Saturday, September 21, 2013

No Pets (like that) Allowed!

If you have siblings, you have probably experienced the craziness that is “blood fights” – not to be confused with “blood feuds.”  That’s anther blog post.  In particular, you know what it is like to abuse or be abused by a sibling:  The antagonizing.  The pushing.  The shoving. The punches.  Abuse!  Great pleasure is gained by one while great despair is experienced by another.  But through it all, there is (eventually) an understanding of love.  So, while such abuse is acceptable, and some would argue normal between siblings, heaven help the non-family member who engages in a fight with our kinfolk.  The same little brother who was choked to near unconsciousness, becomes a highly protected treasure when confronted by an outsider who even threatens to harm him.  Why is this?  Some believe it’s a territorial thing.  Family members grow up together and develop a bond that often includes taking liberties that may be more forgivable with one another than they would be from an outsider.  There is also the possibility that, as with adults, sovereign nations, and other more “sophisticated” social and political relationships, conflict can act as a form of communication and an incubator for developing resolution skills.  So, what do we do about “nigger?” “What the. . . !!?  Where did that come from, JustAGuy!!?”  Well, bear with me – and hold on to this relatively short, but very bumpy ride.

There is this notion among some Black people that “nigger,” when used by and between Black people, is a “term of endearment.”  And by the way, if you’re uncomfortable with my using the full word instead of the patronizing and First Amendment-crushing term, "the N-Word,” then maybe you should stop reading.  Because right now is the last time I will use the term “N-Word” in this post. The use of that term, moreso than the word “nigger” itself is stupid.  The reverence to which it has been ascribed as a kinder, gentler, non-offensive alternative is evidence of the power that we have all given to a word – a word that has no redeeming value, as it has historically referred to a race of people who have suffered unimaginable atrocities and who still endure more inequality and injustice than any single ethnic group in America.

So, it goes like this:   I can smack my little brother or pull my little sister’s braids.  But if Little Mikey down the street does it, oh it’s on!!  I can even say unflattering things about my parents.  But we all know that many a playground have been the birthplaces of bloodied noses and blackened eyes --  all because of rhetoric that began with, ended with or in any way encompassed the phrase “yo’ mama.” Likewise, to some it is acceptable for a Black person to call another Black person a nigger, nigga, niggah, nigg, or any variation, thereof.  But, stop the presses and put on your boxing gloves when someone of another race calls a Black person the same word.  But hey; it’s different then, because they are not coming from a place of love when they say it, right?  Right . . . .?

Now, I’m Just A Guy Thinking – but I will wager that on at least one occasion, one Black person called another Black person “nigger” – right before one pumped a few 9 mm rounds into another's body. Or right before they delivered a love-less blow to another’s face.  Or right before – or after, they pronounced some lewd, despicable or demeaning curse upon another.  You see, unlike the phenomenon of sibling-rival-turned-sibling-protector, the word nigger does not have an origin of love.  It is not the little brother or sister who mommy and daddy brought (presumably) lovingly into the world and into your life.  No, it’s not the little imp who stole all of the attention from you and around whom you felt horribly marginalized for a while; but for whom you ultimately gained the same love and assumed the same protectiveness that your parents had for him or her.  The word nigger, on the other hand, was not borne out of love.  It is doubtful that, at its conception, it was intended to be used as an expression of love, adoration or respect.  It is not at all like the bundle of joy/aggravation that our folks brought home from the hospital.  It is more akin to your mortal enemy gifting you with a pet rattlesnake.  I’m not saying that white people today are Black people’s mortal enemies.  I don’t believe that because it’s simply not true.  But a few hundred years ago, white folks weren't exactly inviting Black folks to Sunday dinner and regaling them with the accouterments of joy, admiration and comfort.  But we were talking about rattlesnakes, weren't we?

