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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Needed Now... A Remedy For Hate


Then Senator Barack Hussein Obama in his now celebrated address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 declared:

“… even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats…”

Senator Obama went on to become President Obama. His time in office was marked by his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the passage of seminal legislation such as the Affordable Care Act - now known as Obamacare. His Presidency was also, without doubt, marked by a significant challenge to the notion of a united country -  which was the main thesis of his 2004 speech. Those who hoped that we could put issues of race behind us were in for a rude awakening.

With the coming of a Black family to the White House we learned to our chagrin that there is in fact a Black America, and a White America. In the face of the hope-full-ness of the first African American President -  white supremacists came with a vengeance … to take their country back. This sentiment now finds fulfillment in the presence of Donald Trump in the White House - his stated commitment… to make America great again - is one which reenergized the likes of white supremacist David Duke, and the KKK. Every right wing racist extremist now salivates at the prospect of making America white again. They have all collectively embraced Trump as their new savior.

The essence of white supremacist sentiment in the United States of America is captured in a now infamous statement that Abraham Lincoln made in the context of a political debate in Charleston, Illinois on September 18, 1858. While there has been considerable discussion as to whether or not Lincoln harbored racism as a fact of his own cultural and ideological disposition, this statement in and of itself captures the gist of white supremacist thinking on issues critical to the lives of black folk. Lincoln's words, in this circumstance, demonstrate the awkward position that politicians put themselves in when they speak out of both sides of their mouths on a critical issue such as this. On this occasion he bites his own tongue when he responds to the prodding of a political opponent about his involvement in the abolitionist movement by stating:

"I will say that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, ...that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of  qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Lets talk about "inferior" and "superior" positions for a moment. There is a remarkably pathetic quality that marks the logic of the white supremacist. In his effort to justify his culture of exploitation he must employ the tactic of subjugation, and he must codify this in his laws and his philosophy of life. Thus he assigns an arbitrary "inferiority" to those he exploits based on their most obvious difference - color. One can see why they hate Marx... he has a better explanation - power. Marx points out that in a culture of exploitation all relationships are necessarily power relationships. Thus when reactionary half literates talk about black racists, ask them what black institution in our society has the power to exploit and victimize white people. In a culture based on exploitation - as in Slavery - the underlying power dynamic breeds fear for the simple reason that you must always watch your back when your prosperity is based on the brutal exploitation of others. Fear is an inescapable consequence of the dysfunctions inherent in a culture of oppression; and hate is a fruit of this fear. The one proceeds from the other.

Hate is the torment that fear breeds; and White Supremacy is nothing more than the agency of this dynamic. The oppressor lives in fear, and therefore his hatefulness

The cancer of hate that thrives in the gut of this nation needs to be diagnosed as such. It needs to be subjected to the necessary radical treatment that we reserve for any malady that threaten our lives. Make no mistake about it - people are dying from this sickness in our midst. It is not good enough that we engage in occasional outpouring of emotions when those infected with the disease of white racism spew their nasty venom at will. We have witnessed the snuffing out of vulnerable lives like those in that church in South Carolina, and most recently the killing of an African American man in New York City by a white supremacist who traveled hundreds of miles with the expressed purpose of murdering black men.

It is past time that this nation becomes proactive about its collective well-being. As a nation we are a house divided. That division is realized in the negation of every ideal that a hope-filled Senator Obama espoused in 2004. Wisdom and History have taught us that a nation that nourishes discord is destined for destruction. The cantankerous political argument regarding Healthcare that has dominated the news in recent years is itself a product of the issue of racial dysfunction in this society. Naming the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare" was a way of denigrating it by appealing to the racist underbelly of a nation steeped in a history of bigotry. It is almost humorous to note that many who opposed "Obamacare" did not realize that it was in fact the ACA ... yes... the same insurance they were about to lose under "Trumpcare". 

