As we celebrate Memorial Day lets us all take a deep breath and look at those around us. Celebrate with remembrance. I would like to suggest that we continue to remember those who are struggling as much as we celebrate the fallen. The fallen are a reminder of how terrible we can be to each other and a caution to us all. Let us not lose focus, we celebrate because some were taken before their time.
Let us celebrate life and work to preserve our essential freedoms without the need for the loss of life. Let us celebrate nature and the circle of life. Happy Memorial Day to all.
I am happy to be living in a country that affords me the opportunity to succeed. As a parent I am happy that my children will have more opportunities open to them than I did. My job is to guide them into success. As I look around America I am worried for my children in spite of all the opportunity that exists. The recent string of killings of men and women of color has helped to refocus my attention on the details. I, like many people of color in this great country have been lolled into a false sense of achievement. Worst is that we have allowed the wider society to accept the fallacy that racial justice as arrived. We have failed in teaching our children the important details.
As a parent of girls of color I have focused on making sure they are confident and well-educated, that is not enough. Over the last few months I have had to re-evaluate everything I have come to believe about equity in America. The history of people of color in this country is one of brutality and subjugation. There has not been enough change in our situation. In the last several month several studies have shown the depth and pervasiveness of our disenfranchisement. Our girls are 6 times more likely to be harshly punished in school compared to white girls. Americans of African heritage with master degrees are paid the same as whites with bachelors degrees and even doctors of African heritage are paid about 10 % less than similarly educated white doctors. Why is this so? I have come a conclusion, that question is not relevant. It is not relevant because those in power do not care to fix the problem. I have given up on the idea of equity in my country. The continued inequity makes me angry and concerns me for the future of my girls. I am angry but I will not be deceived into violence. Protesting does no good. Voting does almost as little.
So, in my quest to find a better answer I have looked around and think I have found the only viable route in the Jewish experience of World War 2. No one is allowed to forget the Jewish Holocaust and so too no one should be allowed to forget American Slavery and Jim Crow. The end of the Jewish Holocaust is celebrated but the brutality of it is what is referenced most often. This is what we all are reminded of daily. As people of color we need to teach our children about the brutality of the American enslavement of out ancestors and the continued brutality of Jim Crow America and the current discrimination. We need to have them understand that the current celebration of Martin Luther King Jr is fake and serves only to assuage the guilty. It is not a sign of contrition, it is hollow and designed to distract from the ever-present and pervasive discrimination against people of color. Our children need to know about the Martin Luther King Jr struggle before they can appreciated his success. They need to know and see the pictures of America brutality to their ancestors. They need to know the name Emmet Louis TIll along with Martin Luther King Jr. The goal is not anger, it is empowerment. Our children need to understand that things have changed and that we have many opportunities, but they also need to understand that they need to succeed in spite of the many race based road blocks. They need to succeed to honor their ancestors.
Violence is not the answer, it is only a way to continue to enslave us in the prison complex which is designed to strip us of the rights our ancestor died to attain. Our children need to understand the context of their lives in this land of opportunity. We need them to take the opportunities and make progress while making sure no one forgets the brutal treatment of our ancestors. We should honor our ancestors for their willingness to stand up for their rights and we should build on their success by taking the opportunities available and making the most of them. We know that we will not be treated fairly nor paid equitably because this is the current state of America. There is no real hope of progress beyond the eventual death of the merchants of death. As parents of children of color we need to prepare them to survive and thrive until that day of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream arrives. Don’t get violent, get angry and achieve.
The cycle of war and peace continues like the flow of water. Unlike the processes of nature, it is not inevitable. The process of life is about choice. We have the ability to choose the path we take. The decisions we make are not preordained, we are our life’s directors. As we direct our life we must take care of the vulnerable among us. War is a selfish act, resulting from the disregard for the many. It is the result of disordered thinking, that justifies killing as a means of protection. The incongruity of that argument is evident if we would reflect on it. Our reflection must consider the social nature of our species where we will follow those among us that profess caring and loyalty to the group. Unfortunately, the malicious and selfish among us have and will continue to exploit the majority, until the majority decides to be as concerned about the stranger as we are about the ones closes to us.
The more important question that needs examining concerns what will our future be if we do not break the cycle. War may bring a temporary peace, but the underlying discord will resurface. The cycle must be broken, if humanity expects to survive. The cycle can be broken when we address the root causes. Where the root of war is usually the exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few. We must reconsider our use of the planet’s resources. It will be painfully to many, but will be beneficial to the most. We may not think that we are exploiting anyone, but if we examine our life it will become clearer that many of us are consuming excessive quantifies of the available resources.
If we all consider and re-order our life’s the great masses of the deprived on our planet could have the possibility to improve their lives. The cycle of war with interludes of peace could be broken by each of us say no to exploitation. We all have a responsibility to our species. Our care needs to extend further than down the street. We need to extend our care and concern to the father thousands of miles away that cannot feed his family, while we dump more food that we eat.
War is and always will be about resources. Let us all take a stand and share.
