There’s This Place I Like To Go

In the quiet reminders of how we live our lives

a silent recall will always come knocking

always come knocking

always come

to somehow tell us we are a concept

we remain here forever,

always knocking,

a steady rap of recurring thoughtful

imagined lives that stir our hearts

until all the passion we feel

suddenly spills into the next

time and place

where 

always knocking

a soft moment, 

we might certainly

become enthralled in sweet 

reckoning

because we share our lives

inside the spectrum of some

displaced anxiety,

an autumn sunset

begins a solemn wholeness,

the human condition,

always knocking

on Heaven’s doorstep.

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A Reminder

Over ten years ago, I dropped my son and daughter off to school, in tears, as I was saying good bye for a month of treatment. It was probably the hardest day of my life. My son was twelve, my daughter almost 16, and I was nearly 50 years old, and wondering if in that moment was I the child or were my teenagers? The phenomena of addiction is something that a person cannot predict when in the throes of its powerful grip. What can  be predicted though is the outcome if the right choices are made.

I was triggered tonight watching a cop show where a father was taken away while his eight year old cried in confusion, not understanding what was happening. It made me think of my son, and the quivering he had one morning in family group when he admitted his fear of his dad not coming home. That was one of the first moments I realized the brevity of my actions. The second was celebrating my daughter’s 16th birthday in a sterile guest room of the treatment center.

There are two directions I might go to help define the impact my actions had on that fateful day. My arrogance might have driven me away from my children, but I realized how important they were to me. I realized their unconditional love, teenagers having no idea what was happening with their father but still loving him, and wanting him in their lives meant the world to me, and yet, I still didn’t get it.

I went through weeks of intensive therapy to understand just why it was that addiction had taken over my life. I recognized the people closest to me were the ones I was pushing away. I understood eventually there was nothing more I wanted in my life than a second chance with my kids. I realized addiction had consumed me.

Not everyone gets the same opportunity to right their lives. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I do understand the difference between good and bad choices. I made some bad choices and fortunately found the resources to find a way toward recovery. It is not easy, but seeing a crying child tonight helped to again see how lucky I am, and how important it is for all of us to understand the critical scope of addiction and our need to say strong while making good choices.

Just some thoughts watching television create yet another example of the power that illusion has upon the fragile nature of our reality.

Trials Defining 45’s Racism

Racism 

noun

Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.                    – Oxford English Dictionary

A friend of mine asked me recently to give a good definition of racism and what it means in our society. So I went to the best source I could – the Oxford English Dictionary. When I read the definition itself, I thought about my own prejudice, and wondered about my own bias, and then tried to translate that to the point of this commentary.

I only have to look as far as the first three words and I have found enough evidence to attach this derogatory practice to 45’s exploits over the last year and a half, and evidence would suggest we include the many years before he even imagined the highest position of office in the United States.

In the word ‘prejudice’ it is defined as ‘preconceived opinion’ not based upon reality. We are all familiar with the original stump speech that introduced a philosophy toward Mexicans with the following words, “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (Donald Trump 2016) Now any number of people will qualify that and say he did add the ‘good people’ in the end of the insult. Is that well enough? Or should we look more closely at the greater influence of the sentence – drugs, crime, rapists – and focus on how the words themselves impacted the response to his description of Mexican people to a crowd of supporters.

I want to say lathering supporters, but it took a few months for us to really begin to see his method, and today his campaign rallies time and time again, have become venues for spewing toxicity. I know this personally, because I did attend a rally earlier this year in Duluth MN and was appalled by the general pitch of the speech and crowd reaction. In that particular speech, there was no presentation of substance, only the same rhetoric we have grown accustomed to – hostility, isolation and blame. Therefore, his ‘preconceived opinion’ became the center point of his words and the crowd loved it. They relished it, and if anyone was in opposition, well they had better well keep their mouths shut, or have it shut permanently by rabid supporters. Incidentally, those rabid supporters would also receive direct support from the POTUS at the podium jeering them on.

See I find a problem with that. To me that is a clear case of bullying, and this is something that Donald Trump is the master of in his current position. If he doesn’t like someone, or they go against his own personal agenda, he will rip them apart with a lacking social decorum that leaves a lot of people feeling fear. Trust me when I say to all of those readers that are jumping on the bandwagon to pummel liberals, it is not simply a democratic issue. It is a national crisis that clearly blurs all party lines. To state it simply, 45 uses other people’s weaknesses to bolster his own agenda. That is prejudicial behavior.

Next word, discrimination. How many readers just suddenly had this wave of ‘this is too easy’ come over them when they associate that word with the POTUS? How about we begin with the NFL? Wait too easy, ok let’s talk about Maxine Waters and ‘low IQ.’ Not satisfied, well then moving on, how about Lebron James and education for youth versus cages on the Southern border. Oh, hot point, ok, well, then let’s just wrap it with calling a former White House aide, a woman, a dog. Fill in the missing blanks please.

