Memorial Day… I think a mostly misunderstood day; thank God for FB memes, Twitter wars and ugly politics to remind us the toll of conflict is the lives of our own. In the fields of Gettysburg, jungles of Vietnam, Normandy, or the sands of the Mid-East our brothers and sisters have died in uniform – a violent end to all they were and would have been – yet we casually mouth words like freedom and sacrifice, as if these could somehow capture the magnitude of their loss.
Many years ago, I wrote a piece on Memorial Day – quoting the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes and General Douglas MacArthur; oh, it was lofty for sure with words like, courage, honor, duty, loyalty… and those men had no doubt earned the right to pen those words, but had I? I am not sure there is an adequate answer to that for what is the life of one man, a thousand men, a million men worth – does “duty, honor, country,” cover it? Is that the price of freedom, the price of furthering this idea we call democracy, the price of the perpetual struggle against “evil” and are a few penned words reverent enough?
I don’t have any real answers, it’s simply what we ask – demand of those that wear the uniform whether they volunteered, were conscripted or simply believed it was the best option in a world of limited opportunity. However, they arrived at the last moment of their existence it transcended race, ethnicity, gender, orientation and ideology – maybe that’s the real lesson – in spite of all the ways we choose to separate ourselves; those we have lost share a commonality that provides a glimpse of a more perfect Union we should all aspire to – remember to remember.
Tried to spend most of the day not glued to the computer or social media… it’s a rare weekday not working… I indulged some time this afternoon catching up and of course reading the many posts celebrating Dr. King’s life… mostly posting snippets of speeches some with pictures some without, a few tying together Billy Graham or JFK with Dr. King’s work.
I can’t say i have a favorite necessarily, but if you haven’t actually taken the time to move past the overused quotes and listen to a full recording of one of his speeches make the time you’ll be better for it. It’s not just what he is saying but how he says it… a true orator he leverages his whole being to infuse purpose and power into his words.
I was born in 1965 and can’t claim to have any first hand experience of those tumultuous times and other than a brief period of months in SC as a teenager it would be disingenuous to claim any real understanding of systemic racism and oppression. My very dear friend Steve Coleman has described it as a “burning in his bones, something that is inescapable and never goes away…” He attributes this to a speech Mr. George Williams gave at the African American Student Association in 1987.
I guess that description has stuck with me, and It’s something I try to remind myself of as often as possible, today of course was easier than most. But i wonder as we move past this evening and into our work week, back to the pandemic, the politics of a new administration, all the other every day distractions we all face… if we are so fortunate as to not have a “burning in our bones” to not face the daily reminders of our race… will we remember to remember?
I hope so, and in doing so in our own way bring some small honor to the legacy of Dr. King…
Well, this shitshow started out normal enough, but that didn’t last very long… anybody roll out of a NYE 2020 party resolving to stay in your house all year, scream at the television every night, wash your hands 13,000 times, gain 20 pounds, stockpile 42 cases of toilet paper, 7 gallons of hand sanitizer, and count the steps to your living room as a major exercise accomplishment?
No, I didn’t think so… anybody think medical care would include poking a huge Q-tip up our nose to the base of the brain, or one of those cool home kits you drool into – thanks for playing we’ll get back to you in oh ten days or so. Nothing anxiety producing about that, never mind the ever-shifting list of symptoms ahhh Covid19!
On a positive note, I was able to solidify my goal of being an Olympic level social distancer. Since I was distancing, I figured I better find a way to maintain my magnificent physique. I decided to try this intermittent fasting thing; you have heard of this right? Let me just tell you, there is nothing intermittent about not eating for 18 hours – that’s just plain fasting. In my book intermittent means skipping some snacks, not all of them, just you know, intermittently – totally misunderstood that.
I appreciate how many of you have reached out asking, well more like demanding an EPIC rant for this year; which honestly hurt my feelings a bit, cause aren’t they all epic? But I understand 2020 deserves a next level rant, something that lives up to the unparalleled insanity of this year and captures the unbelievable confluence of events: a new social awakening, “autonomous zones,” a truly insane Presidential campaign, then top that off with a global pandemic and all its trappings… 2020 – so one epic rant coming up. Admittedly, I am tad anxious about starting this with a week left in the year; feels a little like tempting fate to pull one last “fuck you”.
