Posted in Poetry, Social Commentary

Be Kind

The contentious tango between older generations and the young has been going on since the birth of Cain and Abel (parable characters used purely for symbolic reference). The only difference is the technology that is used to facilitate the discourse.

I’m posting this poem, Be Kind, by Charles Bukowski, for my beautiful millennial children because it is an exact replica of many of our conversations about the way millennials engage older people and their view of the world. It begins with my refrain and transitions to their honest, brave and resolute responses. This generation does not go along just to get along, which is what previous generations did and I truly admire that. I’m actually cheering them on even though the end goal is not completely clear. I just hope that their englightened rebelliousness leads to a kinder world where values are shifted to people rather than things so that we can correct the course we’re on which, for all intents and purposes, is continuing old and creating new unnecessary suffering and loss.

This poem exemplifies why I–love–poetry! The genre is a fully focused magnifier of absolutely everything.

Be Kind

By Charles Bukowski

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
viewpoint
no matter how
out-dated
foolish or
obnoxious.
one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
with
kindliness,
especially if they are
aged.
but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
badly
because they have
lived
out of focus,
they have refused to
see.
not their fault?
whose fault?
mine?
I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
fear.
age is no crime
but the shame
of a deliberately
wasted
life
among so many
deliberately
wasted
lives
is.

Bukowksi Image by Ulf Andersen / Getty

Millennials, Save Us All Please!

Posted in Political, Social Commentary, Work Related

Juneteenth – Independence Day for All

When people think of independence in America, they usually think of the 4th of July, the day the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Hardly a thought is given to the fact that many of those who signed the document were, in fact, slaveholders. On June 19, 1865, 89 years after the Declaration of Independence, and two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed all enslaved people in the rebellious territories, the remaining legally enslaved people of Texas were given their freedom.

On that day, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received the news of their freedom from Major General Gordon Granger who arrived with 2,000 Federal soldiers to establish a union presence to inform the enslaved people  that they were legally freed people—the Civil War had ended.  Thus, Juneteenth was born.

Juneteenth has been celebrated over the years with parades, picnics, and large family gatherings. These celebrations include lots of entertainment and great food with red velvet cake being a staple to represent the bloodshed and resilience of the enslaved people.

In 1980, Texas officially recognized the day as a state holiday with “partial staffing.” In 2020, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey officially recognized the holiday with paid leave for state employees. Last month, Washington also has officially recognized Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees. Many companies such as Nike, Citigroup, and Twitter have made Juneteenth a paid holiday for employees.

As with much that has to do with the relationship of Black Americans and the country we helped build without compensation, Juneteenth is bittersweet. It’s indicative of how difficult the forces we battle have been and continue to be just for us to simply claim our humanity. It is also indicative of our passion for life and our resiliency. In many ways, the fight for freedom continues.

Until it is fully achieved, we will remember the ancestors who persevered under the harshest of circumstances and celebrate Juneteenth as Independence Day for all Americans.

Posted in Parenting, Social Commentary

Coming Out of Myself

“You ain’t gonna make me come outta myself!” is one of Chadwick Boseman’s lines as James Brown in the film Get On Up. I recently revisited the film and remain in awe of Boseman’s performance of course, but this time, it was that line I carried away into my week. The line, unbeknownst to me, remained perched in the forefront of my mind, and became a central reflection point for me when a personal matter arose regarding one of my children.

Now, there isn’t a whole lot that can make me “come outta myself.” The hair-trigger reactions of youth subsides with age and experience, affording one the wisdom to take a brief moment to decide if something or someone is even worth the very precious time it would cost to address. I consider this a real perk of getting older. There is a satisfying feeling that, if you could put a name to it, I suspect the name would be, “oh lord, not today.”

It’s been so many years since I’ve had the out of body experience of coming out of myself that I really didn’t think anything would come up in my life to make that happen; however, I was woefully mistaken. It’s as if I forgot, I am a mom!

As a mother of adult children, all of whom are on very different paths in life and encountering all of the rewards as well as the difficulties of the decisions they’ve made, the latter can sometimes drift into my lane and I’m called on to support and/or advise. This was the case a few days ago, when my son brought his co-parenting difficulties to my front door. He is going through a text book case of mismatched individuals dealing with the aftermath of a failed relationship.