Yes -- the pet rattlesnake gift.  You see, no matter how long you have it, or where you take it, or how beautifully you present it, or how proud or loving of it you become – it will never love you back.  It was not gifted to you as a gesture of love or affection.  It is oblivious to the concept of human love.  And should you insist on handling it with and among others, it will em-poison you and anyone else with whom you share it.  Maybe the historical and psychological “venom” that is inherent to the word nigger will not have the instant and dramatically damaging affect as that of a rattlesnake bite.  It is, however, a slower-acting but much more lethal poison that affects a far greater aspect of your being than your mortal body.  It affects your soul.  On both the conscious and subconscious levels, it deteriorates your sense of self-worth and value.  Why?  Because it was given  to you as a sentiment of your perceived worthlessness and valueless-ness from the beginning. 

So, personally speaking, I ask -- why would we ever embrace something that was given to us to “kill” us. Why adore something that will “kill” us if we choose to handle it with such careless and whimsical frequency? And why should we object so strongly to others administering the same “poison” to us that we administer to one another?  Would that same old rattlesnake given to you by Black hands be any less deadly than if it was given to you by white hands?  And consider this:  Maybe the white gift bearers think you don’t mind handling rattlesnakes – because you do handle them amongst yourselves – all the time….

So, here are a couple of suggestions regarding the use of the word “nigger”: One, stop using it -- especially with each other.  And/or, two – stop taking offense when a non-Black uses it about or towards you or someone who looks like you.  In other words, don’t be a hypocrite.  It was a bad word back in the day and it's a bad word now.  You can’t adopt a rattlesnake and expect it to evolve into a yorkie pup – ever!  In this case, our pet word was never intended to be a pet.  And we shouldn't treat it like a pet. We should leave it out in the wild.  And when we occasionally observe it slithering about its slimy marshland, leave it be and most importantly . . . don’t feed it. Just a thought.

Monday, December 3, 2012

For the GOP, A Change Has Come – Or Has It?