The significance of Obama's legacy powerfully impacting one fifth of this nation's economy is not lost on those who would make his complexion - rather than his convictions - the issue. It is time to focus on preventive actions that will address the cancer of hate, a function of the racism in our country's body politic. Beyond Obamacare and Trumpcare, diagnosing and rooting out this malady must become our top national priority.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Concupiscent Embrace Of Spring

It is the end of that recurring season of frigidness, and she has come again... 
The scars of what seems like too many days in the cold are still present, and all around me. We all have those scars no matter where we find ourselves, they are the unmistakable impressions of lives lived out in the uncomfortable open. We are not all threatened by frostbite. But like deciduous trees our leaves fall off, and our limbs are left bare to embrace the elements during the days of cold. Those days of discomfort come and go in our lives wherever we are… the extent of our exposure, a matter of degrees. For some of us, on those seemingly endless days, the presence of sunlight does very little to quell the wrath of Jack Frost. Threat of frostbite or not, we all experience that season in our lives when not much flourishes...or grows for that matter. Even the “evergreen” will testify to this.

We have been told by the more “seasoned” among us that there is no such thing as bad weather… just bad clothes. There is undeniable wisdom in that old adage, but I beg to differ. Heavy coats and appropriately insulated boots or not, bad weather is a fact of our experience. It is a reality that tends to wear us out despite our best efforts at clothing ourselves against it. We may dress ourselves up in its presence, but its impact remains nonetheless unmistakably wearisome.

Squirrels hide their nuts. Birds fly South to more agreeable climes. And we… well we either imitate the birds, or we bundle up till the days become more accessible to the company of the sun. For some, the option to shut things down and retreat to places where we can hibernate is rather appealing... it seems to come naturally. For others the challenges of daily survival dictate that we adjust our pace and keep moving forward. Like the mail, there are items that we need in our lives which must be delivered despite seasonal and temperamental challenges.

She has been gone for awhile, and I have missed her...
I have grown accustomed to her coming and going… she does so with an abiding constancy. When she is with me I experience that wonderful reawakening that affirms again the presence of the roots of my potential effervescence. The stimulating vitality of her aura makes me sprout again in all the right places. Yes, she makes me breathe and live again in ways that celebrate my fecundity. Savoring this aspect of her impact on me, I sometimes enquire of her as to why she has to go as she does… And she, in her everlasting patience, reminds me that it is essential that we have time apart.

Discerning my angst she places her kind, stilling, fingers on my quivering lips; and like the poet Gibran, she breathes into my ears the substantial sentiments… There must be spaces in our togetherness... Sentiments that, like myself, some may find difficult to embrace and cultivate, but that are nevertheless so essential to our individual and communal well-being. Spaces for rest and restoration. Spaces to discover and be discovered. Spaces to be and to become. Spaces for everything and for no-thing. Spaces to create and to re-create… Spaces… Yes… Let there be spaces...

As has been the case, it was around the beginning of Summer that we were last together. After that season of resurrection and reinvigoration she inspired me to nurture the products of our mutual insemination. With the help of her warming influence and the blessed showers of our fertile dalliance, we together sowed and nurtured the seeds that are witnesses to our divine multiplicity. In time it would be up to me to reap and to store as needs be, the abundant harvest of our innate creativity.

“Your life and mine are the place where Heaven and Earth intersect”, she always says. 
I believe I now understand what she means. It is true that we are both creatures and creators. Our lives are the gardens where the gods come to play… where they resort to connect with their primeval clay. I know without doubt that the place where we connect is idyllic. It is indeed a place of unmistakable bliss. But beyond my agreeable reflections during the seasons of her absence, there remains my persistent longing for her. I can state with a certain guilty pleasure that our intersection is the place where I most want to have my life. Those who know her will agree.

