Reparations

broken hearted

reparations – Ta-Nehisi Coates

“What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. . . . Reparations would mean a revolution of American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.”

—Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations

Stunning words from Mr. Coates!  Finally, white power and white privilege accustomed to the old, distinctly American adage “money talks” is challenged to the crux of what African-Americans want.  They don’t want handouts, payoffs, hush money, or bribes.  They want white America to do a conscience check and transform the inner soul that makes us racist and bigoted.  What a challenge!  Can we do it?

black-and-white-black-and-white-boy-1299417

the sick & homeless – WWJD

YES MAGAZINE

This referenced article in YES MAGAZINE details how immigrants to our southern border are “disinfected” to prevent the spread of vermin and disease.  I shudder remembering what I have read about the arrival of Jews to the concentration camps and the subsequent disinfecting process.

The article describes the methods used in these ‘holding camps’, the pain, humiliation,  and suffering being caused.  But, the nagging question which bothers me and which we all need to answer is this: are they less valuable, are they less human, are they less loved simply because they are not American, because they are refugees seeking asylum and a better life for themselves and their families?  What if the asylum seeker was me and the family huddling around me was my family?

Initially when this current governmental regime assumed power, it was a fight against drug dealers, thugs and rapists crossing the border that we were warned against.  Today it is the same people approaching our border but, with a different MO.  They are, whether intentionally or unintentionally, spreading covid-19 and other diseases in our midst.  They are causing a health crisis.  Incredibly, listening to government authorities, we should believe that they will sell drugs to our kids, steal our possessions, rape our women and boys, and now infect us with a deadly virus.

Really?  Seems to me that we, as a leaderless nation, have done a fine job of creating our own moral and health crisis – don’t need any help from immigrants.  Those who refuse to mask up, refuse to practice social distancing, refuse to see this pandemic as the killer which it is and then ridicule and threaten others who take covid-19 seriously…..those others are the prevailing threat about which we need to worry.

How much are we willing to believe from a government which has lied repeatedly over the course of history?  How long must America suffer the delusional mindset that because of race, nationality, creed, or alliances, it is superior to the rest of mankind who share this earth under a merciful and gracious Higher Power?  How long?

diversity

JUNETEENTH

White folks probably don’t know the significance of Juneteenth, also called FREEDOM DAY, JUBILEE DAY, CEL-LIBERATION DAY, EMANCIPATION DAY.  Why should they?  How many of us knew about Cinco de Mayo  before Taco Bell came to the USA?  We, as a race, are extremely culture insensitive.

JUNETEENTH commemorates a day important in the history of African-Americans.   On June19th, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation which had been issued in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln was read to enslaved African-Americans in Texas by Gordan Granger, a Union general of the Civil War.  Texas was home to more than 250,00 enslaved blacks.

“This year’s celebration takes place during a moment of national crisis. There is a collective sense of frustration and devastation as we confront the entrenchment of racism and oppression in our systems of government, education, housing, voting, labor, health care and justice that endures more than a century after the last remaining enslaved Black Americans were freed.” splcenter.org

Millions of white Americans will join hands and link arms and connect spiritually with our brothers and sisters of color in solidarity.  We would like to believe that we do not notice skin color.  That is untrue.  We do see the differences, but what we do in our hearts with those differences determines who we will be as a nation.  Our country’s future is at a crossroads with an issue which should have been conquered with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Today, Juneteenth, let’s join in this celebration of freedom.  Tomorrow, June 20th, let’s flood social media, let’s counter any gatherings of disruptive citizens who want to hold on to racist agendas with our own agenda of peace and brotherhood founded upon the words so proudly exclaimed in our Declaration Of Independence…..“all men are created equal.”

Tulsa, Oklahoma, will be the scene of political forces on June 20th which have given a national voice to the hatred and violence of white nationalism masquerading as conservative values in both politics and religion.  We, proponents of nonviolence in actions of social justice, also have a voice which needs to be heard.  Let those voices be ringing loud and clear as we envision a nation free of racial injustice and intolerance.

Picture6

 

TULSA RACE RIOTS

 

Christian blinders

St. Francis of Assisi was raised by his wealthy father in luxury and social privilege.  He loved to party with his young friends and remained isolated from the poverty which was the norm for most of society during the Middle Ages.  His transformation occurred while riding away on horseback to join the Crusades, a worthy undertaking for a man desiring to prove himself to his family and friends back home.

