ADAMS – I say vote yes!

political language

If one is polite about it and not too obnoxious, then racism, sexism and bigotry are tolerable.  Those who protest, those who march and those who speak up are labeled by our polite quiet society as trouble makers, hippies and know nothings.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  – Martin Luther King

There is a challenge implicit here in being a human.  It is a challenge I offer to all my “Friends” to speak out.  Do not ask why I insult and use derogatory remarks against racists and bigots.  We condone evil with our silence and inaction.   Ask why you are not speaking out against the racists and bigot groups that sow hate and discord in our nation.  When have you spoke out against the KKK?  When have you spoken out against the Neo-Nazi groups?  When have you spoken out against those so greedy that they begrudge a dime spent to help the poor and sick?  Do not come to me and tell me to be quiet and to tone down my rhetoric.

the free press

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Jesus had this to say about his beliefs:

“Then his mother and his brothers came but were unable to join him because of the crowd.  He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they wish to see you.’ He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” — Luke 8:19-21.

Maybe, Jesus was trying to tell us that right actions and right thoughts are more important than relationships.

Time for Questions:

Who would be the man/woman with enough courage to give up a friend who was a racist, sexist or bigot?

Life is just beginning.

  1. “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
  2. “Every human must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
  3. “If a person has not discovered something that they will die for, they are not fit to live.”
  4. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  5. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
  6. “The ultimate measure of a human is not where he/she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he/she stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  7. “An individual has not started living until they can rise above the narrow confines of his/her individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
  8. “Anyone who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as those who help to perpetrate it. Those who accept evil without protesting against it is are really cooperating with it.”
  9. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Above quotes are all from the speeches or writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

White Privileged Male

privilege

Once upon a time I was a white privileged male.  I had privileges at home.  I had privileges at school.  I had privileges at the bank.  I had privileges in real estate.  I had privileges at work.  I especially had privileges with women, both black and white.

Then along came the 13th amendment.  Then along came the 19th amendment.  Then along came Brown versus the Board of Education.   Then along came Roe versus Wade.  Then along came Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Long time passing

Where have all my privileges gone?

Long time ago.

stop and check picture

Then along came more and more minorities.  Along came the Mexicans; along came the Chinese; along came the Koreans; along came the Japanese; along came the Vietnamese; along came the Hmong; along came the Sudanese; along came the Iranians; along came the Muslims; along came the Buddhists; along came the Hindus.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Minorities have picked them every one

When will they ever be satisfied?

When will they ever be satisfied?

white privilege card

Then along came 911.  Then along came the terrorists.  Then along came Obamacare. Then along came Occupy Wall Street.  Then along came LGBTQ.  Then along came Black Lives Matter.  Then along came #MeToo.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Women and Gays and Liberals and Arabs

 have picked them every one

When will they ever be satisfied?

When will they ever be satisfied?

colorblind-thought

Now they are coming for the Second Amendment.  They want my guns.  They want to take the rest of my privileges away from me.  But I won’t go down without a battle.

  • When guns are allowed, only outlaws will have guns.
  • Guns don’t kill people, people do.
  • You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.
  • Only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

fear

I need my guns because I am afraid.  My fear breeds self-hatred.  My self-hatred gets turned on others.  I despise the world.  I hate you.  I hate anyone different.  I hate minorities.  I hate women.  I hate liberals.  I hate homosexuals.  I hate those who have more than me.

Where have all my privileges gone?

When will they ever return?

When will they ever return?

Time for Questions:

 What is the golden rule?  Do we apply it to only those people who are like us?  What did Christ mean when he said, “Love everyone, Love your enemies?” Do we practice tolerance and kindness to only people who look like us?  When do we accept others who are different?

Life is just beginning.

 “Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security, and prestige, it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege.” — Steven Biko

 

 

 

Freedom of Expression

I was walking down the street the other day and I saw three White guys beating the heck out of a Black guy.  The Black guy was down on the ground and the three White guys were taking turns pummeling him.  I rushed up and yelled “Stop, what the heck do you guys think you are doing.”  One of the White guys answered “what does it look like, we are beating the shit out of a Black guy.”  “What did he do”, I asked.   “What do you mean what did he do?  “He was being Black” came back the reply.