There is a continuing fight all over the world today. It is mental, intellectual and physical. I’m not talking about terrorism in its State and Non-State forms. I’m talking about the continuing fight for equality and civil rights. This fight is getting simultaneously easier and harder. The right to embrace our individual sexual orientation is to me a basic human right that is worth defending. Although homosexuality has gained much wider acknowledgment and in many countries is no longer a sentence to death or deprivation, there is still much to do. The improved prospects have been won by hard intelligent work. As with any progress, only vigilance will maintain the momentum and keep our society honest. Many will disagree but I will continue to wholeheartedly support the equal rights of all in our society.
The deprivation of rights from any member of our Society makes us all less free. Fortunately the fight for the future is already won because a much maligned generation, generation Y, has fully embraced equality. The continuing battle is to define a clear and open future for those who are unfortunately living under less equitable systems. Many in our culture still have not gotten the “memo” but the momentum is not with them, this movement is irreversible. As irreversible as the general direction of progress is, there will be setbacks. These setbacks will be reminders of how far society as traveled. I am proud to be living in an age where we are having the discussion about living up to the ideals of equality expressed in our constitutions. The march of progress is evident in the many same-sex couples that are out and open. I am proud and happy to take care of the same-sex couples in the hospital. Many are older and the acknowledgment of their decades old relationships is something that many wanted to see but never expected. They have all lived extraordinary lives because their love survived the ugliness of an intolerant society. Other groups can claim similar experiences and we should celebrate together the maturing of global culture.
As a young person growing up in a proudly homophobic society I saw many around that were different but never judged nor did I defend. I was confused by the incongruity that was religious society. On one hand extolling the love of Christ while also calling for the death and persecution of others. It was obvious to me that the love of Christ should extend to all his creatures, but that was not the a prevalent opinion. This divergence is still a puzzle to me. Older and not necessarily wiser I would not change the culture of my up bringing, but I say now with much confidence that we had it wrong. I never spoke openly about my opinion, but treated all around me equally. The truth is that there are people of varying orientations in the Church and our Father has directed us to love all equally.
As the world stands by and watches the flames of conflict I am saddened. I am saddened because humanity continues to destroy ourselves. We continue to sow the seeds of distrust and anger among our children. We seem not to be able to remember the pain that we have endured. We call on others to pursue peace as we beat the drums of war. How can peace be attained while retribution is supported? How can we support the process of peace while developing the means of war?
Some will say that war will always be with us. The truth is more complex and challenging than that simple statement. War will be with us as long as our leaders are cowards. As long as our leaders behave like street thugs, but are not held to the same rules. The problem is, there is no one to hold the powerful to the same rules as the weak are held. Fundamentally the thugs that rule world politics are rich in resources both monetary and civic. They are primarily rich in civic resources. Powerful people support the slaughter and protect the barbaric.
We wonder why young educated and economically stable people join in the barbarism of conflicts all over the world. That questions is only asked by the morally deprived. I was brought up with a deep moral compass, in a country that has a longstanding history of supporting the “little” guy. The sun and fun of Jamaica was always equally matched by our deep mistrust of world powers, because we have suffer at the hands of the powerful. The powerful will always abuse the weak as long as the weak allow it. The arc of history is long and today’s victory for the morally deprave will turn into tomorrows sadness.
Many of us, and I include myself have long ago stopped being attentive to the many slaughters on the world stage. We have stopped paying attention because our anger has no outlet. We have joined the ranks of those that have chosen to deliberately not follow the happens in the world. We have stopped watching because the answers are obvious but will never be acted on. The powerful are amoral and the killing of non-combatants has become acceptable. We have stopped watching because there is no one willing to call out the complicity of those that pretend to represent us.
I have stopped watching because it makes me angry. I will not allow my anger to push me into the world of the depraved. I will not become a statistic.
Every July 4th I remind myself of the courage of the founders of my country. The beauty of the declaration of independence is in the broad inclusiveness of the sentiments expressed. The global equality of mankind as expressed is at the root of the American dream. However, the history of our country is littered with the carcasses of failed policies and leaders who have not lived up to the lofty expectations of that celebrated document. The 4th should be used as a time to refocus on the sentiments expressed. This land of immigrants is not about where you were born, but about what you believe in. It is about fairness, equity and the continuous match toward a more perfect union.
The dream of America is alive and prospering despite all the attempts to distract. Some have lost hope in the self-evident greatest of the American experiment. I am not one. For people of color the American experience is that of continued heart-break, but there runs a determined strain of hope that as continued to improve our lot in this union. I read the declaration of independence on the 4th to be reminded of the promise and the progress. This is a marathon not a sprint, and we dream of true equality as we march toward that goal. This is my American dream.
I have hope because I have to be hopeful. I have young children and I know that the world has changed for the better and that change will continue. Most importantly I know that the growth in American society is irreversible because my generation and the following have made it so. As the country ages those who express the old prejudices have been out numbered and embarrassed into submission. There will always be a few stubborn ones. There will always be some expressions of darkness, but the light of equity is here to say. Progress has been slow and inconsistent but it is here to stay.