Lepers were social outcasts who were feared, according to stories about Francis, greatly by the young man.  Approaching a leper along the highway, he turned his horse and rode quickly the other direction not wanting to see or engage this man who was rejected by society.  However, whether by conscience or whether by God, Francis could not remove the image of the diseased man from his mind, decided to turn around, determined to face this fear and spent time with the leper thus conquering his unfounded prejudice.

St. Francis, Jesus of Nazareth, Clare of Assisi, and documented mystics throughout history laid the foundations for a Christian philosophy which transcends popular belief that sin is the inherent nature of man and that ‘salvation’ is the goal of faith.  Contrary to this contemporary Christian doctrine is the concept that mankind is a community of brothers and sisters who, in loving co-existence with the entirety of Creation, are designed to serve one another in peace and fellowship, engaging those at the bottom of the social ladder in service rather than aspiring to climb the ladder to a promised salvation in a far-away heavenly home thereby avoiding the ‘lepers’ of modern society, the disenfranchised.

In years past, blinders were put upon work horses to avoid distractions in the field or along the road.  It seems that some of today’s Christians voluntarily put on blinders to avoid the dark side of today’s world, to avoid the distractions of intolerance, racism, hatred, white nationalism, homophobia, Islamophobia, homelessness, poverty.

Garth Brooks famously sang “Friends in Low Places” back in 1990.  Could we (and I include myself at the top of this list) search the lowly places for those who have been cast by the wayside, commune with them, walk the talk with them, look beyond that which makes them different from us and somehow connect in solidarity with the One who makes us one humanity?

Perhaps we could get down into the nitty-gritty of humanity, love those whom St. Francis and Clare of Assisi loved, stand shoulder to shoulder with the ones Jesus addressed in the Beatitudes as “blessed”….perhaps then we could shun those Christian blinders (human and doctrinal) which prevent us from seeing the world as it is.

Maybe we need to look in the ‘low places’ rather than the heavens for Jesus?

cropped-diversity.png

WHEN WILL OUR HEARTS MOAN?

Maybe the ‘reckoning’ should start in the hold of the slave ships bringing human cargo to our shores for sale on the auction block.  These African men and women lived proudly with dignity in their native land.  They were mothers and fathers, members of communities skilled in hunting or homemaking, swept away by the distant European settlers for greed and profit, stacked one atop the other for the weeks’ long voyage to the Americas.  Many died encrusted in their own excrement.  Can we just for even a moment try to imagine that?  Probably not.

“It was a community of sorts, yet each person lay in their own chrysalis of human waste and anxiety. More often than not, these Africans were strangers to each other by virtue of language, culture, and tribe. Although the names of their deities differed, they shared a common belief in the seen and unseen. The journey was a rite of passage of sorts that stripped captives of their personal control over the situation and forced them to turn to the spirit realm for relief and guidance. . . .” Richard Rohr

What they shared in common was the sound of the moan….

“it was the language of stolen strangers, the sound of unspeakable fears…” 

We – the whites, the majority, the privileged, the controllers, the unconcerned, the favored ones in the eyes of our white God – must reckon within our collective soul the unspeakable actions toward others and moan in unison with the oppressed brothers and sisters of our nation.  The black and brown communities, the Muslims, the LGBTQ+, the Native Americans, the poor, the throw-away and homeless – they all need to be sitting in our midst telling their stories.  And rather than more platitudes and promises to do better in the future, WE need to listen with searching minds and moaning penitent hearts.  Healing has to start within each one of us.

we’ve come a long way, baby

“VA recognizes that Veterans are composed of diverse populations with unique needs and is committed to serving all with dignity and respect. June marks LGBT Pride month and provides an opportunity to shine a light on how VA supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Here we focus on Veterans who identify as transgender.” VA RECOGNIZES PRIDE

cropped-pride7.png

In 1969 I was investigated by ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) for alleged ‘homosexual’ behavior.  I faced a dishonorable discharge if found guilty.  My legal counsel provided by the Navy advised that I deny the charge, “Don’t admit to anything.”

A few months earlier I had been admitted as a surgery patient to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, my duty station.  The night prior to surgery I was administered a drug which I was told would help me to relax and sleep.  (I later learned that it was sodium pentothal.)  Waking up the next morning groggy, I remembered the dream I had the previous night.  Several fellow hospital corpsmen accompanied by the head of hospital security interrogated me about my sexual activity.  As I learned later that was not a dream.   I was drugged and questioned thus leading to the investigation.

The charges, however, were dropped.  I was a naïve, 22 year old, scared to death of being discovered and just happy to let the entire fiasco rest in peace.  Today my response would be different, but that was 1969, I was a GI (government issue) with no rights and I resorted to my most accessible escape – alcohol.