I went into the situation that was brewing outside my door by advising my son to be flexible with the mom as that is what’s best for everyone. I reminded him that she had been flexible on occasion. To his credit, he conceded and the transition went forward. However, at the same time heated words were being exchanged, and like a virus, the words branched out into my direction, which I was not prepared for. Being caught off guard, I failed to go high and came out of myself and was directly cast into hell where the expletives pop off like corn in a sizzling pan. Woo chile!

I hadn’t realized the correlation between the scene in Get On Up until the early morning of the next day. In the scene, James Brown was confronted by his band members for lack of pay among other things. Mr. Brown said that he’d take their concerns under consideration to which the drummer jumped up and said “Fuck you!” That’s when Mr. Brown lost his composure and came up out of himself while warning them not to further provoke him.

Just to ensure clarity, the band’s complaints had merit, while the attack upon my character as well as parenting style did not. To be further clear, during the two-year long relationship, nobody in my family had the opportunity to even get to know the girl or her family and we still barely know them and are quite content to keep it that way.

Nonetheless, I had reflected on how the situation made me feel when I woke up in the middle of the night to a feeling of anxiety and disappointment in myself for not handling the matter better. I had realized that I had, in fact, come out of myself and that the feeling had continued to simmer long after everyone had left.

I whole-heartedly believe that there is always a way to handle conflicts without things rising to the level of anger and irrational thoughts but one has to be prepared. After getting these words down, I feel that I will be better prepared next time. I support all of my children when they are right, and when they are having difficulties doing the right thing, I counsel and provide solid guidance. At the end of the day, they are adults shaping their own lives, the same as I did. I have faith that the challenges will be overcome, lessons will be learned, and better days are always ahead, that’s how life goes when your heart is truly in the right place.

If you’d like to share an experience you’ve had parenting 20 somethings, I’d love to read it, so please leave it in the comments. Sharing is caring.

Posted in Political, Social Commentary

MLK Day Reflection: Having A Change of Heart

While government sanctioned discrimination in the form of Jim Crow laws were successfully dismantled by the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. understood that legislation alone could not change the root cause of such laws, the hearts of men. In his sermon, The Goodness of the Good Samaritan, he wrote, “It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”

The result of that restraint is a racial limbo that leads to the racial unrest that came to a head in 2020 as a result of the murder of George Floyd, the murder of Ahmad Arbery, and the murder of Breonna Taylor.

As we reflect on MLK Day, consider how hearts can be changed. Many hearts were changed as the world watched the light of life go out of George Floyd while an officer of the law applied the weight of his entire body on his neck. Many allies were gained as we watched Covid 19 ravage communities of color due to what was clear to Dr. King in 1966 when he addressed a group of medical professionals and said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”

It shouldn’t take a loss of life for us all to examine our hearts to see what we could do better in order for America to live up to its promise to all of its citizens. Whether you care about the lives that have been lost or the businesses that have been impacted, we all have a stake in resolving the inequities that exist in our society. Dr. King did his part, he lost his life doing his part. On this MLK Day let’s make a pledge to do our part. Let’s examine our hearts and make individual changes that promote unity and diversity so that we all have a chance to live the promise of America.

MLK Quotes to inspire you to examine your heart.

“One day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid… You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. Well, you may go on to live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90.” ~1967 Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~1963 “Strength of Love” a book of sermons

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” ~1967 Sermon: Three Dimensions of a Complete Life

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ~1957 Speech: Conquering Self-Centeredness

Posted in Covid-19, Political, Social Commentary

Musings on Connections, Covid, and the Election

Right now, I’m thinking of my last refreshing interaction with a stranger. With the toxic atmosphere that is in abundance today along with having to wear pesky but life-saving masks, it’s difficult. A body needs that type of interaction where you leave feeling like you’ve just departed a warm embrace. Those are the small moments of eye contact with a stranger on the street, punctuated with a gentle smile. Those are the spontaneous moments that trigger a quick exchange that leads to a laugh that leads to a lingering smile you carry all the way back to your car.