Now, I have a feeling you guys are morbidly curious to see how I handle the long list of important and conflicting topics out there: Covid19, Trump/Anti-Trump, Biden/Anti-Biden, BLM/ALM, ANTIFA, autonomous zones, white privilege/guilt, “woke” movement, cancel culture, lockdowns, mask mandates, Dr. Fauci – cause why not, right… damn I almost forgot the vaccine! Probably a dozen more we could add to that list and if you think I’m jumping into that minefield with both feet… read on.
There are a few things I need to deal with from the top though; and this is classic rant material so hang on. Without getting into whether wearing a mask is the right, safe, respectful thing to do can we just talk about the asshats that wear it over their mouth, but not over their nose? Seriously why bother, never mind that it looks ridiculous, this kind of foolishness just irritates me. If you are a Covid non-believer that thinks masks don’t help, breed deadly lung diseases all while increasing your CO2 consumption I suggest you just don’t wear one. Now if you are a believer and subscribe to the current (for now) wisdom that masks will curb the spread, flatten the curve, and are a perfect vehicle for your cutting-edge fashion sense then cover your nose. There’s no place for you “in-betweeners” in this new Covid world – time to pick a side.
We need to talk a little more about this social distancing thing as well, now truth is I have been a long-term fan of social distancing; in fact, the more distance the better. Six feet is the prescribed measure, this shouldn’t be too hard to figure out – most places are actually marking it out for you so pay attention. However, we all know that you can ignore social distancing if you are at Walmart, Target, Church -in some states anyway, a friendly rally (you can decide what that means) or in an airplane. Do I need to explain that last one? Pretty simple actually, it’s six feet in all directions and that’s impossible on an airplane – so maybe the mask thing is a good idea after all… simply put: don’t get all up on me dude.
Normally I don’t get “geographic” in these rants, but I think I would be remiss if I didn’t invite all of you down here to Florida… Our governor has legislated that Covid is not allowed to exist here so Floridians have decided it’s time to get back to normal. The weather is great, so come visit and hang out at a beach, a bar, or your favorite amusement park – might I suggest you fly down. I almost forgot we make our kids go to school here, so if you have little ones you might want to consider a move!
I understand it’s difficult not to focus entirely on Covid, it is after all a pandemic, so maybe we can just talk about politics. Fact is I usually avoid politics; not because I care what anyone thinks, but because I find most people aren’t interested in a substantive conversation involving the exchange of ideas, which means actually listening to each other. In my opinion the level of acrimony within our national dialogue is a poor reflection on all of us. After the last few election cycles though I am beginning to wonder if collectively we have simply lost our minds or at least our imagination, you people do realize we keep electing folks that are clearly past their expiration date – at this rate we don’t need term limits we need a long-term care facility.
So, what does that even leave to rant about? I may have been to Starbucks a dozen times this year and honestly, I don’t even have to order now my favorite drive-thru barista knows what I want. No morning commute so no reason to bitch about the minivan in the Dunkin’ line that can’t figure out what donuts the kids want. Hell, I’ve only driven on the freeway a couple of times so if peeps are still out there texting at 90MPH I wouldn’t know it. Let’s see, no air travel so fake service animals in sequined vests aren’t a real concern and if someone wants to push their way to the front of the plane to get off first… nope don’t care. 2020 is seriously cramping my rant style.
There is the whole grocery delivery situation, do you think they train these people to pick the bruised avocados or is it just luck of the draw? And before you start any shit about first world problems or privilege – I’m pretty much working all the time and I am not going to go hang out with the below the nose mask morons at the grocery store… just saying. As long as we are talking about avocados and let’s add mangos to this; why the hell is the pit so big? Do you think the Almighty actually thought that was a good idea or did some celestial engineer completely fuck up the schematics? Fact is I have a whole list of questions like that, take giraffes for instance – wouldn’t it have been easier to make shorter trees? Or pineapples, who thought it should take two years to grow a pineapple; clearly no one was thinking about how that takes twice the space it should… questions without answers I am afraid.
