Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"E Pluribus Unum"

Great Seal
I'm coming out of the closet. No, not all of me, perhaps just the big toe on my left foot. I don't wish to introduce too much levity here, because the subject that I'm going to tackle is a serious one, and requires a serious voice and a serious face.

I have many personas, many voices. Don't worry: They're all good. It's just that here on this blog I speak with a certain voice, and on the others, with an entirely different one (And, no, I'm not schizophrenic.), and I try to keep the voices separate. If you've heard this voice, you wouldn't recognize the others.

Just as there are many facets to your humanity, there are many to mine. Now, I'm going to speak, for the moment, blending the two facets. I was going to blog about something else, but I read the following words on another blog, and felt that I should bring my eyes to this "MADNESS."

"I need you to talk about Derrion Albert's murder.
I need you to bring your ... eye to this MADNESS.
i cannot belief that these young people beat a boy to death.
And yet, what keeps playing in my mind
Bill Cosby talking about 'Come On People.'"

If you know nothing about Derrion Albert, here's a brief description of what happened. A Google search will turn up more information and further links, including links to a video that captured his brutal attack:

"One of the suspects accused of killing an honor student in a beating captured on tape in Chicago has admitted to jumping on the victim's head after he was already lying on the ground, said a spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney.

"In the videotaped confession, 19-year-old Silvanus Shannon also said that the victim, Derrion Albert, 16, never struck him, said the spokeswoman, Tandra Simonton.

"Three teens arrested in Albert's death -- Silvanus Shannon, 19; Eric Carson, 16; and Eugene Riley, 18 -- were seen on the videotape attacking Albert, and were charged with first degree murder and held without bail, Simonton said. Monday night authorities said they charged a fourth suspect, 17-year-old Eugene Bailey, with murder.

"On Monday during the bond hearing, prosecutors described how the street fight escalated from a dispute between two factions at Albert's high school to a beating that left the honor student dead.

"Prosecutors said Albert was an "innocent bystander" who ended up in the middle of a street fight between two factions of students at his school, Christian Fenger Academy High school, on Chicago's South Side."
More here.

These four young black men will, in all likelihood, either spend the remainder of their lives behind bars, or a large portion of it. And why? What was achieved in this senseless act of violence? And why was it so easy for one boy to hit Derrion with a piece of wood, and another to stump him repeatedly about the head?

And what would have prevented the savage beating of Derrion Albert?

Would an all-pervasive military or police force have prevented it? Perhaps. But that would require a police state, and a suspension of many of our social, and civil freedoms, and, even with that, Derrion may still lie dead. Despite the ubiquitous presence of police, senseless violence would still continue, but in a more stealthy fashion, not so much out in the open. The problem, sadly, cannot be solved (maybe mitigated) militarily, or through the presence of a strong police force.

Would targeted political policies, and legislative actions do it? Perhaps. But the policies that we have in place now haven't solved the problem (our bursting-at-the- seams jails and prisons are a testament to our legal crackdowns on criminality). And this, too, may have acerbated the problem, rather than fixing it. Politics and the legal system are not going to solve the problem.

The problem is not a military one, a political one, or a social one. The problem is a problem of values: And what we treasure is at the heart of it. If the heart values violence then violence will be what is expressed.

The solution is simple, but a great deal harder to effectuate. But effectuate we must, if we're going to coexist on this planet in harmony and peace, or utterly destroy ourselves and our world.

The Solution: Exchange All values for One value. E Pluribus Unum. "Out of Many One." The answer has been hiding in plain sight. It's on some of our coins, our one dollar bill, and even our Great Seal. It's been there all these years, and we have ignored it. And what, pray tell, would that one value be that could be exchanged for all the other values that we have adhered to, or not, in all these many millennia?

This is the value: We're All One. And the other that supplements it: There's Only One Of Us Here. We need to know that we're not separate and apart from each other. I know: It sure as hell look that way. And if I were in my other voice, I'd spend sometime telling you why, but that's not the goal, nor purpose of this blog. As long as we think that we are separate and apart from each other, we can do all kind of things one to the other. We can enslave our fellowman. We can carry out a holocaust against a people. We can drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And we can fly planes into buildings.

In a nutshell, we need to expand our notion of the self. We need to see all others as 'The Self', and become a member of this larger, grander Self. As long as our focus is on the self, and not the expanded Self, we act purely from the little ego, rather than the 'Big Ego'. You want a life-changing experience, try living out of the 'Big Ego', the 'Big Self', 'The Self'. It will color everything you do, from the smallest, your casual conversations, to the biggest, how you interact with family, coworkers, friends, and strangers.