Wikipedia, a highly reputable information resource defines “Metamorphosis” as “a biological process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the animal's body structure through cell growth and differentiation.” Wow! It sounds complex – and painful! And, from the biological perspective from which this definition derives, it encompasses an entire phase of an organism’s lifespan. And that brings another, less easily definable element into the equation. Time. But for purposes of this article, we will loosely define time as "a social construct within which humans sequence and compare events." With this definition, we can analyze known human history and measure not only technological, geographical and demographic changes, we can also measure changes in human behavior and attitude – the latter being the most challenging and slowest-moving metamorphosis. So, for a little while here, the word metamorphosis will not refer to caterpillars and butterflies; but instead, it will refer to the human attitude. We are nearly a month removed from the general election in which President Obama was re-elected to another term. The Republican Candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as well as the most of the republican party were left scratching their heads, wondering how in the wide, wide world of trickle-down economics could this have happened. To say that they were in “disbelief,” would be a gross understatement. Nowhere was this disbelief more observable than on Fox News coverage of the election where, Karl Rove, the reknown political strategist and Fox News contributor, demanded that his own network news outlet recant its position that President Obama had prevailed in Ohio. Disbelief!! After all, no sitting president since World War II had ever won re-election with an unemployment rate above 7.2 percent. Of course, this statistic is overblown and tremulous in its exactness and reliability. Many other factors distort the conclusion. Nevertheless, it was the Trump card (pun intended) upon which the GOP had built its delusional House of “President Romney.” But, as we know, the unimaginable happened and President Obama was resoundingly re-elected. Subsequently, the post-mortem theories began to pervade the airwaves. You’ve heard most of them: Romney lost because he didn’t court the young vote. He didn’t court the minority vote. The President had a stronger “ground game.” Paul Ryan was the wrong V.P. choice. Hurricane Sandy disrupted Romney’s momentum. The Twinkies company was going out of business. The list goes on and on and on. But whatever the reasons the GOP have convinced themselves as being the real reasons for Romney’s defeat, there is ultimately one scapegoat in this saga. Mitt Romney – because he was just a “bad candidate.” Now, I’m just a guy thinking, but is anyone else witnessing the GOP turning against its Golden Boy like a pack of rabid hyenas? And, for the record – hyenas may very well be dignified, honorable creatures; I’m only gleaning from their depictions in The Lion King and a couple of unflattering National Geographic specials. So, anyway, The GOP’s Buzz Lightyear, in-the-flesh - the man who, after his first debate performance, was compared by his running mate and others in the campaign to their great diety - Ronald Reagan, is now the bane of the party. A pariah. The cooties kid on the playground. A chump who should be disavowed and criticized for every word he utters. He is the mistake that the GOP just wants to forget. His status in the party became clear when he told donors on a conference call after the election that the Obama campaign "focused on giving targeted groups a big gift" and was "very generous" to ethnic minorities and young voters. Here began the real feeding frenzy. Leading the buffet line was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a devoted Romney surrogate in the weeks leading up to the election. Jindal chastised, “I think that's absolutely wrong. We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.” But where was Jindal when Romney made his infamous “47%” proclamation? In fact, many GOP elected officials defended those horrendous remarks as “inarticulate,” “misspoke[n],” “a little clumsy,” or saying “he could have better explained himself.” Some, like Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate, were downright obstinate - going as far as flipping the script and saying that it was the President who was “trying to make class warfare a divider,” not Romney. But no one is defending Romney’s “gifts” comments. No one. And in a shameful display of WTH!? that would make a maggot vomit, Romney’s comments were called “inappropriate” by none other than Florida Governor Rick Scott. Yes, FLORIDA Governor – the same governor who signed a law shortening the early voting period, resulting in yet another clusterflog in Florida on voting day, and a 4-day delay in awarding its 29 electoral votes. It has since been alleged by Jim Greer, the former head of the Florida Republican Party, that the law was deliberately designed to suppress voting among groups that tend to support Democratic candidates. And had it not been for the grit, determination and patience of the voters of Florida, the state may very well have gone Red – as Scott and the GOP State leadership had intended. But now, Scott is a good guy because he finally criticized Romney for saying something [else] that was stupid and flat-out wrong. So, the question is this: Is the GOP undergoing an attitude metamorphosis? Are they changing the way they think about the American people? Are they finally accepting the diversity of American culture and values, instead of defining those values from a homogeneous perspective? Well, if we take a look at key words within the definition of metamorphosis again – namely, “involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change,” and apply those words to what we are observing with the GOP these days, then one might think - well, maybe they are changing. But then let us reintroduce the biological definition as it applies to a creature that does undergo metamorphosis - a butterfly. I am not a biologist/zoologist/butterflyologist, and I understand that butterfly metamorphosis is an inexact science – as species, geography, climate and host vegetation, all play important roles in the life cycles of butterflies. But one thing is largely consistent throughout the butterfly kingdom – the egg, caterpillar and larvae stages encompass roughly one-third of most butterflies’ lifespans. That would be equivalent to our achieving biological “adulthood” at around 25 years old. Most of us can agree that minds – particularly adult minds, aren't so malleable. It is for that reason that I do not believe the rhetoric coming out of the GOP camp. I do not believe that they have become a kinder, gentler party. I do not believe that top GOP officials’ lambasting of Mitt Romney is an indication that they are now breaking ranks with his line of thinking – the same line of thinking, by the way, that he exhibited throughout his entire campaign, and one which the vast majority of republican politicians embraced. You see, Romney’s words are only a verbal manifestation of his beliefs. And his policies would have been a manifestations of his words. As President Obama said “you should believe [he will do what he says he will do] because that’s been his history.” And that wouldn’t have bided well for most Americans – particularly us 47-percent-ish, gift-taking types. The GOP may indeed be going through a cultural or philosophical metamorphosis that may put them more in synch with the majority of the people that they hope to govern. But I believe that that magical, mythical GOP butterfly is a ways off yet – a lot further off than the mid-term elections in 2014 that they’re now sweating, or the next presidential election 4 years from now. So, as it relates to accepting this “nicer” face of the GOP, I believe that the majority of voters should give the Republicans what we gave President Obama. Time. Give them time to grow into the adult butterflies that they claim they want to become. That means keeping them in cocoons and letting them develop for a while before giving them adult responsibilities – like governing a country. Now, I’m just a guy thinking – again. But could it be that this apparent change of heart in the leadership of the Republican Party might have anything at all to do with the very strong possibility that they are going to lose the House in 2014? After all, they didn’t just fail in gaining The White House; they lost seats in the House and the Senate. Could it be…?? Naaaa! Couldn’t be. It was just a thought…

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Be Where You Are -- For A Little While . . .