Setting the whole celestial engineering thing aside, as I reflect on 2020 it strikes me, we have been here before. Our relatively short history is punctuated with upheavals, our own seismic shifts – belief systems competing like tectonic plates that grind against each other eventually creating something new. I read somewhere that all change is violent by its very nature, I’ve had time to think on that a bit this year. War is clearly the violent application of force to achieve a political aim; social unrest, technology leaps that fundamentally change society, or the thrust required to escape the gravity of this earth – each in their own way adhere to this principle. Simply put achievement or change is disruptive and by extension violent.
Easy to recognize in retrospect – the frantic lines on the seismograph of our history – but here in the midst of it we are just hanging on; resisting the inevitability of it. This time will pass like all others before it and we will adjust to the new landscape, gather our breath and begin that journey to the next upheaval. If 2020 taught us anything it’s that during these points of acceleration you can choose to participate or not, but change is inevitable and affects all of us.
So, is it really all so dismal? If you flit across the surface of things jumping from one negative meme to another you might miss the beauty underneath. Let’s not debate the decision making surrounding Covid, I would rather honor the indomitable will and compassion of front-line healthcare workers, many times providing the comfort family wasn’t allowed to. We locked down the world, but did you see the videos of entire Italian neighborhoods serenading each other? Consider the millions of folks that got up each morning kissed someone goodbye and spent the day delivering stuff to those of us who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave the house. Will there be costs and logistical issues with a vaccine, of course, but how incredible that brilliant people were able to craft hope in so few months? I think it is human nature to focus on the turmoil around us, but as we reflect on this complicated year remember where we shined.
Instead of allowing 2020 and the pandemic to disconnect us we used technology to bridge the gap, to do church, work, and keep friends and family close. In many ways I am more connected to folks today then I might have been under “normal” circumstances. We are getting to see a more intimate view of each other, our homes, our kids, our parents, and grandkids… there is no extracting them from the virtual space we now occupy and how wonderful it is. We share at a different level; experiences, fears, hopes, pieces of ourselves we wouldn’t bring to the office. Our humanity is starting to shine through… and it’s a beautiful thing.
On a personal note, 2020 has created an opportunity to hold my immediate family closer, when your circle is forcibly limited you no longer take relationships for granted. I think about the many more meals I am crafting at home and how much I really enjoy the creativity of making a weekly menu. Dinner conversations have a different gravity now and I find myself reaching out to my boys in Seattle, my sister in NM, and friends in a more frequent and regular cadence than before. Those connections have a different tenor now and although 2020’s issues may dissipate I don’t want to lose this more tangible and precious connection we have forged.
This has been a year of challenges for our country and it would be easy to push the popular narrative or skip over controversy completely, but that isn’t really what the rant is about is it? I can’t speak for anyone but myself and maybe for the first time I am considering the consequences of speaking my own truth. That dismays me on a deeply personal level, not because I am insecure in what I believe, but because it seems we have come to a point where no matter your beliefs some will be in violent opposition. There was a time when we could disagree, argue our point, try to enlighten those that may not have seen the “wrong” in something – where did those days go? When did it become okay to punish those that think differently? Of course, the true measure of courage is whether you are willing absorb the consequences of your beliefs, easily said not so easily done. In fiction the tests are obvious and monumental… in life I have found it is the everyday opportunities that make the difference.
Some would say we are past the time for such platitudes, that change needs to be accelerated. Maybe they are right, I see my children standing up for what they believe, even to the point of taking to the streets in protest. I may not agree with every position, but I am incredibly proud of them, I understand their passion, their impatience, and their courage. Maybe it’s the perspective of experience, but I worry that obstinate intolerance ultimately dooms the conversation benefitting no-one. I believe it’s incumbent upon all of us to craft a dialogue that moves everyone forward, and that, requires the ability to listen respectfully – even when we disagree. Like many young people mine are making an effort, lifting their voices, is the dialogue comfortable – not always, but it’s necessary. In some respects, it doesn’t matter what side of things you find yourself, as long as you make the effort to participate in the conversation – it’s important.
So, my friends smile at the insanity, push the fear aside and embrace the challenge to rise above. In my mind it all comes down to this: if you are going to order some ½ decaf soy chai latte with a mocha drizzle made backwards, park the Prius and go the hell inside.