It's critical that we start teaching the 'One Self' concept early in the life of children. Teach them that not everyone is going to know their relationship to all others, but that we do our best to live as though we are all one. Teach this concept in the schools, not as a religious construct, but a social construct. Even if you don't believe in the Guiding Principle of 'One Self' (that in some way we're physically, spiritually, or soulfully All One), I can't think of another construct that has more potential, other than the Golden Rule, on which this one is based. But since the Golden Rule smacks of religion, it'll be harder to sell. Teach them: What you do (good or bad) to others you do to the Self.

Sure, you'll come across instances where the 'One Self' concept will be challenged. What do you do when you believe another is seeking to take advantage of you, or is seeking to "rip you off"? I say use commonsense. Most of the time I err on the side of compassion, depending on what is being asked, by whom, and for what purpose. A few dollars given to someone on the street begging (whether a scam or not), is not going to break me. And where I've made loans to friends that weren't paid back, I have always recouped my losses in some unexpected way. I have never lost anything (that appeared to have been taken from me), because I don't believe I can lose. And I don't.

On the blog I referenced, many are asking what can be done. In the short term not much, except to embrace the concept of the 'One Self' and live it, and share it with others, as the opportunity presents itself. It's going to take us some time to fix what's broken. But it can be done. When we combine all values into one value (a Self that embraces all selves), we're kinder, more generous, more caring, more patient, and so on--and those with this new mindset would never kill in the wanton, and senseless fashion with which Derrion was killed.

And there are others like me. Many others! No, this concept is not my brainchild, but it is one that I have adopted. The concept of 'One Self' is winning adherents at an incredible rate. And they're in every part of the world imaginable. Using this concept to conduct their daily lives, they're quietly transforming our world. They come from every religion, creed, and nationality. They're uniting in their efforts to bring a new perception to the human race, a perception that would end much of the strife, and senseless violence, that come from a belief of separation and apartness. They're focused exclusively on the 'One Value', the 'One Solution': We're All One.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

You Want To Buy A Flag?

What you hear from those who know: "Confession is good for the soul." Well, I have a confession to make. I don't fly the American flag. Sure I have one. I bought it right after Barack Obama was elected this country's 44th president. I was so proud of this country for that single act that I wanted to show my appreciation by hoisting a flag over my house.

This was my first time giving in to patriotic fervor. It was my first time, because, as Michelle Obama stated it, and gave critics and enemies talking points to attack her husband, Barack, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."

After Barack became president, I hoped that my pride of country would continue. It didn't. Birthers, deathers, teabaggers, secessionists, those calling for civil war, and 'I want my country back' crowd, has snatched from me, what was, at best, a tenuous hold on patriotic expression.

To put it bluntly: I'm not proud of this country right now, and it may take the country awhile to win me back over. And, no, I'm not going to run for public office in this lifetime. My "not proud of my country" remark would quickly douse any hopes of that.

Now before you call me non-patriotic, let me say: I probably have more patriotism in my little finger than most have in their whole body.

If you haven't served in the military to protect your country, which I have (I volunteered.), then, don't call me unpatriotic. As a patriot, I've put my life on the line, and have spent four years of that life in service to my country.

Yet, because this country treats me as a foreigner, and gives me step-child status in the American family, this country will either embrace me, or I won't embrace it.

And that's where we stand right now, with an uneasy alliance.

And, like you, I want my voice heard. And to do that, blacks may have to stand apart. Here's my gripe: We need more than two parties representing the people of this country. I know: we have more than two on the books, but only two get play time. As long as Democrats and Republicans are calling the shots, we have to take our marching orders from them.

And yes, others have established major parties to compete with the Big Two. Ross Perot's Reform Party, for one, comes to mind, but many of these third parties become spoilers: They don't garner enough of the votes to go it alone. Here's another suggestion: Rather than launch a candidate, a third party should exist to throw its political clout and weight behind the party that represents their values, or will represent their values. As far as I know, there's no law that says third parties can't parlay their votes, and offer them up for political gain at some later time.

Today, Republicans aren't the party of compromise. Political compromise seems to be a thing of the past, a tactic that is now in disuse. Rather than seeking consensus, and compromise, Republicans have taken up an adversarial relationship to the Democratic party, and to the president in particular. They're more intent on destroying their opponents, than working with them, more intent on shaking up the ground, than in finding common ground--and they do this with a self-righteousness that makes them all the more insufferable.

This is not what I want in a political party--this "do or die" mentality. This passion to destroy the other party, and to see the other party as the enemy, will be this nation's undoing. And I don't think I exaggerate, especially when that political passion goes beyond civility, and Democrats are demonized daily by Right wing pundits.