This guy – for all his thinking and blogging, is not the most emotionally “open” person in the world. Just ask my ex’s. So, imagine what must be going through my mind as I consider the loss of my father, Louis Levi Neal, Sr. (I called him “Big Vie” - short for "Levi") to illness two months ago. Sadness does not begin to describe the array of feelings that swirl about my mind and spirit. To quote a dear friend, “I’m feeling ‘some kind of way’ about all of this.” In other words, a singular event like the death of a parent prompts an emotional response for which there is no precedence and no definitive or precise description. I suppose, for that matter, the death of anyone with whom one shares a unique relationship is a singular event since “it is appointed unto men once to die.” Perhaps that is why we can never “get used” to the deaths of loved ones – a different loved one dies each time.

It is always interesting to hear the myriad of clichés that accompany the death of a loved one. “At least he isn’t suffering anymore.” Or “she’s in a better place.” And what about this one? “God wanted him more than we did.” I heard that one for the first time during my father’s funeral. And yes – I nearly laughed out loud, until I realized that the person who said it was serious!

So. . .really?! God wanted my dad more than did his wife who cared for him and stood by his side through sickness and in health for 30 years? Or his four sons with whom he shared his love, wisdom, talents – and beer money? Or his four surviving sisters who have now witnessed the deaths of four of their siblings? And so many other family members, friends and acquaintances that my father touched deeply and positively over his 68 years of life – God wanted him more than did all of these people, too? Well, I am feeling “some kind of way” about that because while my mind is satisfied that God does indeed know what is best, my heart – my soul is not really feeling all that cool about what God knows as “best” or even what He wants. I . . . just want my dad back. That is just how I feel. Understand?

So, how do I reconcile my spiritually philosophical position with my broken heart? Well . . . I do not believe I should. One of the things that makes human beings unique is the multi-faceted nature of our existence – we are part natural, part supernatural and part – something else which makes us, by definition, complex. The quest to balance and successfully navigate our feelings and our psychological comfort zones is a lifelong endeavor – of which we often fall short, but one which we also must continuously confront. I am inclined to think that “balance” is a fleeting state of existence. Some of us never acquire it; others of us attain and maintain it on a more consistent basis.

But there simply comes a time when you just have to be where you are, and not be ashamed to be there. Emotion is a powerful force. It causes wars and brings peace. It destroys nations and builds civilizations. It rejoices at the birth of a child. It weeps at the death of a parent. But wherever emotion reigns, it stops all time and firmly enslaves one in a sliver of a singular moment. There is no wrong in feeling. That is why rationalizing in the face of passion is often a futile exercise. Men, I non-chauvenistically state, are generally better at doing this rational/passionate balance. But we should not always try to master the emotional balance beam. Sometimes, we should just take a spill. For folks like myself, I have a loving and supportive cast of relatives, friends and other characters. So, the fall is broken by a soft, fluffy mat of love, compassion and affection.

So, I fall. And I lie there for a while. When it is time to get up, I do so. I suppose there will come a time when I will think about a little boy and his dad, writing words and numbers in the sand with sticks, and I will take that tumble again. And there will be times when I will think about a little boy lighting up with joy as he catches his first fish – and his dad is there, rejoicing at his son’s accomplishment. That particular thought will pick me up off of the mat, because that one is of me and my own son. And then almost instantly, I feel solemn again as I realize that the wonderful fishing experience will one day be a source of my son’s own bitter-sweet memory. And therein demonstrates the importance of balance.