“Are you guy’s crazy?  You can’t just beat someone up for being Black.”   I retorted.

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The three guys huddled for a minute and finally one of the three (A guy with bright red hair and lots of tattoos) came out of the huddle and took me by the shoulder.  “Look he said, you look like a fairly intelligent guy.”  Two of my friends over there never went to college.  I went for a few years so they nominated me to talk to you. “

“What is there to talk about?  You have no right no beat up on this poor man”, I answered.

“Aahh, that is where you are wrong” said Tattoo Guy.  “We have every right.  In fact, we have a constitutional right to beat him up.”

“Are you serious or trying to kid me, I ask.”

“No I am not kidding” said Tattoo Guy, “I am very serious. It is our constitutional right.”

“OK,” I say, “I will bite, what is the right you think you have?”

“Well” says Tattoo Guy, “have you ever heard of ‘Freedom of Expression.’  The constitution struthays every American citizen has Freedom of Expression.  Thus, we are just expressing our free rights as American citizens to beat up on people we don’t like.”

“I am not sure that is what the Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Expression”, I answer.

“Well, frankly we don’t give a fuck what you think.  Furthermore, if you keep interfering we might just sue you for violating our constitutional rights.”

“Hold on now.  I thought we were having a friendly conversation here.  Now you are threatening to sue me.  On what grounds?” I ask.

I could see Tattoo Guy thinking about my question for a while and then he answered “Well, since you are being so polite about it, we won’t sue you, at least not for now.”

“Wow, thanks” said I.

trump-and-pc“Look, said Tattoo Guy, we voted for Donald Trump and he respects our Freedom of Expression rights.  We are sick and tired of the PC shit you pussies and commies have been spreading in this country for years.  We are tired of watching what we say and do because we might be called rednecks or bigots or even racists.  It’s a new day for America.  We are going to make our country great again.”

“With Donald Trump as president, I can call anyone I want a nigger, kike, frog, wop, dago, spook, wetback, cunt, fag, pussy, greaser, Jap, slope.  It’s my Freedom of Expression” says Tattoo Guy.

“So basically you were sick and tired of having your Freedom of Expression curtailed by anti-hate laws and people who are sick of being insulted because of their color or sex” I asked?

freedom-of-expression“You are more or less on the right track” says Tattoo Guy.  “Used to be you could tell some nigger jokes, put up pinups of nude girls, even grab a few pussies once in a while and no one bothered you.  Then, all this PC stuff started and before you knew it, you had to watch what you said and did.  A White person’s Freedom of Expression went down the drain.  Well, no more PC now.  So can we please get back to beating the shit out of this nigger?”

“What about this man’s Freedom of Expression” I ask.  “Don’t you think he also has some rights?”

“Sure” says Tattoo Guy, “He can say whatever he thinks.  We don’t care.  Just as long as he doesn’t call us rednecks or bigots or racists.”

“That sounds like a double standard” I answer.

“I don’t think so.  You intellectuals think too much.  You need to do more and think less” says Tattoo Guy.

einstein“Well, what if I told you that I had a Glock Model 40 10mm in my pocket and that if you hit this man one more time, I will take it and blow your fucking brains out.  What would you think of that” I replied indignantly.

“That changes the entire nature of our issue here” says Tattoo Guy.  “We respect your Second Amendment rights to own and bear arms and use them in defense of your country and family.  May I ask if this Black Guy is part of your family?”

“Haven’t you ever heard of John Donne” I asks?  “Donne says”:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

“So you are sort of saying that this Black guy here is part of your extended family?” asks Tattoo Guy.

“Exactly,” I reply.

freedom-of-thought

“Well, that’s a horse of a different color then.  If you are related to us because you are White and we are White and he is related to you, even if he is Black, then he is also related to us, which means he is part of our family too.  That’s great, now we have a new brother.  How about if we all go get a beer together?” says Tattoo Guy.

“Sounds like a better idea than beating each other up or my blowing your brains out.  Do you know any good brew pubs?  First round on me” I reply.

