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SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN…

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Go home,” the mighty Christians say

from their soapbox of indignities

our taxes too high we need to slay

those who’d deny our vanities

~

Embarrassing ignorance

happily displayed

hatred in torrents

intelligence delayed

~

Maybe it’s the distance

from Emma’s creed

begetting an entranced

and ugly breed

~

“Your tired, your hungry” sentenced to crawl

back to Central America; “Mexico”

while goodness & ignorance resort to brawl

to kindergarten a few will go

~

They will go to your schools

learn your lessons well

they’ll know all  enemy’s rules

that armies were  sent to quell

~

And lo many, many years hence

you’ll stare from old window blind

having forgotten hate’s energy spent

begging beautiful leaders, “please be kind”

~

 Meanwhile:

 The New York Times’

headlines scream

Armies of children

Armed only with dreams

 

gdf 7/17/14

 

 

 

MAYA ANGELOU

MAYA ANGELOU FROM : NEW YORK TIMES, 5/29/14
MAYA ANGELOU
FROM : NEW YORK TIMES, 5/29/14

The mid-70s:

You misunderstood me
Even so – I had not lived long
Enough to be that cynical
Smart-assed insecurity

Youth is so ignorant of skin and time

My regret came too late

You would have none of it
Lightly touching my fingers telling me
“Be well”

Well

I continued my life
A life of wanting
a bit of your light,
respect, and talent

I spread your words in
My classes
Adorning my walls
With your presence
Assigning your life

I remember taking students
To see you
Afterwards waiting
Covered in cowardice
Courage
Shrunken & hiding
Amid my own ego

I have thrown down that
Heavy cross of want
Pitched my emotional tent

Against 3rd world needs of mankind
My needs, in spite of sorrows,
Remain of the first

 
Suffering – true suffering has moved over me
You knew that
The minute I opened my mouth

And now
Your life sails
Dip against the sunset
And the world is suddenly plunged
Dark mourning.
Powerful, phenomenal woman you

Leaving us one last gift:
Knowledge there will be
A dawn of your possession

In a world where lives can be
Lessons or blessings
Yours was both

Be Well — Ms. Angelou

ANGEL IN THE OUTFIELD

Baseball-games-for-kids-Equipment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1998 I was “stuck” with western New York’s equivalent of “The Bad News Bears.” A team no one wanted and I, by default (with a son moving up to majors with his father as coach), was left to coach. I can teach life-saving & water safety classes but baseball? All I could picture was me ducking and flailing comically out of the way of a come-backer that was sure to find my front teeth. If only that were the singular tragedy that season. The following essay won the 1999 New York State Teachers 1st prize for journalism and a lovely (unaccepted) job offer. I repost today after going into town and having lunch by the river treated to sights of youth on the water and the haunting sounds of balls being cracked into the outfield behind me. Happy spring.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It would be wonderful to say “Stevie” came to baseball tryouts that first day and dazzled everyone. He didn’t. Stevie showed little talent for the game. Even when he came to that first practice, when it was so cold he had to alternate throwing drills with time in the heated cab of the truck, he knew he had a ways to go to be as good as some of last year’s minor-leaguers. I didn’t see him for three practices and one game after that. I had forgotten what he looked like.

On the day of our second game this very blond, fragile boy walked into the dugout. I responded with my customary “Excuse me,” which was freighted with suspicious overtones. He slowly turned and spoke his name. Then I was glad to see him, because that only made us shy one player. Even so, I knew we had to borrow a player from our opponent’s bench and I silently kissed the thought of winning good-bye as I saw the little, very little fellow stumbling our way from the other dugout. I looked back at my bench and eagerness engulfed the boys and protected them from the slow rain beginning to fall.

Stevie took his place in the outfield. He was safe. Balls seldom get out that far in the minors. His hitting was lackluster, too, but I did make a mental note to get to the pitching machine first and get in the much needed batting practice for everyone. At batting practice he swung too late, too weak. I began to feel that he was in little league for other reasons. His body was there; arms, legs, and head, but not his heart – that was somewhere else.