The universe moves; and so must our thoughts and feelings. We think a particular thought and we feel a particular feeling – for a season. And then we move on – to live in a present that we endeavor to make joyful and beautiful. As for how I feel right now? Well, I will admit that I have shed a few tears while writing this blog. But I am much better – living in the present and rejoicing in all the blessings that are in the here-and-now. So, to all of my “soft, fluffy mats” out there . . . thank you – I love you all. A moment, please, my friends. I miss you, Big Vie . . . I love you, Dad.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Black Civil Rights and Gay Rights – Same Fight? (Part II)

Wow-wee!! So, I’m just sitting around, typing a blog – minding my own business -- when suddenly, all of these people respond with what are incredibly insightful and passionate arguments! And as promised, I will conclude my discussion on the subject of same-sex marriage and whether it is a struggle comparable to that of the Black Civil Rights movement in the United States.

What?! Excuse me?! A comparison of what?! Is THAT what that article was about? Well, yes; it was actually. Or at least, it was supposed to be. The one thing that I have quickly learned about starting a discussion -- particularly one that is controversial or emotional, is that the ensuing responses and arguments can quickly go on tangents. I suppose the rule-of-thumb in engaging and moderating a particular issue is to shape it as neatly and narrowly as possible into a form that does not touch upon too many peripheral topics. In other words, tryto define its parameters. I believe I failed in that regard.

As I look at my original article and the many responses to it, I see so many other topics that sprung out of the original subject matter: Racism, homophobia, self-hatred, religion, slavery history, literacy history, Christian history, black-on-black crime, the Black church, genetics, the Constitution -- and so many others. Heck, I think someone even brought up SEWING! Don’t believe me? Stasha (AKA “the doggedpursuit”) said:

“I'm looking forward to your take in part two. I'm on pins and needles here, honey -- pins and needles.” (emphasis added) See -- told ya!

As this is a subject that can take on a life of its own – or rather, it is a subject that can take on an IMMORTAL life of its own, I will not belabor it much further. After all, I have many other subjects matters to discuss -- that will piss people off! I will bring this subject to a close by addressing a question that (again) my great friend Stasha asked in her last comment on 12/17::

“Are you saying that that same religious belief is a justification for actively OPPOSING that the minority group has the same rights as the majority? In short, an obligation to vocally oppose?”

My answer is, No. I am saying that people who hold such religious beliefs have the right to vocally oppose – whether they are in the majority or the minority. The point is – we cannot inhibit the exercise of one right (speech/expression) for the perpetuation of another. The Ku Klux Klan is a hate group. If they had their way, I (and anyone who looked like me), would still be in the fields -- or at least, nowhere near the White House – or white people! The negative opinions about this organization range from descriptions of “ignorant” to “satanic” and “evil.” But though they would lynch my Black behind as fast as you can say “rope,” I would vehemently defend their right to speak out and oppose my very right to American citizenship, were it at issue.

The topic I intended to press in this article was a comparison of the Black Civil Rights movement and the Gay Rights Movement. Personally, I believe there are more dissimilarities than similarities. However, I believe that Gay rights and same-sex marriage advocates can take a lesson from the Civil Rights movement and its leaders. My study of the movement and its history did not reveal a strategy of silencing the opposition. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other leaders and organizers of the movement did not engage a tactic of denigration, belittlement or the minimization of other people’s rights to oppose their movement. Instead, they took their movement to the streets and educated people about their history, their plight and their struggle. They made it clear that the laws and the treatment of Black people could not be easily reconciled with the words (if not the legislative intent) of the Constitution. It is the reason why many Civil Rights scholars are skeptical that other Black leaders like Malcolm X and other less “passive resistance” strategists could have been as successful as "quickly."

My advice: Talk to and educate people on the merits and necessity of the cause – one person at a time if necessary. I understand that for many such a discussion is “not up for debate.” Well, that is a position that sometimes just has to be accepted – just as we accept that many people still oppose Blacks’ rights – even in my hometown of good ol' Ocala, Florida!