Time for Questions:

 Do you think all such stories as mine have a “happy” ending?  What rights do people have not to be insulted or harassed because of their color or sex?  Do you think some rights might supersede other rights?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

  • To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[Shouting] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
    Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials.
    Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
    United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration. 
    Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
  • Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

Freedom of speech does includes the right:

  • Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag).
    West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
  • Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”).
    Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
    Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • To contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns.
    Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  • To advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions).
    Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).
  • To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest).
    Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).

 

 

 

The Inadequacy Paradigm

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Have you ever felt that you were not pretty enough, smart enough, coordinated enough, talented enough, handsome enough, strong enough or fast enough?  If so, you were suffering from the “inadequacy paradigm.”  A paradigm is a model or template for thought or behavior.  Feeling inadequate is one of the major paradigms of American society.  The marketplace wants you to feel inadequate because then they can sell you products and services that will make you feel “ADEQUATE.”

hqdefaultThere are beauty products, breast enhancements, hair implants, plastic surgery, expensive cars, perfume, jewelry, large homes, designer clothes, college degrees and many other products or services designed to help you feel less inadequate and more adequate.  We all want to feel adequate which means we must somehow learn to escape or jettison our inadequacy paradigms.  The marketplace strategy involves spending huge amounts of money on a regular basis to escape the “inadequacy paradigm.”  This strategy is often a failure as money and products cannot provide for real happiness or address some of the cultural biases, prejudices, racism and bigotry that contribute to the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.”Henry A. Wallace

When I was growing up in New York City during the fifties, many of the popular singers were Italian.  There was Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Dion, Dean Martin and many others.  Most of the famous male singers had traditional Italian good looks being tall dark and handsome.  My father (6’ 4” tall) fit this model but my mother was Irish.  I (much to my chagrin) took after my mother.  I was short (5’ 8”) light skinned, brown thin hair with very nondescript looks.  No woman ever looked at me twice in high school.  I did inherit a good brain and cannot attest which side it came from.  Nevertheless, brainy nerdy intellectual guys had no more demand among the attractive high school girls in the fifties and sixties than they do now.  Beauty would seem to always trump brains in our society.

Now there are many different aspects or subdivisions of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  There is a division for Blacks, Latinos, women, disabled, intellectuals, old people and of course poor people.  If you belong to any one or more of these categories there are special rules that will be directed to you to help you feel even more inadequate than average. (Racism and Xenophobia create their own paradigms of inadequacy which go well beyond Madison Avenue but are supplemented by Madison Avenue to a large degree).  As a White male growing up in an Italian neighborhood, my complaints will not doubt seem trivial to individuals in these other “inadequacy categories.”  Let’s look at each group and see if we can perhaps walk a mile in their shoes.  What would it be like if you were in one of these other categories.  Now, one caveat must be shared.  If you are White and rich, you will probably be able to escape the most noticeable effects of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  For rich White folks, money provides a means to ameliorate the more consequential effects of inadequacy.  Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you many other things to make you feel better.

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African Americans:

What is it like growing up Black in America in the 21st Century?  Has years of Affirmative Action, Civil Rights and even a Black President mitigated the effects of the “inadequacy paradigm” for our African American citizens?

I decided to approach a Black man who was walking down my street.  I started to walk towards him and I yelled out “Hey, I need to talk to you.”  He immediately threw up his hands, laid on the ground and starting shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  I hollered out “I am not a cop.”  He got to his feet and said “Sorry, just an instinctive reaction.  How can I help you?”  “Well, I said, I just wanted to ask you what it was like being “Black in America today?”

Brian Lipscomb, IT Professional and Web Programmer/Website Designer

“Once I got off a trolley in downtown Philadelphia and accidentally bumped into an older White woman.  She immediately said “Here! Take my purse! Just don’t hurt me!” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that she thought I was going to rob her.  When walking down the street, if a White woman is walking in my direction, they often cross the street or clutch their purse more tightly as I approach.  I guess I’m numb to it now, because I expect it.  I think that’s the sad part. There is nothing post-racial about our society.  Racism and prejudice have just become more subtle, more nuanced.”

Latinos:

Many Latino people in the USA have been residents since before the Pilgrims arrived.  With the annexation of Mexican Territory after the Mexican American War and the subsequent Gadsden purchase, many former Mexican citizens elected to become American Citizens.  The border between Mexico and the US was porous for many years with much travel back and forth.