In thinking about it, I realize that it wasn’t very long ago that I had one of those experiences. I had made what was supposed to be a quick trip to the grocery store. As I stood in line, my husband FaceTimed me to say that we needed snacks because “We don’t have any snacks. Get some Cheez-Its and some beef jerky.” he joked. We never buy beef jerky but the man behind me, who must have been a beef jerky fan, said through his mask “I’m with him!” I turned to him and laughed while exaggerating the squint of my eyes to overemphasize my amusement behind the mask. I told him not to worry about holding my spot when he kindly offered as I left the line in search of snacks. That was actually only two days ago. It was the day I voted.

That morning, my husband and I got out our voting guides, our mail-in ballots, and our laptops and spent several hours going over the local candidates and the propositions. It was very important for me that we really read and understood as much about the propositions as we possibly could outside of the ads that collectively intrude on the latest news of yet another tweet from President Trump.

Going over the propositions isn’t an easy task. I began by mentally settling myself on my foundational principle: That which is going to be best for those with the least–and worked my way from there through the purposely confusing language. My husband and I talked a bit about each one and found that we were usually on the same side when we’d bubble in our choice.

It’s kind of a lovely thing really. It’s a moment to escape the constant assault of the cephalopod that is cable news and social media. Their tentacles latch on to our compulsive nature, the need to be informed, and the desire to connect, so pervasively that turning it off or deleting an app conjures feelings of absurdity and anxiety. Those several hours of sitting, undistracted, with just the text, and giving thought to the implications of impacts raised by those charged with writing the pros and cons, along with a bit of sleuthing to understand, as much as possible, the hidden hands behind all the pieces, was an investment of time that paid off with the feeling of honoring those who fought and died for my right to have my say.

For the past, almost four years, we’ve endured the toxicity, the destructive policies, and divisive behavior of a man who makes us question our own connectedness to our fellow human beings. A man who makes no secret of his self-absorption and bigotry, and has reinvigorated the disease of racism in this country to such a degree that Covid is merely the cherry on top of his noxious administration. An administration that has us eyeing strangers and summing them up along party lines, and labeling strangers as idiots if they aren’t on our side and wonderful compatriots if they are. Of all of the things that President Trump lauds about being the only one to ever do, the most astounding feat of his leadership that nobody has done since the civil war is split the country in half, disrupting the spontaneous connections that make us all know that we are one. While you can easily glean which way I chose to vote in the Presidential race, you can also glean that my choice is not without the deepest consideration for my fellow citizens, especially those with the least.

The one thing I am looking forward to in the next four years is that the U.S. begins to build back better our connectedness to one another and to continue the work of creating a country where everyone is welcomed, everyone is valued, and everyone is safe.

Posted in Parenting, Social Commentary, Uncategorized

I Don’t Want White People to Apologize

In the wake of recent media traction of the two-month old murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I shared a Facebook post by speaker and author, Sharon Jamison from May 7th, 2020, where she asserted:

I don’t want white people to apologize. I want them to use their privilege to help dismantle a system that kills black people.

After posting it, I received a message from a dear friend who’s white. She asked exactly what it is that she’s expected to do? I didn’t consider the motivation behind her question because her feelings for having the question are rightfully her own and an analysis of that wasn’t really required for me to give her my thoughts on the matter. I took on the role of messenger which is something I’m getting really good at as I navigate parenting 20 somethings. When my children come to me with a question or a need for input on a choice they intend to make, I succinctly offer my truth as I see it and move on with my day.

In that regard, I offered my friend this:

  • Acknowledge that racism exists.
  • Fully understand the impact of it on nonwhite people.
  • Challenge your assumptions and motivations when forming an opinion on social issues involving black people.
  • Ask questions and be willing to accept the validity of another’s perspective from a lived experience that is not your own.
  • Champion causes that are designed to facilitate equity in opportunity. Conscious and unconscious biases are at work that make this very necessary.
  • Tell your uncle Bob, your co-worker Karen, your supervisor Tom, your husband Josh, to shut the fuck up when they go on about “them niggers…”

I am resolute in my understanding of how pervasive racism is. Those who made it their business to construct the institution were very thorough in weaving their virus-like ideology in with our natural human instincts, the latter being the same no matter what racial category we are placed in. They are woven so tightly that unwinding them seems impossible.

At this point, I seriously question the possibility of all of us living totally free from the sick mindset that avails itself upon us, generation after generation. Down every street we jog, in every park where our children play , in every coffee shop we enter, on every road we drive, the evil of racism lurks. It’s either a simmering boil or boiling over scalding everyone in its path.