The word “tolerance” has become almost cliché on both sides of this issue. The word, in fact, is taboo word for some on the religious right because it implies “concession” on fundamental principles espoused in the Bible. But I believe “human tolerance” is a more appropriate concept onto which we should grasp. The ability to embrace what we do not understand or even that which we oppose is a serious challenge for our society, indeed! But it is a challenge to which we MUST find a solution.

We have spent our entire history trying to establish that “more perfect union.” All the while we have failed to realize that we become more perfect every time we promote inclusion. Inclusion of people – inclusion of ideas and inclusion of opinions. We do not have to agree with each other in order to respect each other. But don’t mind me . . . I’m just thinking here!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Black Civil Rights and Gay Rights – Same Fight?

Recently, the D.C. City Council, the legislative body of Washington, D.C. government, by a vote of 11-2 approved legislation to make same-sex marriage legal in the nation’s capital. This is a great victory for both gay-rights advocates and those who staunchly believe in the right to marry whomever one wishes without government-compelled restrictions. For those opposed to same-sex marriage, it was a crushing blow and a step backwards in what many perceive to be a head-long dive into social debauchery and an egregious affront to many religious beliefs.

Today, I had a great conversation with a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Yes, “I have gay friends!” Let’s get that out of the way. She, still ecstatic about the recent vote, did have one area of disappointment. The two votes in opposition to the measure were from city wards that are predominantly Black in population. My friend is Black – more accurately, she is half Black and half white. So, she was disappointed that the representatives of those wards voted against the measure that she believed “would free so many citizens of this city of their statuses as second-class citizens.” In giving their reasons for voting against the measure these two representatives indicated that they were voting the wishes of their constituents. Quite frankly, if that is true, then they did the right thing. That is what a democratically-elected official is supposed to do – act in compliance with the wishes of their constituents, right? No? Okay, that’s another article at another time.

So, my friend asked: “Why are Black people so ignorant sometimes?” Her summarily dismissing her own genetic make-up was alarming; and since I am at least 80-85% Black, I was offended. She continued, “if no one else should be able to understand the feelings associated with discrimination and exclusion, Black people should.” This offended me even more than the “ignorant” statement; and it was here that I explained to my race-jumping friend that the two fights are not the same. I explained that while I do not believe that anyone should be the subject of hatred, violence or discrimination based upon their sexual orientation, and that one has the right to their identity, to compare the fight for same-sex marriage recognition and the fight to be treated as human beings and citizens in a place where one’s ancestors have lived and labored for nearly 400 years is an apples and oranges argument.

Now, I’m just a guy thinking, but I do not personally know of any gay people, openly so or otherwise, being turned away from restaurants or public parks because they were gay. I do not see separate restrooms or drinking fountains for “gay” and “not-gay” people. Gay people to my knowledge were not being forced to sit in the back of buses – unless they were gay and Black. I do not recall fire hoses being turned on participants of gay marches or rallies. I have not heard of police dogs biting into the flesh of a gay activist or a gay person having their heads bashed in by officers of the law – just for being gay. I can not imagine that there are many documented cases of gay bars or gay meeting establishments being bombed or children of gay couples being killed or beaten – simply for being children of gay people. I will not belabor the contrasts of the two experiences. Suffice it to say, there are many.

The fight that same-sex marriage advocates have waged for what they believe has been a hard-fought and admirable one. This cannot be denied; no matter what one’s position is on the issue. So, let that fight stand on its own merit – not piggy-back on the brutalities inflicted upon an entire race of people who did nothing more than be born into a socially disfavored gene pool.

I also reminded my friend that while most Black people are politically liberal, most are also socially conservative. This, in one regard is a function of a historical and widely-ratified distrust of government-imposed legislations that mandate what we must or must not do in our private lives. After all, it was legislation – the law of the land, in fact, that consigned Black people into life-long slavery and effectively kept Black people in a quasi-slavery, fourth-class citizen status for more than 100 years after the abolition of slavery.