Our next game was across town. Stevie was there. He quietly took center field. I remember my frustration as a shallow fly-ball caused him and the other 9-year-olds to stare at such a phenomenon in awe. The next inning Stevie was taking a bathroom break when we started closing the gap despite our weak fielding. It was the fourth inning and Stevie’s turn at bat – no Stevie. I made a mental joke about his bathroom break being a complete stop. After making a substitution, I went to investigate.

I headed around the dugout just in time to meet his mom and dad who were already on their way back with a very shaken little boy. He had been locked in the portable john that sits on the other side of the playground. Turning the ring-shaped latch to the locked position is a common prank, I was told when I complained. I came back to the dugout to see Stevie huddled in the corner shivering in spite of the 75 degree weather. I told him he could get back into the game after this inning, and he looked at me with tears brimming in his large blue eyes and asked if he could sit out the rest of the game. He was different; unlike the others who would probably have shrugged off the incident and jumped at the chance to play. Not Stevie.

I wish I could say I remember what he said when, later, he came out to tell me about something in his life. I remember him standing there happy to have his mom’s sweatshirt on and flapping the over-sized sleeves. I do remember that was the only time I saw him smile.

The last time I saw Stevie was team picture day. I see him clearly, now, next to his mom with his head in her lap as the other Yankees run amok. I see myself, too, cranky as ever, trying to get eleven 9- and 10-year-olds to hold together in line at 6 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon. The remainder of that week is a blur. Just bits and pieces stay afloat; obtuse, emotional flotsam.

The phone call came Friday night from a friend with news of the terrible accident involving a 9-year-old in my valley and concern that my son be affected by the news. I heard the name, last name only, so many out there it can’t be THE one. I remember my call to the hospital, and the surprise of the emergency room nurse and her emphatic “No!” when I asked if anyone of that name had come in this afternoon. I waited, hoping against hope and losing track of time. I made a promise to myself to hug Stevie the next day at our game. I went to bed thinking of how I was going to explain the hug and special attention. At 11:30 that night the call came. I wouldn’t have to explain. Stevie was dead … killed when a tractor-mounted mower backed over him. I thought of his fragile body. My dreams that short night ended with the sight of Stevie huddled in the corner of the dugout, shivering from the pain and fear of the dark. I cried most of the day – for Stevie, his mom and dad, his brother, for me and every time I made a call to tell the other team parents of our canceled game and the reason.

I met with my team the following Monday. With Tuesday being a game day, I could not go on with life as usual until there was some acknowledgment with the team of Stevie’s tragedy. A counselor, friend and colleague offered to come and speak to the team and possibly help them with grief. I should be used to this grief. But I am not. So, I could only hope that my friend could do for my team what she did for me that Saturday when I called desperately needing comfort and help.

My team was there, and as we sought the cool shade around the practice field, I knew things would be OK. The tentative smiles of the kids and the smiles strained with sadness of the moms and dads spoke of the need to “DO” and the tools with which to accomplish this task. My friend was wonderful, beautiful in her approach. She came with handouts: “How Tos: for parents who deal with children and tragedy.” Grateful, parents snapped up the papers as they listened to their young suggest ideas for a personal memorial to their teammate. Adult tears were ever-brimming as it became apparent these young people were taking that important first step in grief management. They had been given a platform from which to address their sorrow. Plans were set; the stage would be taken, exits would be made and, however sadly, life would move on.

Stevie’s funeral was 11 o’clock that Tuesday morning. Tuesday evening found the ballpark full of parents and players alike, hearts heavy with the knowledge of why the flag was at half-staff. The ceremony began. The stadium announcer proclaimed the game dedicated to the memory of Stevie and invited all the little leaguers in the park to come to the ballfield. A hat and jersey with Stevie’s number was placed at home plate. Someone on the team said “… Stevie’s home now.” The pledge was spoken as two team members unfolded a banner reading “Angels like you are precious and few.” A brand new bat engraved with Stevie’s number was presented to the team. And finally, the messages taped to helium balloons held in the right hand of each team member were released on the count of “1, 2, 3 STEVIE.” A song was playing: “… if I am not there in the morning … remember me …” My team’s faces were shiny with tears, yet held high and smiling at the sight of a dozen Yankee-blue balloons moving further and further into the stratosphere. I looked at my son, and the sons and daughters of others and I beheld a beauty indescribable.