My heart goes out to Ms. Wanda Cooper, Ahmaud’s mother, and the rest of his family. I suspect I will compose other writings motivated by similar events and my heart is heavy. I’m going to text my two sons now, to make sure they are okay.

Image used courtesy of https://unsplash.com/@thirdworldhippy

Posted in Social Commentary

This Week’s Discovery

My mother-in-law passed away in February of this year. Among the things she left behind, was her collection of books which I have been so eager to dive into. Now that all of her affairs have been settled, I plucked a book from the shelf by closing my eyes and grabbing the first book my hand landed on. It just happened to be The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace by The Dalai Lama. This is my “This Week’s Discovery.”

The book is 181 pages long and serves as an introduction to the idea of how to live life without suffering. It focuses on developing a disciplined mind by first recognizing that our minds are subject to ignorance, confusion, and misconception, all negative states of being. Then it shares the Buddhist approach to overcoming those things. I cannot go much further into any concepts or ideas right now as I’ve only completed Chapter 1 but it has been an inspiring read so far.

It’s fascinating to me that this book is the one that I came to because the question of how to live without negativity has been a prevailing question throughout my life. As of late, it has had a strangle-hold on my consciousness. The primary motivator of the negative emotions I experience these days, have a great deal to do with exposing myself to news media as well as social media. At times, it gets to be an obsession. When I feel the obsessiveness becoming too toxic, I am able to pull back from engagement and try to balance out the negative energy by seeking ways to positively connect with people or to share more positive, funny, and inspiring posts or articles. It’s important to be engaged with news and social media in order to stay informed, but it is a constant battle not to drown in the vitriol, gossip, and negativity.

As I read this book, my goal is to remain focused on the ideas presented because so far, what I’ve read has resonated with me in a positive way.

Now, I’m not of a religious nature. This means that I have no desire or compulsion to rep any religious order. I do believe; however, that my spirit, made up of a cycle of energy that governs my thoughts, has to be fed through a quest for understanding. I’m stating this here as a reminder to myself not to move beyond the pages of the book to seek out information on the person through which the resonating ideas have come. The ideas are what I’m interested in. Not the Dalai Lama. He is no more of a human being than I am. He is filled with as many good qualities and flaws as I am and it is too easy for me to allow human flaws block the ideas that could prove to be helpful in my life’s journey.

In closing, another wonderful discovery I made this past week is brevitymag.com! This site publishes 750 word essays by new and established writers. They also have a wordpress blog for writers to connect and share ideas.

Posted in Social Commentary

This Week’s Discovery

Each week I’ve decided to post something new that I’ve come across. It could be anything from a new concept or idea, to something more tangible like what I’ve chosen to share as my very first This Week’s Discovery. I hope you check out my discoveries and give me some feedback when you do.

This week’s wonderful discovery is Larry Wilmore’s “Black on the Air” podcast! I’ve missed Larry’s voice since his show was cancelled on Comedy Central leaving me to wonder why Tosh.0 seems to have an unnecessary lifetime engagement. Please pardon the digression.

Anyway, it’s nice to hear Larry’s distinct voice as he interviews various people like Ibihaj Muhammad, the Olympic Fencer, or engages in random discussions with someone who fills in for a guest who was MIA and who tries to take Larry down the conspiracy trail of  JFK and the moon landing. That episode reminded me of the many discussions with my son who is so thankful to be “woke” about the Illumanti and Valiant Thor, the alien from Venus who worked in the Petagon. What do you even do with discussions like that? I generally find myself poochie mouthed, furrow browed and looking at him in silence until he says, “What? You just want to stay sleep mom.”