My longing however, is fortunately not a function of any essential intransigence. I am certain of this because I have come to trust her wisdom. I have come to recognize and affirm the need for, and the nature of the spaces in our togetherness. Those spaces help us to keep and maintain the boundaries between our needs and our wants. It is essential to the cause of balance in our lives that they be kept clearly defined. They serve to prevent the kind of intransigence that clouds our judgement, and render redundant our claims to any right of self-determination. Our recognition of the value of the essential spaces in our experience is what helps us to connect with the time honored declaration... “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… ”. This is a self-evident truth about which the "The Preacher" speaks to us with a certainty that is inescapable:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


 Discarding the heavy garb of a season of frigidity… Come Spring!
There is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. As much as we may revel in our wants, it is the path of necessity that keeps us appropriately focused. We can, and should enjoy our wants without compromising our needs. The cultivation of appropriate focus helps us to transition effectively into the various seasons of our lives and their natural demands. I have been feeling her unmistakable approach for some days now. There is a warmth that is in no way transitory, and it is all around me. Yes she is here, this is no tease. There is a stirring in my sacred places that tells me that I am ready, that she is near… That the time has come for us to cohabitate again.

The bulbs that laid dormant underground have started to shoot their way through fertile topsoil. The limbs that seemed asleep yesterday are now displaying their multiple eruptions of vitality… their succulent sprouts soon to be leaves providing shade, and shelter, and sustenance. The geese are gathered again around the ponds. They are as loud as ever as they announce their presence and mark their territory. It is breeding season. And youth... Youth have discarded the heavy garb of caution in favor of the more flattering wear that invites passionate encounter. Spring is. Here again.

I awoke this morning and there she was in all her magnificent splendor. I opened my eyes, and all my senses rejoiced at her extraordinarily enlivening and fragrant presence. Her beautiful visage as manifestly magnetic as always. Seeing her, I stood up. And I advanced with unhurried steps toward the twin windows of my dwelling. I unlatched them and swung them wide open. Her air came in at a pace that matched my strides. It was neither hot nor cold, just air as it is meant to be on such a day as this. There was no bluster. She was calm, comfortable, and joy-evokingly splendid. She was non-abrasively enjoyable. Nakedness-inspiring. She was there with me, occupying the very space in which I stood...

…  And we embraced… With an unhurried kiss we simultaneously inhaled the breath of our mutuality. And time stood still as if to salute the passing of another season… as if to honor the letting down of our guard on this new day. And I absorbed her in all her essentialness. And she enveloped me as only she could. And we knew each other… Again.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

An Uncircumcised Honesty

The process of reflecting provides opportunities to take an all-around look at ourselves. It allows us to see ourselves in greater detail than we are usually comfortable with. As an objective looker I challenge myself to see me as others might.  I give myself a chance to come to understand why someone else might not be comfortable with certain aspects of the me that I present daily.

As an honest viewer of myself I might find some aspects of me that I need to fix for my own wellbeing, and for the sake of the health of some of my relationships. Useful reflection is grounded in a raw, uncircumcised honesty. It lays us out in front of ourselves in all our awkward bareness, and presses us to come to terms with the ragged parts of our personhood.

At times we tend to talk about reflection as if it were some kind of esoteric abstraction. In response to that particular approach I would say like Ludwig Wittgenstein, a disciple of Sigmund Freud...  "Don't think, look!". The truth is usually right there, unblinkingly staring back at us. Meaningful reflection is an engagement in a decidedly unflattering evaluation of self, that forces to the fore the most authentic and at times unflattering pieces of who we are. It initiates a process of personal distillation that relieves us of the froth that is our superficiality.

In meaningful reflection we allow truth to become an ally in opening us up to the possibilities of becoming in accordance with our greatest potential. By truth I mean those transcendent statements that call us to be more than any of the existing estimates of who we are, or for that matter, who we can become.

In the course of our experience we are defined by the things we do, and by the things that are done to us. To be defined thus is to be limited accordingly. As a transcendent dynamic, Truth nullifies the limitations that Experience fetters us with. Through meaningful reflection then, we are empowered to make declarations about ourselves that transcend the facts that previously operated against us to stunt our growth.