But I believe there is a more profound reason for many Black people’s opposition to same-sex marriage: Yep – that one. Religion. Keep in mind, Christianity was beaten (literally) into the hearts and minds of the African slaves forced into America. Well, it worked! The Black (Christian) church still remains, albeit not on the same level as a generation ago, the backbone of Black social culture, beliefs and political might. This deeply-held identification with Christianity generally does not force the Black population on a large scale to vigorously rail against gay relationships since it is essentially a “that’s your business/to each is own” kind of issue. It does, however, compel many Black people to withhold support of it when formal legislation arises that lies in direct opposition to a deeply-ingrained, fundamental Christian/Biblical belief. That is, that same-sex relationships are sinful in the eyes of God. And to ratify its legitimacy by applying a holy sacrament (marriage) to it is wrong. Now, from a historical and even present-day perspective, can anyone deny the power of religion and its influence on the hearts and minds of people? Black people as a group are simply not as “open” about some matters as other races.

Now, I like what I am about to do (and you are going to hate it). I am going to end this article – for now. This is one of those truly hot-bed issues that require more reflection (and more writing). And this article has gone way over the limit that I set for myself. So, you will have to wait for Part II. Until then, keep on thinking . . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Criminality of an Apathetic Society

So, I am told by a guy that I know that he was recently robbed at gunpoint in front of his home. Now, the details are not relevant here as the point of this article has more to do with people who were neither the victims nor the perpetrators of this crime. Suffice it to say, the victim of this robbery was emotionally shaken, dismayed at society and angry that someone who he did not know and who did not know him felt it his “right” to disenfranchise him of his peace and his property when he had done nothing more than walk outside of his house.

From where does such temerity flow that would allow a “human being” – and I use that term in its most basic, biological and anatomical sense – to terrorize another for the sake of material gain? How deeply does the sewage of such malevolence and debauchery penetrate our society and our world?

History and every day life are replete with examples of how meaningless to some people a human life is as compared to a dollar bill – or even less. To perpetrate a horrible act that might deprive a child of a parent or a parent of a child or a husband of a wife or a friend of a friend is nonexistence on the list of things that are important to a criminal. His (or her) heart is devoid of light and in many cases, irretrievably resistant to redemption. As hope in general exists as a visible sliver of positive possibility, for a hardened and violent criminal, hope of repentance is like many of the materials in particle physics – they exist in theory but are not likely to be observed in reality. But as horrible a picture as I have painted of the criminal -- the punk -- the scumbag of the earth, there is another who represents a condition and a mindset that is much worse than the robber, the killer and the thief! The apathetic observer . . .

The victim discussed at the beginning of this article was, blessedly, unharmed by his tormentors. And as a good citizen, he felt it necessary to alert his neighbors to his experience in order to bring to bear a greater sense of caution in the usually quiet neighborhood. It was in doing so that he discovered that one of his neighbors not only knew about the robbery, but had actually witnessed it! Further inquisition revealed that this neighbor did nothing as he observed the crime. He did not call the police. He did not alert other neighbors. He did not yell “stop, criminal!” He did nothing!

Now, I’m just a guy thinking, but when in the heck did our society become so DEAD to the plight of others? When did it become “ok” to ignore or feel that it is “not my business” to get involved when we see a woman getting beaten in the streets by her husband or boyfriend? Or not call the police when we see a robbery or a break-in in our neighborhood? Or not inquire when something “just doesn’t seem right”? A criminal’s two most valuable tools are surprise and apathy. The first he uses to initiate the crime. The latter he uses to complete it.

The first tool is a formidable one; a criminal stakes out his intended target and waits until other elements are in place before he stealthily attacks. The second tool, however, is the one that he is becoming increasingly comfortable depending upon. He knows that fear, selfishness and the lack of brotherly accountability will bode well for his being able to carry out his evil deed -- and even escape! As a result, he relies less on his first tool. He no longer cares who sees him because apathy is the only tool that he needs to wreak havoc on society. Utter indifference and lack of action on the part of others has led to billions of dollars of property being stolen or destroyed and more importantly it has contributed to the infliction of injuries and to deaths of human beings. Sadly, there does not seem to be a movement to turn this trend around. So, I invoke hope for a change in the tides. And I don’t mean a theoretical particles-kind-of-hope. I mean a visible, foreseeable, possible hope – one drawn from a history of protecting each other – from a history and a time in our society when we were our brothers’ keepers. I hope for – and you "Bewitched" fans out there will understand this – a “Gladys Kravitz” in every home in America!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

“k’s to the Left of us – but mostly to the Right . . .”