Yet, this "Do Nothing" Republican Party is not exactly idle. It's busy opposing. And the targets don't matter: It could be something as harmless as a speech by the president to this nation's school students, or a remark during a news conference that a police department behaved "stupidly." The goal is to "search and destroy" the enemy. And the enemy, as always, is the Democrat Party.

Teddy Kennedy's politics is dead in the senate of today. I'm told he was the master of compromise, and oftentimes invited members across the aisle to his home to sit across the table from him as they dined. That kind of civility no longer exists in congress. If it does, it's rare.

And Blue Dog Democrats are more "dogs" than "blue." I know that that is a harsh critique. But so far, they're harder to bring around to the wishes of the whole, than if they represented the opposition. If these Blue Dogs are so fiscally conservative, more Right than Left, then they should switch parties. It's tantamount to having Republican wolves in a Democrat Hen House.

Our politics is increasingly becoming, "of the money, by the money, for the money." Many that are now opposing healthcare reform have been bought off by certain providers within the healthcare industry. This include many in the Do Nothing Party and the Democrat Party. Our flag is for sale to anyone with the money to buy it.

I have one, too. You want to buy a flag!?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"The Monsters Are on Maple Street"

On another blog that I frequent, I read a funny, satirical look at all the anger that's sweeping our country right now.

I responded in kind, giving my analysis [thoughtful of course :)] of all the craziness that's got us behaving like this country is in some kind of Twilight Zone TV show.

The show that came to mind: "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." It's one of my favorites, and you can see some of these wonderful shows, and others, by following this link to the site, FANCAST.

The show starts out innocently enough with a shadow, a roar overhead, and a flash of light (a meteor, a ship?) that get everyone wondering what's up on this pleasant summer evening, especially when lights in everyone's home go out, and machines stop working.

A comic-reading kid insists that aliens have landed and have planted an alien, monster, family in their midst.

This story spreads like wildfire, neighbor blaming neighbor, until distrust, suspicion, and prejudice, threaten to engulf the whole town, as lights came on, and went off, in one house after the other.

Unbeknownst to the denizens of this small neighborhood aliens have landed on the hilltop overseeing their frenzied madness. The aliens are seen with the gadget they're using to manipulate the lights, "comment[ing] on how easy it was to create paranoia and panic, concluding that the easiest way to conquer the Earth is to let the people of the Earth destroy themselves, one 'Maple Street" at a time.'" [Wikipedia]

The closing narration is truly revealing, providing insight into our human nature, a nature that we'd rather keep hidden:

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices. To be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the frightened, thoughtless search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own: for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things can not be confined to the Twilight Zone." [Wikipedia]

This television show and the closing words were the brainchild of writer, Rod Serling, the long-time conscience of this nation. Without Rod Serling to speak truth to lies, this country has lost its way more often than it has found its moral compass. Twould that he was still alive today.

As it turns out, we're the Monsters on Maple Street. We didn't have to look farther than ourselves.

Here's what I left over at the other blog.

On behalf of all blacks, let me say this to those white Americans that voted for John McCain:

We knew that it was too early to put a black man in the White House (After all, it's the "White" House.)

And we're sorry that we went to the polls in such numbers that we're now guilty of the biggest racist crime of all: Blacks voting en masse for another black.

But, if there's any consolation, not all of us voted for Barack Obama. Some of our black conservative cousins voted for McCain.

That should make you happy to some extent. Not all of us blacks were racist to the point of voting for a black man.

I know: it looked like we were putting all our money on the black horse, hoping that the long shot would pay, what, a 1000 to 1?

We didn't know he'd actually win. We had the audacity of hope, and we chanted right along with whites, "Yes We Can," but we didn't really think we could.

His election surprised us, too! So don't hold it against us. Obama was our "dream deferred." We were tired of "raisins in the sun." We wanted to eat grapes from the vine, not dried up raisins again.

And Kanye West, and Sista Serena Williams, well, they did their best. They've been holding it in how whites have been treating our first African-American president, until they couldn't any longer, and just exploded.

They wanted to take it out on the first white that held the power of white privilege, a white line judge, and an award that should have, by all accounts, gone to Beyonce. Everybody knew she had the best damn video in the history of videos.

Now, y'all noticed that Sista Williams didn't actually ram that effin' tennis ball down the judge's throat as she threatened, and Beyonce made it up to the white performer, by giving her some of her acceptance time so that she could thank her left-out fans and staff.

You see: Not all of us are rude, insensitive, and boorish, and Sista Williams exercised some commonsense restraint, even though she still lost the match.

And you had to notice: Ms Williams clapped Ms Clijster on the shoulder, and congratulated her for the hollow victory she was given, because of the one point she lost, penalized for unsportsmanlike behavior, which gave Kim Clijster the match.