Many Mexican Americans have families and friends still living in Mexico.  There has always been a White bias towards Mexican Americans and others from south of the border but recently this bias seems to have escalated.  Part of the reason for this lies in the drug wars but much of it is rooted in a xenophobia directed to Latinos who do not have traditional Northern European customs.   Latinos have become an increasingly larger segment of the population in many Southwestern cities.

But what is it like being a Latino?  We know that with the election of Donald Trump and his talk of building a border wall and deporting “Latino Rapists” that he has fanned the fears of xenophobia common among many Southwestern Whites.  There is no doubt that numerous Latino people residing in the Southwest and other parts of the USA are now uncertain about their future as US citizens.

Brittany Escalera, College Student

“Being born in the United States, I am automatically a citizen.  I am an American.  But according to society, I’m “too” Mexican to be American.  My complexion is too dark to be American.  My dark hair and dark eyes are too Mexican to be American. I’m Mexican, therefore, I can’t be American…. Yet it’s not always just the language barrier that is a struggle, there are constantly stereotypes and racial slurs being put on us everyday.  Being from the south, I had to work extra hard at breaking this.  No not all Mexican’s are illegal.  Sorry Trump, we are not all the criminals, drug dealers and rapists that you claim us to be.”

Women:

Of course, I cannot speak for being a Woman in America.  But I do not have to be female to see that Women must also suffer from the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant pointed out in a recent New York Times op-ed, when male executives speak up, they receive 10% higher competence ratings; when female executives do the same, their ratings from their peers are 14% lower.  Similarly, when male employees offer ideas, they receive higher performance evaluations; when women offer the same ideas, managers’ perceptions of their performance remain unchanged.”  — What’s holding women back?

If the bias in the workplace is not bad enough to insult many women, the bias they face in the home is even worse.  The rates of domestic abuse and rape in American society are shameful.  But perhaps the worse indicator of the “inferiority paradigm” for women lies in the number of women who think they deserve such treatment.

“The cultural acceptance of spousal abuse can be so pervasive that in some countries, large majorities of women say it’s acceptable.  In Rwanda, 96 percent of women say the practice can be justified, according to the World Values Survey.  About two-thirds of women in India and South Africa feel the same way.  The attitude is also held by large shares of women in countries across the religious and cultural spectra — China, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Uzbekistan, to cite a few. 

Even in countries where the vast majority of women don’t approve of spousal abuse, the share that do find it potentially acceptable isn’t exactly tiny.  It’s about 1 in 10 in the U.S. and about 1 in 5 in Germany.”  — Alarming Number Of Women Think Spousal Abuse Is Sometimes OKNURITH AIZENMAN

Many women are now worried in the USA due to the election of a President who openly bragged about his right to grab a women’s “pussy” because he was rich and privileged.  Many of his supporters were men and women who belong to fundamentalist religions that believe women have no place in politics or in the business world and that their only role is to bear children for men.  Thus, after years of battling to achieve equality with men, women now face the prospect of losing many of the hard-earned rights that they fought for and won.

Disabled:

One of my best friends committed suicide about a year ago.  He was a Cerebral Palsy victim who had dedicated his life to helping fight for more rights for disabled people.  He walked crablike and had to use walking sticks to keep his balance.  His head was always cocked at an odd angle due to his disability.  He was two years younger than I was and died at the age of 67.  Brian took his own life because he could fast see a time approaching when he would no longer be able to live on his own.  Brian was a fiercely independent man who struggled to obtain dignity in a society that does not always respect people who are disabled.

I first saw Brian when he would come into the town bakery to buy donuts or for lunch.  I was usually sitting with a bunch of locals who knew Brian and several had gone to school with Brian.  I was uncomfortable with the way they seemed to greet Brian and their response towards him.  It became disagreeable enough to me that I stopped my morning coffee sessions with this group.  Instead, I found a group of people at the library who met for coffee each day.  Brian was among the group at the library and we became good friends.