Indulge me with a little word play, if you will. We start with the word “malarkey,” defined in Merrian-Webster as “insincere or foolish talk.” Now, if we take the “k” out of “malarkey,” and replace it an “n” – that would spell “malarney.” Malarney rhymes with Barney. Barney is the first name of Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank who, at a recent “town hall meeting” (I’ll explain the quotes later) responded to the question: "Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy as Obama has?"

The woman who asked this question, by the way, was holding up an image of President Obama with a mustache drawn above his lip, reminiscent of the one sported by Adolf Hitler back in the bad ol' days.

Without missing a beat, Congressman Frank responded, “On what planet do you spend most of your time?" He went on to say “[t]rying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table,” “I have no interest in doing it.” The congressman went on to call the woman’s question "contemptible nonsense" and "vile."

Whether you are a Barney Frank fan or not, give kudos to the congressman for calling that woman out for such foolishness, rather than letting it slide as so many others have. So, how does our little word-play exercise factor into this incident? It doesn't really – it was just fun for me. Hey, I write blogs – sometimes it’s all about entertaining my own self, as we say in Ocala! But if you want me to pull something clever out of that little exercise, then let me refer you back the first paragraph where I put “town-hall meeting” in quotations.

Now, I’m just a guy thinking . . . maybe too much. But here goes: Have you ever seen “America” spelled “Amerika,” with a “k”? Well, in fact, Amerika was the name of a 1980’s TV miniseries that took us to a parallel universe where the United States was a communist country having been taken over and governed by the then-Soviet Union . Of course, during the Cold War days, the Soviet Union was viewed by most Americans as a largely homogeneous, a socially and politically intolerant society where a small political entity (the Politburo) pretty much dictated and ran the show.

We saw the Russian country as a society where the status quo was the order of the day and dissidence in any form was summarily crushed. Ironically, in the case of present-day America , it is not the people who are being crushed because of dissidence; it is the government itself who is the victim! Ludicrous, right? Well, consider -- a very small group of people, relative to the sane population – is attempting to quash any movement towards changing the status quo. They want to keep “Amerika” their country -- a country of exclusion, intolerance and one devoid of fairness and compassion.

Coincidentally, this “movement” to remain stagnant (more irony) seems to share eerily similar principles and notions to those of a group that has its roots in America ’s shameful past – the Ku Klux Klan. Hey! Look at all those “k’s”!!

If you take a look at the racial composition of many of these “town-hall meetings,” but moreso if you listen to what is said at them, these meetings are anything but forums whereby people can confront and possibly influence their elected officials, or places where one can take the opportunity be heard. They are, in many instances, nothing more than Klan rallies – opportunities for people-bashing, fear-mongering and hate-filled diatribes.

The vitriol spewed at these rallies is dripping with racism and hard-core personal resentment. It is despicable to behold. So, in summary: the “malarky,” (with a “k”), that’s being spewed in “Amerika” (with a “k”), by some of the participants of thse klan-rallies (with a “k”) is . . . RIDIKULOUS, PATHETIK and DESPIKABLE!!!

Expecting people to overcome racial biases is difficult; maybe even a long-shot. My concern as a citizen of America (with a ‘c’) is that the majority – that is, the well-meaning, legitimately concerned citizens of this great country not be influenced by those . . . other folks (restraint is a virtue, is it not?).

Disagreement, while inevitable and even welcomed sometimes, should never be hate-based. In other words, we should all seek to know the issues for ourselves rather than depend on the irrational rantings of those consumed with hatred, prejudice and fear. Do this, and that “more perfect Union ” thing begins to look a lot more attainable. Hey – just a thought . . .