Finally, when I first looked at the definition of racism as it applies, the word antagonism just lit a fire under me because there is so much evidence out there that Trump has expressed, suggested, mandated to describe his personal agenda with antagonizing people of a different social status, a different political background, a DIFFERENT color of skin. Quite apparently, Donald Trump ran his candidacy and now his current office on a platform of outward antagonism.

Remember, he did say, ‘fire the (s.o.b.) player’ that protests at an NFL game. Ignore the whole idea of free speech and the ability to demonstrate a peaceful protest. Hell, this is a person of stature and they should be held accountable. Paint it however way you like it, but the message that 45 is putting across is that the color of your skin in the NFL has merit to be criticized and thrown out with the trash. Yeah, that’s my opinion, and I say it clearly because the whole idea of supporting this man’s ignorance just makes me sick.

So we can do two things with the definition as it stands. We can take out the word ‘race’ and exchange it with ‘status’ for those of you that genuinely believe that Trump is not racist, but do have misgivings of how he treats people of a different stature than his own. Or we could leave the word ‘race’ in the definition of racism where it belongs.

The fact is, our leader of our country uses racist language to persons of color to antagonize and lather his crowd of supporters. While he stands before us and suggests he is cleaning out the swamp, what he is actually doing is lining his own pockets with the finest opportunity to create a financial network towards his benefit with not just the nation but the world, the global economy. He really could care less about race unless there is a benefit for him.

That said, I am not letting him off the hook. He has made far too many declarative statements toward people of color in so many capacities, and yes, he has lumped certain white people into his analogies and disgusting rhetoric. But right now, I don’t really care about the white people, because they don’t have to operate on a different level to make sure their lives are safe and fulfilling. They just, like me, will go out the door in the morning and begin their day without any worry of profiling or discrimination while a person of color walking down the street with them side by side will experience mental and physical roadblocks completely out of their control throughout their entire day.

Think about it for just a minute. This isn’t political. This is reality, and the sooner we begin to acknowledge it is NOT about us, and it is more about the people in our society that have been oppressed for the ages, the sooner we can begin to carry out a realistic and healing dialogue. The sooner we accept that just maybe the words coming out of this president’s mouth can be construed planned, methodical and easily perceived as racist, nothing ‘fake news’ about that – only a reality.

( to be sure I wrote this after a weekend blues festival – my apologies for rambling. )

What Really Means Love Today

Lately the news has been grim. We seem to be riding on this roller coaster of misinformation that draws our compassion in far too many directions. It really appears that on any given day we could lose sight of what is really important to us, based upon where we see our world headed. At least for me that is a fear. Sometimes I wonder if it just self- persecution or if my insight is really trying to match up with my intuitions.

I’ve always been a feeling person, one that operates from the heart. I can sit in my home and feel tears when a dad is making sure his daughter is ready for college, because that same emotion impacted me when my little girl started her first year of college away from home. I remember, I cried all the way home, a two hour drive where I really thought I had lost my world and I wasn’t ever going to have it back. But fortunately she did return a stronger and more confident, now, young woman, whom I am so very proud of.

My son has had a similar effect on my life. I have a picture of him and I standing on the shores of the Temperance river – me kneeling and he standing next to me with his Twins cap and a smile – pressed lips smile. We were together and we had just had a lot of fun and it was a moment frozen in time that for many years afterwards I would struggle because I wanted that time back. He grew up, found his own life and moved into the next chapter of his young adulthood. I thought I lost him, and there were many nights when I cried myself to sleep. But now today, he’s a strapping young man, and he has a good life, one that I can be extremely proud of.

It is those moments of reflection that I do understand the meaning of love. It is such moments that I look at the world around us and I wonder if everyone feels the same way I do. I wonder if people watch the news and they sometimes lose hope because there are so many wrong things happening, that our minds cannot wrap ourselves around them soon enough. In trying to do so, we forget those moments in our lives that have greater value. It is the people we love that we are close to and count on knowing and seeing throughout the various chapters of our lives.

I think that’s the piece we have to stay focused on. What is important is to know the love we already have and can feel in our family, our loved ones, those friends we are closest to, the people we know we can trust and count upon on a daily basis. I think by doing that we can by example be representative of a good, peaceful march upon the negativity that surrounds us.

I think we all need to practice love.

When Wonder Whines

I sometimes look at the world we live in,

and I wonder, is it mine to simply understand

or is what there is to believe

as complicated as it might seem.