Oh, if life could imitate art we would have seen, that radiant Tuesday evening, Stevie, receiving his wings in some heavenly arena flooded with light. Even as we left a hole in our lineup indicating no player (visible) in center field, we should have known we would win. Fly-balls – shallow or deep, it didn’t matter – hung in the air, giving my team all the “awe-time” they needed before, yes, God willing, Stevie caught the ball.

NOTHING COLD CAN STAY

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Today it will not be 60 degrees

A headline ripped from the

Tabloid of terrible weather

 

Hard to stay current in cold

Trying – even with chilly headlines

From the Gray Lady

Words in search of life beneath

Storm-gray water, brown mud that has

Rolled over unsuspecting souls with

Other places to be

 

All engaged in the struggle for

What was…

Blinking in disbelief at the instant of

What is …

And no clue as to

What shall be…

 

And the headlines

With their harsh reality prove

All the truth a soul can bear

 

Get up!

 

Stop flopping around

On that dirt floor of self

Screaming at the injustice

 

As if

Nature’s earth-shaking,

Watery bells

Are ringing the catastrophe

Of fear and suspicion for the first time

 

Get up

And do something

 

Eugene Feldman: 1921 – 2014

Dad at dinner closeMy father-in-law

 Lucidity – blinking and broken

Has declared his life a night

A forgotten dimension

So fast

Where did it go?

92 years inside

The forest of human travel

Following the script

Of human hand

The hand that sent him to war

To love

To fatherhood

To the hearts of those

Who would wash his sluggish body

Wrinkled, tissue depleted

Immobilized by an angry destiny

And landscapes of untold design

And still he wondered why?

As the answer awaited at the forest’s rim

Where the path – well- trodden

Called – he is moving there now

Beyond that forest

To the open sky-filled field

Where the flowers will wildly bloom

In the spring of his step

Steps – light and inoffensive – like him

A child in this fractal world

Enfolding unto himself

Even as Nature reclaims him

Her son

Guiding him on that path

Swaddled in linen

Looking ahead in painless

Expectation

Freedom from Bondage and FEAR

 Intelligence favors the truth

                                                         

Below is a piece written by writer and editor Hamden Rice  HamdenRice – Daily Kos.  Because I aspire to write with such passion and presence I do not want to let Rice’s post get too far away from me. He depicts, with pinpoint accuracy, my beliefs after my first year of college (and my cursory reading of Hailey’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X) when I too came home believing I had it all figured out; what it meant to be black in 1970 and just what we had to do to achieve the personal manifest destiny of which we were so brutally robbed. I reprint Rice’s post as it appeared in the Daily Kos  (as many have done before me) in its entirety for my WordPress followers.  –  gdf

                                    ∞∞∞∞

 

Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did

– Hamden Rice

 

This will be a very short diary. It will not contain any links or any scholarly references. It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective.

The topic at hand is what Martin Luther King actually did, what it was that he actually accomplished.

What most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.

Head below the fold to read about what Martin Luther King, Jr. actually did.

I remember that many years ago, when I was a smartass home from first year of college, I was standing in the kitchen arguing with my father. My head was full of newly discovered political ideologies and Black Nationalism, and I had just read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, probably for the second time.

A bit of context. My father was from a background, which if we were talking about Europe or Latin America, we would call, “peasant” origin, although he had risen solidly into the working-middle class. He was from rural Virginia and his parents had been tobacco farmers. I spent two weeks or so every summer on the farm of my grandmother and step-grandfather. They had no running water, no gas, a wood burning stove, no bathtubs or toilets but an outhouse, potbelly stoves for heat in the winter, a giant wood pile, a smoke house where hams and bacon hung, chickens, pigs, semi wild housecats that lived outdoors, no tractor or car, but an old plow horse and plows and other horse drawn implements, and electricity only after I was about 8 years old. The area did not have high schools for blacks and my father went as far as the seventh grade in a one-room schoolhouse. All four of his grandparents, whom he had known as a child, had been born slaves. It was mainly because of World War II and urbanization that my father left that life.  They lived in a valley or hollow or “holler” in which all the landowners and tenants were black. In the morning if you wanted to talk to cousin Taft, you would walk down to behind the outhouse and yell across the valley, “Heeeyyyy Taaaaft,” and you could see him far, far in the distance, come out of his cabin and yell back.