For anyone who doesn’t know Larry Wilmore, I first became aware of him on The Daily Show during Jon Stewart’s reign. His title on the show was Senior Black Correspondent. He would come on to provide a humorous “black perspective,” as if there is such a thing, on news events involving black people. He then branched off with his own show on Comedy Central called The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore that followed The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It was a nice lineup on Comedy Central. Unfortunately, the Nightly Show was cancelled shortly after Wilmore’s, and I have to keep it one hundred, painful to watch performance at the White House Correspondence Dinner in 2016. He doubled down on his lackluster jokes by closing with a “tribute” to President Barack Obama by saying, “I’m going to keep it one hundred, yo Barry, you did it my nigga.” I located the video specifically to quote him and I still cringe when I hear it. I’m not going to get into the reasons why I feel that to be horribly wrong because it’s just something that will live on as one of those moments of the Obama era and possibly the unfortunate end to a very good show. Even in light of making the decision to use that term, which he totally owns and probably doesn’t totally regret, I find Mr. Wilmore to be smart and of course fearless. He’s someone I’d love to be in  a room with and just talk about all of the latest political events of the day. He’s been resilient since the cancelation of his show. He has his executive producing hands in the brilliant “Insecure” with Issa Rae on HBO and helped to launch Black-Ish. Prior to those recent accomplishments, Mr. Wilmore had developed a long list of writing creds, including the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and In Living Color. The man is clearly talented and I’m so happy to be able to reconnect with him through his podcast.

Below is a picture of Larry Wilmore (Center) with my husband and our wonderful cousin Julie.

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Posted in Political, Social Commentary

Hysteria

two apples on the board
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The time is now. Yet, we sit frozen, waiting for the monster to knock down the door. The moment that pulls us away from life today, into a tomorrow that makes yesterday a dream. Our ancestors know that feeling. We have that feeling in our DNA.

We hesitate from the speed and absurdity of it all. Which is reasonable, predictable, and why we will be overtaken and thrust into a world we thought we’d never know again.

It is not easy to decide to resist when uncertainty sets in. Information sources run 24-hours and have been made suspect. How seriously can one take a news source that reports on a missing plane as breaking news, for three months straight, and includes serious consideration of supernatural events and a black hole? Let alone a news source where 86% of the statements made in front of cameras are false or mostly false*?

The poor public, so far removed from being able to see for our own eyes. However, even when given the chance, the voices of fallacious debate builds cataracts. We wade through the chatter to determine the right thing to do. Ambivalence sets in or there is a hunkering down on one side or the other because someone said you must choose. Will it then become a matter of coming out on the other side with only your body intact or what’s left of it?

Yes, this writing is out of sheer hysteria. I am of the ilk who clings to words rather than guns when simmering in fear. We can come back from a misuse of words and I have no faith in any source to cause a finite ending of anyone.

___________

*Politifact.com

Posted in Political, Social Commentary

The Fight Against Domestic Violence – We’re Winning!

Happy Apple (2)
Better Days!

imagesDY1KG2I6

As I was searching for a way to add my voice to the current discussion on domestic violence or intimate partner violence, as some call it, I stumbled across a very exciting fact. Since the implementation of the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) in 1994, there has been a steep decline of 67% in cases involving intimate partner violence. Prior to the VAWA we saw 1.7 million cases of intimate partner abuse and as of 2011 the number has decreased to less than 700,000. One would never know this by watching media reports!

The VAWA currently administers 24 grant programs and is described as being “designed to develop the nation’s capacity to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable.”

I do not know about anyone else, but the fact that this Act has had such a tremendously positive impact on the lives of women shows me the great power of our tax dollars when they are put to good use.

Now obviously, this is not to say that more can’t be done to further eradicate the problem of intimate partner violence. A large part of what continues to need attention is the inequality of power between men and women.

It is believed that at the very root of intimate partner violence is the subservient role to which women have been traditionally subjected. This role allows for the devaluing of women, as is evident by the disparity in salaries between men and women which the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports a wage gap of 22%. There is an even larger gap for African American and Latino women. The pervasive practice of unequal compensation could arguably be part of the financial abuse that helps to impede women from leaving abusive situations.

While our society continues to tolerate the devaluing of women, we will continue to see incidences like the Ray Rice abuse scandal, and corporations like the NFL attempt to turn a blind eye to the seriousness of the matter.

As a former victim of 12 years of intimate partner abuse where the traditional woman’s role was the focal point of my ex-husband’s very existence, I feel it is imperative that more outreach be done in churches, mosques, synagogues, as well as places of employment to further the effort of bringing violence against women to a zero state.

There is no doubt that we, as a country, with the implementation of the VAWA, are moving in the right direction. We need to continue to make strides and put pressure on our religious institutions, as well as corporations, to change the way they handle intimate partner violence and how they perpetuate the problem. Lastly, we also need to watch out for legislative posturing that could derail VAWA altogether. The pesky GOP has a knack for being on the wrong side of things these days.