 

The people I interact with have similar hopes,

we all feel certain the goodness in our hearts

yet how often have we let another walk by

whom later on we wondered their whereabouts.

 

We all wish to be a part of the solution,

tip a feather in my hat, I knew not to wander

yet, later on, sitting in my own quiet comfort

I still begin to wonder, is this really what I mean.

 

I’d like to think the world holds a positive energy,

impossible to measure without that negative strain.

White Privilege

white privilege

what I have
would regrettably could
be different as
standing alone in a crowd
without indifference
disguised
preconceived judgmental
scrutiny

let me stand
side by side
in a world of true
compassion
love, human, free
then we will perhaps
all believe
we are not
racist
we live in a
dream

On Being White

nea

NEA stock photo


I have lived my entire life in a predominately white society. Growing up as a child I lived in a white community, later when going to college, more of the same, with a smattering of people of color entering my life gradually until moving to the Twin Cities in the early twenties. Even then, I still lived in an obviously white community, hung out with white friends, worked in places whereby most of my colleagues except for a few were white as well.

Along the way, I met people of color in various situations, college primarily, a few opportunities in the theatre and the occasional co-worker in hospital work. Actually, it was the workplace I met my first true black friend. He and I tested each other out for several months until we came to the conclusion we liked a lot of the same things, sports, politics and women. At work we became fast friends, and we supported each other through many difficult situations. We worked in a psychiatric hospital, where dealing with mental illness was a requirement of the job, skills learned taught us ideals of acceptance and tolerance in many tenuous situations. I think the importance of that relationship has a lot to do with how I would go on to treat people in all walks of my life, with an ultimate focus on respect and a desire to know about their lives and how they might impact my own.

So why do I choose today to speak of being white? I spent my morning and afternoon at the 2018 Conference on Racial and Social Justice, sponsored by the National Education Association, NEA. I knew well I would probably be a minority at the gathering, given the nature of the focus to be on its namesake, breaking down the barriers of racial injustice at the hands of a predominately white society, with a central focus being how educators handle themselves and treat their students in the classroom.

The irony of today’s session with the current events of the news is daunting in its clear connection to the atrocity of the recent Supreme Court Janus ruling and the immigration chaos happening on our border. In the conference which hosted over 800 attendees there was a general feeling of anger and frustration with the current focus toward public education, especially union driven ideals when it comes to protecting the interest of both the student and the teacher in the classroom. Couple that with the issue of racism as it permeates our society, and the break out sessions held much intrigue. I chose to sit in on a roundtable exploration of being a white teacher in a diverse classroom. This seemed readily appropriate because that is the demographic of my own classroom.

I specifically focused my day on sessions dealing with being that white teacher in a diverse setting. During that session I told a story of my own racial bias that blossomed into a heavy discussion of white privilege and the idea of whites needing to at one point, as called out by a member – figure out their own racism before they can address other issues. I immediately felt discomfort, but I was supposed to, this was all meant to be part of an all day learning session. The adage of how do you learn with disagreement and controversy holds well here. I wasn’t looking for a Kumbaya session, and it didn’t occur.

As the talk came to a close the moderators asked if everyone felt ok, and acknowledged hoping there were good takeaways. There were around eight of us at the table. I immediately said, ‘I’ve never felt more uncomfortable in my life.’ I meant it, but not in a negative way. I meant it as a moment of growth. People naturally asked why, and I told them that my feelings were that I am so wrapped up in my own privilege being a white man I have a long ways ahead toward figuring this out. My next statement then proved to be the pivotal learning moment.

I said to the group that this has been awesome, and I will take the next few days and process this, write about it, think about it and gradually come to terms with what my struggles are. A woman at the table then said to me, ‘I’m glad you’re uncomfortable. You get to go home and process this, and take a week, however long, and maybe write about it and feel better down the road.’ She then said, ‘I’m going to deal with it tonight, and in the morning and all day tomorrow, the next day, and every day as I have been my entire life.’ She was speaking from experience, she was African-American, and she was smiling, and I never felt more welcomed into a learning moment in my life. My whole pitch on what my takeaway should be, or needed to be, or ought to be, immediately shifted. I was grateful, and afterwards she and I had some time to talk and I shared a couple more stories, and so did she, and I walked away a little head blown by the moment.

So why am I suddenly having this revelation even though I’ve walked around thinking about these various aspects of racial discrimination and injustice most of my life and throughout all of my teaching career? My only answer is that I don’t experience it directly, and if I am going to be an ally for racial and social justice in my local and national society, I need to continue to listen in these moments rather than talk through my rationalizations.

This was one experience in a conference that filled me with a new knowledge of what injustice truly means to our society and our constantly changing world we live in today in both America and throughout the globe. There are many experiences ahead, and I do plan to keep listening.