On the one hand, this was a pleasant situation because they lived in isolation from white people. On the other hand, they did have to leave the valley to go to town where all the rigid rules of Jim Crow applied. By the time I was little, my people had been in this country for six generations (going back, according to oral rendering of our genealogy, to Africa Jones and Mama Suki), much more under slavery than under freedom, and all of it under some form of racial terrorism, which had inculcated many humiliating behavior patterns.

Anyway, that’s background. I think we were kind of typical as African Americans in the pre-civil rights era went.

So anyway, I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.

I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”

Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.

At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.

My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”

Please let this sink in and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.

But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.

He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.

I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing The Help, may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the Midwest and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.

It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.

You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.

This constant low-level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty. With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which could be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”

This is going to sound awful and perhaps a stain on my late father’s memory, but when I was little, before the civil rights movement, my father taught me many, many humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people. The one I remember most is that when walking down the street in New York City side by side, hand in hand with my hero-father, if a white woman approached on the same sidewalk, I was to take off my hat and walk behind my father, because he had been taught in the south that black males for some reason were supposed to walk single file in the presence of any white lady.

This was just one of many humiliating practices we were taught to prevent white people from going berserk.

I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparents’ vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank. They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness. My strong, valiant, self-educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men. Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict. Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.

This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.

If you didn’t get taught such things, let alone experience them, I caution you against invoking the memory of Dr. King as though he belongs exclusively to you and not primarily to African Americans.

The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn’t do it alone.

(Of all the other civil rights leaders who helped Dr. King end this reign of terror, I think the most under appreciated is James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was a leader of nonviolent resistance, and taught the practices of nonviolent resistance.)

So what did they do?

They told us: Whatever you are most afraid of doing vis-a-vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.

Go ahead sit at that lunch counter. Sue the local school board. All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.

If we do it all together, we’ll be okay.

They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.

And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad.

Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicced on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?

These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.

That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep-throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.

Please let this sink in. It wasn’t marches or speeches. It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.

So yes, Dr. King had many other goals, many other more transcendent, non-racial, policy goals, goals that apply to white people too, like ending poverty, reducing the war-like aspects of our foreign policy, promoting the New Deal goal of universal employment, and so on. But his main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears. So please don’t tell me that Martin Luther King’s dream has not been achieved, unless you knew what racial terrorism was like back then and can make a convincing case you still feel it today. If you did not go through that transition, you’re not qualified to say that the dream was not accomplished.

That is what Dr. King did—not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives.

Once the beating was over, we were free.

It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us. It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid. So, sorry Mrs. Clinton, as much as I admire you, you were wrong on this one. Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO HAMDENRICE ON MON AUG 29, 2011 AT 08:24 AM PDT.

HamdenRice

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This Much I Know is True: My Last Day of 2013

images-3On this last day of 2013 I am weary of new year’s resolutions – you know those promises we make to ourselves that have a shelf-life of twenty minutes – sixty if I’m lucky. I awoke this morning considering the flexibility of certainty – the same type of certainty that has always been ascribed to death and taxes.

What follows are the few things that have proven true – for me in 2013.

What I know:

I know that I expect decency in ostensibly educated people and am sorely disappointed when  decency becomes a foreign country these individuals are afraid to visit. And one would think that after a few years of this forehead-slapping frustration I would know better but…

I know that truth is an illusive landscape that when strung together with imaginative prose can provide cascades of honesty regarding the human condition. I’m sure it’s called good fiction and until I am told differently I’ll go with that.

I know that memory can be resistant to logic. A sweltering  heat can rise from this terrain erasing any tragedy in the offing. Reality is the thief; the mugger in the dark, “hand over your memories and no one gets hurt.”

I know that as tragedy strikes good friends, I am left  in awe of the strength that can reside in the human heart. A heart so rent with grief that one fears for the possessor of this roughed-up organ. But no, it is as if internal forces dedicated to battle appear overnight  to slay grief in its cradle.   

I know I will never sing as well as I’d like to. I have a lovely, talented friend from high school who possesses a beautiful, forceful voice. She has sung her way around the world and now for reasons (she believes) stronger than her voice she says she will not sing again. This makes me sad. I am one who has had many dreams of opening my mouth and having some beautiful, if not tuneful, music exit.  I used to like the idea of karaoke  but I’m afraid of being seen as part of the legion of the sad, unfulfilled and lonely lip-synchers  moaning about lost loves, chances, and continence.