Brian told me many stories of how he was treated as though he was mentally disabled rather than physically disabled.  On several occasions that we went out together, it was clear that people wanted to avoid dealing with Brian.  For Brian, it must have felt like being a leper.  I am sure that much of the bias towards Brian was not intentionally hateful.  Nevertheless, it still was difficult for Brian to deal with.  Brian wanted to be treated as a normal person and not someone with a disability.  His strong desire to be normal ultimately led to his ending his life.

The following chart shows the changes in employment for disabled people in the USA since 1991.  Notice the “progress” is backwards.

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Intellectuals:

99632_origIf you have not read Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in America Life” I heartily recommend it. I have often joked that the worst discrimination in America seems to be saved for people who think.  Many companies trumpet their desire for “out of the box” thinkers.  This is usually nothing more than a well parroted display of self-deception.  What Human Resources and the company are really looking for is “people who fit in.”  People who are iconoclasts, people who are critical thinkers, people who rock the boat “need not apply here.”

Intellectuals include nerds, free thinkers, geeks and anyone who works with ideas as opposed to building things or throwing things.  Academics are often lumped in with this category since most people assume an academic to be a brilliant thinker.  This is very often a misplaced assumption.  People in the arts including music and theater are often very intellectual but they somehow manage to escape the opprobrium reserved for pure thinkers.

If you think I am exaggerating on the bias that is reserved for intellectuals, you should turn on any right wing talk show like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity and listen to them for a while. It won’t be long before they are attacking commie pinko faggot intellectuals for all the problems in America.

“There is a great superficiality in today’s evangelical world.  Many Bible-believing Christians share the contemporary case for self-gratification, emotionalism, and anti-intellectualism. Many people who believe in the Bible have never read it.” — Gene Edward Veith Jr.

I must mention one of the dumbest stupid-ass TV shows I have ever seen.  It is the epitome of anti-intellectualism in America today.  It is called the “Big Bang Theory.”  It is supposedly about genius and of course the geniuses in this show have Ph.D.’s but absolutely no common sense or interpersonal skills. They are also geeky with no athletic skills and about zero muscle mass on their puny frames.  This show portrays how much of America views intellectuals.

“Our big mistake in modern intellectualism is first and foremost its lack of nuance.  We have made science synonymous with atheism – a presupposed conception and yet, another means to non-sequiturs – and therefore, to a number of enthusiasts determined to go the further, anti-theism.  Hereby let us observe that science has long served best and should be, if none other, the one discipline, if at all possible, free of potential ideology, religious or anti-religious, and/or biased presupposition in order to maintain the authenticity and the reliability of its nature.” —–  Criss Jami

Elderly:

Every so often, my wife and I like to go to a Pow Wow.  I remember one of the first we went to and they had a free dinner for all attendees.  As we stood in line waiting our turn to get up to the food table, a young man came up and said “Oh Elders go to the front of the line.”  I said “I am not a Native American.”  He said “It did not matter” and escorted my wife and I to the front of the line with the other Elders.  Other Pow Wows that I have attended have had a special line for Elders.  I was pretty much blown away by this deference.  It was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated.

Many venues and shops have discounts for seniors or “Senior Days” where food is cheaper or there are discounts for those over fifty-five or sixty.  I am not impressed by these as you and I know it has nothing to do with “respect” for the elderly.  It has more to do with getting more of our money.  Respect for the elderly seems to be dwindling the older I get.

Both my wife and I have noticed that increasingly when we go to a clinic anymore with a health problem such as a sore hip or sore shoulder, we often get responses like “Oh, it is just part of getting old, you will just have to live with it.”  Instead of investigating to see if some our problem might be amenable to treatment, we are simply told to more of less “suck it up.”

“There is also a lack of recognition of the positive contributions that elderly people make to society.  The amount of unpaid childcare provided runs into the tens of billions.  Without this form of labor, fewer parents could work and gain fulfillment in their jobs.  Indeed, as some local authorities have recognized the 60 plus generation offer a huge reservoir of untapped energy for the voluntary sector.”  — Why do we treat elderly people so badly?By Paul Donovan

Poor:

The “poor” otherwise known as lazy, drug addicts, stupid, trailer trash, welfare bums, welfare cheats, handout recipients, bag people, curb people and homeless.  The poor in America are thought by many to be poor by choice and not by chance.  This makes it much easier to denigrate them and to blame them for their poverty.  When someone picks their lifestyle, it is much harder to be sympathetic for the choices they have made.