I thank God that members of the LGBTQ+ community today do not face the same intolerance that I feared as a young man.  The crusaders, the marchers, those who suffered injury and death, the men and women who were abused for living their inner truth – to all of my brothers and sisters in PRIDE – a huge hug and thank-you for making it possible on this day for a gay veteran to read about the  VETERAN”S ADMINISTRATION welcoming us as part of their family.  It’s not perfect, but BABY WE’VE COME A LONG WAY.

pride

 

kumbaya

So all you white folks think another round of ‘kumbaya’ sitting by the campfires is going to fix this problem?  Really?

Black Americans, Latino Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, gay Americans, Muslim Americans, immigrant Americans, poor Americans, Native Americans, disenfranchised throw-away Americans, almost all those who have not been living in ‘privileged’ white America would probably disagree.

Racism, bigotry, intolerance, hatred will not disappear with legislative work, more laws and Constitutional Amendments, additional streets named after black people, Pride parades on our streets, and conciliatory memes on social media.  Protesters of differing skin tone marching with linked arms carrying meaningful signs are a start, but when America finally reckons with the malignancy which has been festering in its heart, only then can healing begin.  It begins when each of us looks deep into the heart which directs our lives, takes an inventory, does a housecleaning, and strives to treat others the way he wants to be treated.  Very simple Bible School stuff – the Golden Rule.

That healing will see communities fostering tolerance and inclusiveness, churches welcoming all neighbors, job and educational opportunities available to all, local governments working for every citizen, each man caring about the welfare of his fellow man.

There are those, mostly unaffected by racism or hatred, who want to maintain things as they have been for many generations.  There are those who pray every day for equality and opportunity for all.  There are those who don’t really care.  And, of course, there are those sitting around the campfire singing kumbaya thinking, “what do we have to do to placate the groups who have been abused?  What do we have to give them?”

It can’t continue this way.  America has to fix its heart problem.

American preachers, if they claim Christianity, must begin to preach what the Gospels teach – love and brotherhood, the community of mankind, the ministry of Jesus.  If the preacher-man’s message is not one of inclusiveness, love and service to all of Creation, if he is spreading the gospel of merited affluence, the gospel of exclusive white rights to eternity, then that preacher is spewing lies from his pulpit.

American governments – national, state, and local – must abide by the Constitutions and laws which they have sworn to uphold. Those laws promise equal justice and equal rights to every American.  No man is more equal or more privileged than another.  No man is less protected or less entitled.  Sadly, the truth of our American justice system begs to differ.  We must change that.

American social-media (ah yes, the media screens) must be held accountable, without encouraging censorship, for the ideas, thoughts, and words that are allowed for public consumption.  Is it too difficult to believe that the colonial framers had never imagined the vicious vitriol and lies that would someday claim protection under the 1st Amendment?  We must become responsible for self-policing what we allow into our heads and what we accept as truth.

American teachers, dedicated to a difficult and thankless job, must be the most open-minded of all of us – they are expanding our children’s minds to the world of new ideas and concepts.  Our willingness to fund excellence in education says much about who we want to be as a society.

American parents, you are wonderful, but from whom did I learn the n-word?  When did I begin to believe that 12 year-old me was somehow superior to the migrant laborers who worked the fields in the summer?  Who taught me the words to ridicule the lone Jewish boy in my school? Parents, your children are all ears and eyes.  They are listening and watching and then replicating.  What do you truly want them to learn from you?  Are your prejudices and fears being passed on to the next generation?

HEART WORK.  We all have a lot of heart work to do.  Are you willing?  Am I?  Our country is depending on all of us getting this right.  No more mushy kumbaya moments.

LOVE

 

 

 

SOUL FORCE

“One of the key words Gandhi used in expressing the meaning of nonviolence was ahimsa, literally ‘non-harm,’ the refusal to hurt others. It’s the rock bottom of nonviolence. A second key word was satyagraha (a combination of the words for ‘truth’ and ‘holding firmly’) sometimes called ‘truth force,’ holding on to what is true and good, striving to bring about more humane conditions for people and society. King called it ‘soul force.’”

—Dr. Gerard Vanderhaar  

Pace e Bene Nonviolence

Are we on the brink of a nation-wide recognition, an awakening (call it revival if you like) of what America is becoming as a society and commit our energies to reversing the  downward spiral of violence and hatred?  Or are we destined to fall, like many before us, to anarchy and despotism at the hands of a minority too blind to see the equality of all the nation’s people?  This is not just a Pride issue or a black issue, or a poor people’s issue that we must address.  It is an issue of ‘SOUL FORCE’.

What will be revealed in the coming months about the soul of America?