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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Racial Cards

In casinos, the cards are regularly changed. This prevents all sorts of embarrassing situations from occurring.

I sure wish America would put the whole pack of racial cards away.

I related a story yesterday about asking while teaching a class, with a group of adults – and one 7-year-old, if they could name one Lee Greenwood song. Only the 7-year-old could do it. He said, “God Bless the USA.”

It’s an interesting thing to have been born during a time, which that 7-year-old couldn’t even imagine – and yet, the kid has heard –and likes Lee Greenwood. But to have lived during a time when a dime could get you a phone call, when men were walking on the Moon, and when so much turbulence was occurring in society as I walked barefoot in a small fishing village in the summers – it is a sobering thought. The world was changing around me – and I never even noticed. For that 7-year-old last night – I wonder what he notices? Does he see or feel the change in society or are these his barefoot summers. I kind of hope the latter is the case.

And lately, I have begun to wonder if we’ve changed at all. Things are way out of control. People pointing at each other – and much worse – using the term “Racist?” I know there are groups out there who would gladly jump on that particular crazy train, but it is important to realize that the really virulent creatures out there, are not identified by the way they look or talk – just by the way they hate. That’s why it is possible to find them. Just look at the tenets of their organization – or their personal views as evidenced by their comments. But when you do that, you have to take in the whole picture – not just the things you “want” to see.

It is not the late 60s – not even the 70s, when I grew up. How I wish it was most days. I wish for those sunlit barefoot, ocean bleached and broken streets, the nights I would spend fishing – and the knowledge that if I stayed out late enough, my dad would always make that midnight walk out to the State Pier to tell me it was time to pack it in. Always.

There was a certain perfection to those days which despite my age and experience, now, I cannot put my finger on. Call it innocence, I guess. Maybe we are all there at some point in our life.

And then, you get a few more years tucked under the belt, and you realize the world isn’t all sunshine and beaches. There is real anger out there – anger for nothing. Perhaps the anger is there for its’ own sake, and nothing more. Like a parasite, it grows fat on our indifference, until it can exert its’ own brand of influence.

People die that way. Because they are the wrong religion, the wrong color, because they do not speak the language, because they are in the wrong political party, the wrong family, they die – or are forced to into terrible things. If they have no voice, or no influence, they are ground beneath the wheels of a terrible machine. It can be called a machine because it has no soul and no conscience, but it might as well be called a mob – or a pack of dogs. Because a person can be reasonable – people, on the other hand, are not.

Some will note the name Shirley Sherrod – although a few days ago, not many would have known her. She has had an interesting couple of days. Shirley might have earned herself an earlier column here on my website – but I must say, that as a former newspaper reporter, I like to wait until all the facts are in-hand, before I get out the hammer.

And all the facts were not in a couple days ago.

Yet, oddly, we have had the White House involved with the woman’s dismissal? They couldn’t wait for her to finish driving home. She was asked via mobile phone, by her boss (who allegedly had no real contact with the White House) to pull over to the side of the road – and send her resignation immediately.

But Shirley didn’t do the things they accused her of. And when I use the word “they” – in this instance, I am speaking to all the bickering children out there. All the self-important, all the “I’m right and you’re wrong” – or at least, left. I’m speaking to all those alleged leaders we have – from the Big O, to the crackpots who want to refer to themselves as “leaders” because of their “ethics.” Here’s a quote from a Marine Gunny I know:

“Shut the Hell up.”

That about covers it.
Shirley used her life experiences to illustrate how a person can change for the better. Look up the entire speech she gave – not the sound-bite offered to fuel anger and cause more divisiveness. Sherrod’s message in the speech was clear – if she can be a better person, and if she can find a way, anyone can.

Try listening to each other for a change. Try waiting – in this near-instantaneous-dataflow world we live in – just a little while longer before answering. Multi-tasking is a lovely concept, but if you slow things down a little bit, there’s time to do everything – and focus all your attention on each thing as it comes.

That “waiting” is something I’ve only just recently learned how to do. It has taken a lot to realize I just need to allow a little grass to grow, in-between comments and actions. The 7-year-old in last night’s class could have told me that, I think. He did say "God Bless the USA." And that was worth more to me than any lesson. It gives me hope - and that's such a rare commodity.

But I should have always known these things, and I should have always been able to follow these simple guidelines. But I am no wise man – and sometimes, not even a very good person. So I forget, and lapse into bad habits and old patterns. I am often a needle in a groove – and my life is a 45, not a 33. That statement will confirm when I grew up. And for those who don’t know what it means. Just take a breath. Calm down and turn on your iPod or iPad – or whatever the hell it is that has some music on it. Take out a deck of cards and if you don’t know solitaire, build a little house. It’s good to build steady hands and patience.

But take out the regular cards - not the racial ones.


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