In 1978, I had finished my Master’s Degree in Counseling and I took a position as a Manpower Counselor II with the State of Wisconsin in the Department of Industry Labor and Human Relations or DILHR as it was known then.  My job entailed working with the WIN or Work Incentive Program to help families who were receiving welfare (AFDC or Aid to Families with Dependent Children) find gainful employment so they could get off Welfare.  I also worked with the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program (IHRAP) and the Labor Education and Advancement Program (LEAP) to help mainly Southeast Asian refugees in the IHRAP program and women and minorities in the LEAP program find jobs.  I worked with several other job training programs as well.  The bottom line of all my programs and effort was to help people find employment by which they would become self-sufficient.

Now there are two interesting points I want to make gleaned from my two years working in these programs with mostly poor and under-privileged people.

  1. None of the programs really went far enough in their benefits or stipends or financial assistance to really help as much as was needed by my clients.

I am not going to say that many benefits were not helpful.  We could offer financial incentives to employers, daycare benefits, transportation help and even some educational benefits.  These were in addition to the monthly welfare checks that many families were receiving.  Nevertheless, the key to getting off welfare was to provide enough education to help the client to break out of the cycle of poverty.  Only education would help those who wanted to climb the proverbial “ladder of opportunity.”  Unfortunately, the ladders that were being provided never seemed to have enough rungs in them.  Whether through stupidity, frugality or simply underestimating what was needed, many people could not get enough help to break out of poverty.

  1. Ninety Percent of my clients wanted to get off Welfare.

There is a pernicious and vicious myth that most people on Welfare like it and want to stay on it.  Nothing, could be further from the truth.  I worked with hundreds of Welfare clients and the clear majority (90 percent or better) wanted to find a good job and become self-sufficient.

Yes, I encountered some Welfare cheats and some Welfare dependent people who had little or no incentive to gain employment and lose their Welfare checks.  However, these were a small minority of the clients that I saw in my two years working with the WIN program.   Even these individuals often had severe handicaps either physically or mentally which would have made holding gainful employment near impossible.  The average person does not realize how many barriers and hardships face some of the poor in this country.

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.Ban Ki-moon

Conclusions:

inadequacy-cropWe have a pervasive problem that I labeled the “Inadequacy Paradigm.”  Much of it is caused by racism, xenophobia, prejudice, stereotypes and bigotry.  The majority of it is systemic and will need major changes in policies and institutions in this country to eliminate.  However, it is felt on a very personal level.  Feelings of inadequacy may be conveyed by others and cultural mores but they are received by an individual who assimilates these feelings into their psyche.  Thus, inadequacy becomes a personal problem and not simply a social problem.  Inadequacy is not “out there” it is right inside.  The vast numbers of suicides in our society are testament to the inadequacy that many of our fellow citizens feel.   This includes Whites as well as minorities.

  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the USA
  • 44,000 people die every year by suicide (2015)
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015.

What can we do to overcome these problems?  Clearly education and social support systems must be developed and deployed.  If we see the problem of inadequacy as something that is “not my problem” nothing will be done.  We have people who refuse to spend one dime of their taxes to help others because of selfishness and greed.  We have many who want to label America as a Christian nation, but they do not practice Christianity.

Any church that does not practice tolerance for the oppressed, charity for the poor and compassion for the needy, regardless of what religion they belong to, should not call themselves a Christian church.  They should call themselves a HATE church.  Hate leads to prejudice and bigotry and these are the primary factors in the Inadequacy Paradigm.  Destroy prejudice and bigotry and we will create a society with many more well-adjusted people.

Time for Questions:

What makes you feel inadequate?  Why?  What do you do about it?  How do you think you could help others who feel inadequate?

Life is just beginning.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew.  I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”  — Hermann Hesse

 

 

Requiem for America:  Our Battle with Fate

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Many of you have no doubt heard the tone poem by Carl Orff titled Carmina Burana.  One of the famous parts of this musical piece is taken from a poem called “O Fortuna.”  It is a Medieval Latin poem written early in the 13th century.  I started thinking about it today as Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  I have never much believed in fate, preferring to think that we are masters of our own destiny and fate be dammed.  But as the inexorable reality of the inauguration kept intruding on my existence, I was forced back to the conclusion that perhaps fortune does rule the world.  (To listen click here O Fortuna)

Like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;
hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power it melts them like ice.