The continuous expression of hope and growth is why I continue to love my America. American greatness is derived from the philosophy of her people. If you were born in this land or emigrated the dream is the same. We are a people buoyed by hope and the understanding that we can be the best and always expect to be.
What is your American dream?
Our lives are short and then we die. How are you going to make the best of your experience? Are you going to be conservative and play it safe?
We often worry more about others and are less concerned about how we are using our limited time. Ignore them, because in the long arc of time they do not matter. I say wake up and dream. Dream of your adventures, but make sure you wake up and experience them. Do it now because only you will live the regret. Do it now because there is no better time. Do it now because we hold the keys to our happiness.
Take hold, escape and live it.
Because life is what happens when we are making plans, plan less. Life is in the moment. Make your list and check it off, because time will not wait for you. We have come too far to give up now. We have survived for a reason. We have survived so we can enjoy. We are here because evolution has chosen us. She is a strict master and only those who take hold and grow will succeed.
We have gotten lucky, we have come too far to give up.
We need to raise the bar. We need to go out and take our rightful place. Do not get pushed, go do the pushing. Brush off the dust. Go dancing in the rain because you are a champion and the world is your play ground. We are like butterflies. We have survived a long birth, it is time to explore. The world will hear us. The world will respect us. The world does not matter. It is our world. Hold on, but not too tightly. Enjoy it, do not stifle it. Take hold and make it count. Be a little breathless, but mostly keep your smile on and remember that it is your world.
It was a long arduous climb but I had gotten to the peak. The view of the valley was breathtaking. As I looked around the beauty of the valley below stood in sharp contrast to the plainness of the mountain top. The wide open expanse of green was awe-inspiring. The many hues of the expansive forest reminded me of why I loved the hike. This was a very special day. It was the challenge of my life and I had gotten to the top by mastering my fear of failure and confronted the ultimate question. Was the effort worth it? Feeling the warming of the sun and the cool air placed my challenge into perspective. The risk of my climb would have been in not taking the challenge. I am glad to had taken the climb.
We all have a challenge, will you embrace it? Will you be able to look down the valley of your life and see the beauty of the experience? Will attaining the peak be your prize or will the journey be the ultimate gift to yourself? I want the journey to be the prize. The risk of life is in not living. How we live is in our hands.
The ultimate question is, will your valley be lush and colorful or barren and gray? I want my life to be about the memories created, not the things left behind. I want to turn the tables and do the unexpected. I want always to be hungry for the next challenge. I want to be willing to take the risks since the reward is in the experience and not the contemplation. Once we get to the peak there is no next time. There is only today and yesterday. Live, for the risk in life is not taking the risks as they come.
The best movie of 2013 was “12 years a slave”. It is a well told story with wonderful cinematography. The material covered is apart of American history and was necessary to be told. The beauty and tragedy of the story is that it is not fictional. It is the true story of one man and allegory of many. In telling the story the filmmaker presented the complexity, brutality and the tragedy that was the life of Africans in “slave” America. The representations of violence are not gratuitous, but instructive and do not feel contrived. They do however have you asking why and how? Why did slavery exist in a country that professed equality of all men and how was this system justified for so long? Gladly no attempt was made to answer those questions.
The power of the story can be seen in the reaction of the Africans to their loss of self-determination. The over simplified version is that there were two types of enslaved, the demoralized and the resistant. The demoralized made peace with enslavement and would not resist because he had seen the lot that fell upon those who resisted. While the resistant would continue to resist in spite of the consequences even to his death. The story of loss of freedom is tragic, but illustrates well the fleeting nature of physical freedom. The main character was betrayed by the trust that exists that allows free societies to function effectively. The trust that ensures that all are treated ethically and are equal under the law.
This is a wonderful movie that should not be missed. See it with your children. Make it a community event. Discuss it openly. The essential truth is the revelation that our physical possessions cannot keep us from bondage. The only freedom is that of the mind. The ability to move freely is significant, but the freedom to think as one likes is vital to the establishment a fully free society.
Life is what we make of it. It is short and turbulent, then it is over. The question of what comes next has been and will continue to be asked by the many with no really fulfilling answer to the had. For the religious the answer is often clear while not really clarifying. Humanity continues to look to the skies for our salvation. Some see a maker and some see the origins. Whatever you see, if that comforts you it is good enough. No one has a complete or even a near complete answer.
The joy of life is in the living. Live well and make others happy. Live well by making yourself happy. Live fully and experience the creator. Live fully because our conscious time in the universe is short, it is like a minor wrinkle. Our years cannot be compared to the vast time scale of the cosmos, our time can only be remembered for how we lived it. There is only the past and future, live life well and leave or create joy in another heart. It is in creating joy that we can change the direction of the universe. Our atoms will be reused when we no longer need them and we will not know any better because this is the true nature of all life. We arrived, we depart and we are forgotten. Let’s live our time not trying to be remembered, but live it to create memories.