Take some measure of delight in knowing: your attacks on President Obama are causing us to lose our ever loving minds, just as his being the most powerful black man in the world, and leader of the greatest country in the world, is blowing yours.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Black No More

Ellison: Invisible ManRalph Ellison wrote an award-winning novel [1] a few years before the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement titled, Invisible Man. His protagonist, nameless throughout the book, immersed himself in light, even stealing it to satisfy his immense, but unfulfilled craving for it.

More than anything, he wished to be seen, to be acknowledged. But alas, the whites he encountered as he went about his day-to-day existence couldn't, because of his invisibility, see him. Even if they bumped into him, they hardly noticed. He was a nonentity, not worthy of their attention.

Because whites ignored him, the protagonist, on several occasions, came pretty damn close to killing some--all because they ignored his humanity, his value, and his struggle to be seen.

I watched a YouTube video on another blog that got me thinking about our invisibility as a people. The blogger, Btx3, offered up a fairly detailed description of black conservatives, dividing them into four groups. It's a rather long piece, but well worth the read.

In one of the videos (Scroll down to see videos.), Larry Elder discussed his newly released book, Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card -- and Lose, with Wolf Blitzer of CNN. The title tells you all you need to know about the book, setting up a strong temptation, if you were inclined to read it, to read the front cover, and the blurbs on the back cover--skipping altogether the redundancy of hundreds of pages constituting the body of the book.

The book's point, as Elder states it: "White racism is no longer a major problem in America anymore." He further states--if there's a "commotion" over the book's title, it's because it offers clear proof: "people recoil[ing] by the title shows you they're reluctant to be perceived as racists." Racism, he claims, has been reduced to "incidents," and are not "frequent anymore." And to Wolf Blitzer, who conducts the interview, he states: "This country has evolved. This is not your grandfather's America."

Unwittingly, Elder reveals for whom the book was written, and it's not a book for "stupid black men," or any black men (Black men would rightly be offended by the title, if nothing else.), but for those whites that can point to his racial opus and declare: "Larry Elder is black and he's saying that racism is not a 'major problem in America anymore,' and those with the audacity to play the 'race card' [after the publication of the book] can be ignored." What comfort such a book gives racists, who can continue their racial bigotry, and do it with the impunity of an excuse.

I'm sure it wasn't whites "recoiling" over the title, but blacks; yet his statement suggests that it's whites who're raising the "commotion."

Larry's premise (white racism is not a major American problem), if taken to the extreme, suggests that blacks are finally being seen. They're not invisible anymore, as Ralph Ellison's book posited once. And if they're being seen, they're not black anymore. Our struggle to be seen, to be valued, and to join the ranks of humanity, has been realized, if not fully (there're still those occasional, nagging "incidents"), fully enough to declare, all at once now, "We're black no more!"

And just as Larry Elder pointed to Barack Obama's success in states that are largely non-black as evidence that we've overcome (since, ironically, there's no one comparable to Barack Obama in the Republican party to point to), we can finally put the concerns of race behind us, and forge a future of togetherness, unity, and visibility for all.

Just think. No more color arousal. No more racial profiling. No more living, eating, driving, flying, and breaking into our own homes, while black.

But Wolf conducted his interview with Larry months before Barack Obama became President Obama, before birthers and deathers, before ever-increasing threats against Obama's life and those of his family, before gun-toting protesters stood boldly and calmly outside of town hall meetings, and loud, angry, disruptive, give me "back my country" protesters clamored inside, before the burgeoning numbers of white militias, and the call for secession, and talking heads raising the specter of civil war in this country, before the party of "No," and Rush Limbaugh, in particular, calling for Obama's failure, and the eradication of liberalism from every corner of our great country, before photoshopped images of President Obama as Hitler, and an African Witchdoctor, before Obama was labeled a racist, a communist, a Marxist, a socialist, a foreign interloper who will destroy the economic fabric, and cultural values of this country unless he's stopped.

I have to give it to Elder though. Shortly after Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton and became the Democrat Party's nominee to go up against John McCain, and before he defeated McCain, and before the dark clouds of a recession gathered on our nation's horizon, and before then president George Bush turned down the Obamas' request to live temporarily in Blair House before moving into the White House, to prepare his kids to attend school, Larry Elder called it:

"At the end of the day: Americans don't want to lose wars. Americans don't want their taxes raised. Americans don't want the government to take over the rest of health care that they don't already have."

Had he said, "Republicans" instead of "Americans," he would have been prescient. Yet, I'll have to subtract several points from his prescience for his clear belief, stated this way: "I think Americans won't take that," that being--losing the war, raising taxes, and taking over health care.

So much for his knowledge of what Americans will or will not do!

[1] Ralph Ellison won the National Book Award for his first novel Invisible Man (1952).