I loathe this Son of a Bitch.  I loathe his values.  I loathe his words.  He represents everything I hate in myself and in humanity.  We keep trying to destroy the racism and fear and prejudice that we are brought up with but fate impels us to confront a world that seems to thrive on such iniquities.  My relatives, my friends, my co-workers —- they voted for this reprobate and now exult in his coronation.  I stand impotently on the sidelines questioning (as many Jews in the Holocaust questioned) why God has deserted us.  Have we committed some grave sin worthy of the future that fate now seems to have assigned us?

Trying against
Fate – monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled you plague me too;
now through the game I bring my bare back to your villainy.

My good intentions.  My desire to be tolerant and virtuous.  My goal to treat others with compassion and kindness all seem to melt in the face of a Fate that decries a monster who will now rule over us.  I hear the voices that say “give him a chance.”  I wonder what chance they want.  A chance to create more greed.  A chance to create more racism.  A chance to create more sexism.  Have we not enough bigotry in this country?  Have we not enough inhumanity towards others?  We created the Atom bomb.  We created the Hydrogen Bomb.  We created weapons of biological and chemical warfare that can destroy millions.  We take no heed whether they kill children or innocents.  We are now all guilty in our incessant warfare.  The only thing that counts is creating more efficient means of murdering people.

Fate is against me in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour without delay pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

I wake up disbelieving that I live in this reality.  I joke that I am in Wonderland and whatever one believes is the reality that exists.  But I did not believe in this reality.  I have done everything that I thought I could to help make the world a better place.  I thought my friends and family and neighbors wanted the same world that I wanted.  It seems clear now that we did not share the same reality.

I curse the fate that has brought our nation to this point.  I curse the people that voted for this Frankenstein.  I curse the party that nominated this abomination.  Deep inside, I wonder what I did to contribute to this horror.  Does my own hate somehow create the fate that I seek to escape from?

Abraham, John, Robert and Martin all dead — killed by that coward called fate.  But let us not forget Jimmie Lee Jackson and Clyde Kennard and Juliette Hampton Morgan and James Reeb and Jonathan Myrick Daniels and Viola Gregg Liuzzo and Vernon Dahmer and Oneal Moore and George Lee and Harriet and Harry Moore.  They also were martyrs.  They also died fighting fate.

Do not believe that the good die young.  The good die pregnant with a dream for a better world.

Time for Questions:

So what is left?  Nihilism?  Apathy?  Hate?  Bitterness?  Resistance?  Fight?  Hope?  Will a dream for a better America arise from the ashes of despair?

Life is just beginning.

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”  —   Booker T. Washington

fortune

I Never Thought

A German who voted for Hitler in 1932 said this after the war:

“I never thought things would turn out this way.  He said he would make our country GREAT again.  I never thought over 60,000,000 people would die in a war.  I never thought that he would torture and murder six million Jews.  I never thought that he would kill over 3 million Slavs and murder 15,000 homosexuals.  I never thought he would euthanize 270,000 disabled people and more than 220,000 Gypsies.  He said he would make our country GREAT again.”

“We were coming out of a great economic crisis.  Jobs were scarce and money was very tight.  He said he would get rid of all the people who were taking our jobs.  He would eliminate the ruling class and get the crooks out of politics.  Jobs for Germans is what he said.  I thought he would make our country GREAT again so I voted for him.”

If I only knew. 

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trump

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rudy

goebbels-big-lie

gingrich

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Time For Questions:

Are you going to support Fascism in America?  Will you fight to protect the rights of minorities, gays, women and immigrants? If not, why do you think you are an American?

Life is Just Beginning. 

Hard to imagine life beginning under a Trump presidency.  But the race is not always to the swiftest.

“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the strong, and neither is bread to the wise nor riches to those of intelligence and understanding nor favor to men of ability; but time and chance overtake them all.” — ECCLESIASTES 9:11

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