I know that youth is what sticks even when we go unrecognized at our reunions.

I know that a good memory can be a serious design flaw

I know now that some song lyrics mean different things depending on the amount wine ingested. 

I know that some songs only make sense after three glasses of wine which is too bad when two glasses is all one can tolerate.

I know there are drinks (famous writers/drinkers of hard liquor have told me) one can order by fingers –  like ordering two fingers of desire to open one’s emotional house, a brief and tragic three dimensional cut-a-way: here I am at my desk, that’s me tossing and turning in my stone sleep, there I am turned away from prying eyes – my face unrecognizable – even by those who love me. Wine is my vehicle of choice as I search under the weight of desire?

I know that living in the past can be an addiction; the monkey on one’s back that pushes us beyond mirrors and reality; that cruel beast that wraps his hand around the slender stem of that third glass of moscato – too sweet to do any good.

And lastly –

I know too that, even as it seems our souls are sewn from the same cloth, they are held together with a mere thread of memories; a heartbreaking slight-of-hand that can bind us to decency or doom.

Have a wonderfully truthful 2014

AN OUNCE OF KINDNESS – PLEASE?

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Today is October 2, 2013. This country is in its second day of a government shutdown because a group of grown individuals, elected to represent the people and uphold the laws of this country, are unable to get beyond the “kindergarten sandbox” politics that adheres to the time-honored tradition  of, if I don’t get my way, I’m going to hold my breath. Well, these people are actually holding the financial breath of us all – they are still getting paid as opposed to the more than a million citizens who are not.

But I am writing to make another point – even as the above has acted as the catalyst for this point.  I have been astounded at the vitriol and mean-spirited attacks by young adults on others less fortunate. A former student set off a FaceBook barrage of meanness when she called individuals on welfare cheats and lazy. There were other choice adjectives thrown in this tirade but one gets the point – even without the expletives. First I have to say this former student is a long-standing hero of mine. She was and remains (for me) the only high school girl to try out for the football team. She fought hard, very hard at the heavily padded sports wall set up between genders. I was privy to some of her thoughts on afternoons when she would stop by my classroom before practice flushed with excitement even as she showed me her bruises up and down her back and rib cage. Initially, like most competitive individuals, she was proud of the black and blue proof of her rugged spirit; this was a test and she was, if not succeeding magnificently, going the distance.  My heart burst with pride for her. She was the daughter I wanted – standing toe-to-toe with the sport-dominant gender and holding her own.  Then one day she came to my room saddened, believing her desire to quit the unnatural abuse that was heaped upon her (I am sure to teach her that her place was on the sidelines and not on the field) meant she had, somehow, betrayed her gender. My heart broke even as we sat and discussed where she might best put her future energies. Girls’ lacrosse became her next goal as she put together a winning team of young women as beautiful and rugged as she. Needless to say, I was surprised to read a post of such insensitivity from her. I made my comments and also responded to another poster who happily spouted astoundingly ugly comments about people forced to live in poverty. I guess my mistake was suggesting this person not call herself a Christian. I was bombarded with her anger and her telling me, “You don’t know me.” She was right; I didn’t know her life – any more than she knew the lives of the majority of people on public assistance – the ones she so blithely castigated.  I sat back and wondered how such meanness could have taken space in the hearts of my s/hero and her friend. Surely it was not learned in any of the literature I selected for students – literature that pointed to the beauty of diversity by showing no one group is ALL anything. Stereotyping is discrimination plain and simple.

Later, I came to realize that what is going on in our nation’s capitol has spread like jelly from a sloppily made sandwich. These young people have bought into the idea that all of their problems begin and end with those whom they accuse of ‘gaming ’ the system.  Oh their qualm is not with those who game the system on the high-end; they are, in fact, the perpetrators of the myth. More money is lobbied and directed into programs that benefit only a few. The one per-cent of this country has never, ever in the history of the republic been richer.  Money makes a formidable opponent. I see evidence of this every day in the front page of the Times. On the other hand, weakness is easier to denigrate and exploit and believing one’s problems lie with those who live in poverty is easier than fighting congress. Poverty makes a sweet target, like hungry children and education.

It seems I have been on a quest the last few years to find the root-source of hatred. No, we are not born hateful, warring, abusive people. These lessons – most under the guise of human Intel – happen by passing on messages that should inform future generations.  From my Brief History of Mankind course I’ve learned that it was man’s ability to hold independent ideas or symbols in his head and discuss things or concepts that could not be touched or seen that moved us to the upper ranks of the food chain. Before this we were running down our food as we needed, feeding, housing, and caring for our clan – ensuring posterity. We had no heft, claws, teeth or venom to protect ourselves.  Initially I assumed opposable thumbs were the reason for human success but today’s caged apes tell a different story.  And the story is the key. The idea of gossip – yes, according to professor Hahrari, it is gossip that saved our bacon. The ability to discuss and create stories of potential allies or enemies along with early man’s propensity for caring for the group, the community – each other – is what helped us mount the ladder of dominance.  Without the kindness of caring – we would not be having this discussion.  I came away from that lesson believing the person who governs the ‘story’ is the one who can, for good or ill, dominate the culture. 

Today, we are living in a culture dominated by meanness. We vicariously root for the anti-hero in our stories because he is given something to hate, avenge and destroy. Meanness is good as long as it’s directed at _____________ (fill in the blank).  Today’s politicians have masterfully promoted the story of meanness – a story even they would have to admit, on their kindest day, (in church maybe?) has no validity. And while the heads of those young adults who buy into the ‘story’ are turned away in a manufactured self-righteousness, they are being robbed of something so very dear and yet so simple as to be overlooked. They are being robbed of opportunity to witness caring for others and their future.  Our future.

My young friend messaged me this morning (this second day of this government shutdown) apologizing for the storm caused by her post. I had to remind her that I too was once young and rigid. I told my friend of the time I was complaining about poor people on the streets of Los Angeles and how they “smell.”  My gentle, southern-born grandmother held up a preemptive hand – cutting me off with an unusual sternness, saying, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”    

Losing My Family: A Play in Three Acts

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ACT I   –  SILLY LITTLE GIRL

(May 2013)

 I just got your e-mail, two weeks before commending your step-father’s ashes to the ocean.  I say e-mail but knife is the better descriptor because it sliced me up nicely. It would have gotten you an ‘A’ in a Benihana school of knifery; so precise around the edges but dense and delusional at the center where the truth certainly lies – waiting for reinforcements.

 Calling you delusional is my only accusation to fling – as I watch you unwilling to turn your wasted unicorn around. I am hoping you are smart enough to study the landscape and choose another more soul-soothing direction. But no, it is so much easier for you sit, blocked by the four walls of your 40 + years of emotional poverty and blame me. 

I want to tell you that success is a terrible, terrible thing to achieve in a miserable family such as ours. It  goes back to a mother (your grandmother) who held her six candles burning at both ends in her own need for love and survival. She was a mother who fought long and hard for the protection of her family. I used to think that is why she so fancied the acrylic nails because they covered the blood-stained natural nails worked to the quick with responsibility. And towards the end even she would admit to parental failings. Even so, I suppose I always felt loved – even if I had to fight for it.  Feeling loved was enough – should have been enough for all of us. And, my niece,  I honestly thought if I  took you under my roof, held you close when you needed, showed you the world (as much as a 27 year-old aunt could anyway), point to a future of hope  that you would come to see these deeds wrapped in a package labeled LOVE.  Now I see, for you, that package never arrived. My love was not enough.  I am not that naïve to believe ours is a family unique; in  happiness all families are alike. It is misery that brings about unique permutations  that frolic  legless, twisting, slithering throughout the  human body waiting for the right moment to escape in word or deed.  

And so it goes. Your misery escaped as you tapped out your love-less message of loss with fingers wrapped around your machete sentences; wildly swinging as you cut me up before serving me up; “If  I’ve said anything to offend you I apologize….I love you and respect you…”  If this is love – please keep it to yourself.  Without a doubt, you have the greater need.

 I can’t even cry at your version of truth. I’m  just left with a deep, deep sadness at the vision of you swinging wildly at your faux-memories –  slicing and dicing both ways through a forest of  half-truths – cutting each blade below the root.

Silly, silly little girl.