Stay the course and Happy Holidays my friends,
PS: Do you remember the quiet though? During the early days of the lockdown, I would sit on the porch and listen… no traffic, no freeway noise, no construction… just nature’s symphony – I think it forced me to take a breath, take a moment, and just be still… I miss that…
Smoke in the eyes
Blood in the streets
Fire in the sky
I can’t breathe
Four didn’t care
Now all grieve
Smoke in the eyes
Blood in the streets
Fire in the sky
Now you’re woke
With Fist in the air
Slogans you spoke
Smoke in the eyes
Blood in the streets
Fire in the sky
History now sacrilege
Topple the idols
Hide your privilege
Smoke in the eyes
Blood in the streets
Fire in the sky
Where from here
Is justice served
Smoke in the eyes
Blood in the streets
Fire in the sky
Outrage is universal! – it should be… it probably isn’t…
Tuesday was “blackout” and the black squares and circles on social media were, well encouraging… Protests – too small a word for what is happening – enter their second week and have trickled down to smaller towns and communities even as our larger urban centers struggle to maintain momentum. You can already feel apathy nibbling at the edges of our collective outrage.
It’s been ten days since George Floyd lost his life at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer; all while fellow officers and others stood by and watched. Charges have been filed, upgraded, expanded – autopsies completed and argued over – justice will no doubt be served at some point in the future – maybe. If justice is even possible in a scenario like this… how do you adjudicate with any real satisfaction the underlying cancer that transcends the act itself?
Arguments will erupt about Floyd’s character, whether the charges were applied quickly enough or if they were harsh enough, the conversation is bound to devolve as it usually does when we attempt to rationalize events like this. The danger of course is that we have a conversation about the symptoms and not the underlying causes and once again refuse to debate what level of latent prejudice we are comfortable with.
So, how long before things return to normal, before the routine is resumed and we, unaware, once again await an egregious act to spur our collective conscience… how long? My guess is we are already on the path back to status quo – oh the rallies will continue for a bit – youthful exuberance – legislation may be introduced, certainly we will see this dialogue front and center in coming elections… No one really believes we will wholesale “defund” the police and certainly sometime over the next number of months we will hear about convictions in Minneapolis, Floyd’s mural will start to weather and the stacked flowers will have faded; because real substantive evolution (not revolution) is difficult – it takes time, commitment, and resolve; real change has to by its very nature reflect the will of the nation.
Prejudice, and in its worst iteration, racism can’t be eliminated through legislation, protests, outrage… there is no inoculation for this disease. I have heard racism described as a “burning in the bones, something that is inescapable and never goes away…” it doesn’t really matter if you believe or understand it; each individual’s perception of things is their reality – we are not entitled or empowered to cast doubt on their personal experience.
So, what does it all mean? I can only speak for myself, but I believe that until we deal with the latent prejudice in all of us – individually in our own personal work on ourselves – can we begin to achieve any real lasting and substantive change. We all know the clichés – they exist because we have adopted them into the fabric of our culture: how certain people drive, are criminals, good at math, privileged, cheap, and all the other petty judgements we use to justify how we treat each other. These provide the thin layer of justification for deeper seated racism and hate – we need to strip the icing off and examine what lies below with an unvarnished honesty – hard of course – necessary unquestionably…
It’s time to start our individual journey of self-realization to determine what type of person we are and want to be… so that collectively we can create a society and culture where repetitive acts of hate are no longer the norm.
So, I spent about an hour on FB this morning and this is what I came up with… Has your life become an internet meme?
Do you think to yourself, I should do something I love cause then I’ll be happy? Broke, living on the street, un-showered but fucking happy as hell!
Are you tired of reposting, reposting, reposting… so some kid you don’t know can get better – wouldn’t it be nice to have an update on that shit – AMEN?
What about having to look at all these food pics that you know you can’t make and neither can the asshole that posted it and besides didn’t you just spend $300 on some super shake solution that tastes like shit?
Politics – just fuck all of them…
Olympics – yeah fuck them too – well except the Russians – cause anyone that can drill a hole in the lab wall and pass clean samples back and forth deserves a fucking medal…
Motivational posts – seriously you are trolling FB all day – I don’t think they are working on you.
Your baby, puppy, kids, blah blah blah – do I even need to say it? We are all glad yours are so much better than everyone else’s! oh and fuck off…
You’re so blessed – fine we get it now stop rubbing that shit in our faces
You blessed someone else – fine you’re the greatest person in the world now stop rubbing that shit in our faces
You’re kneeling, standing, crawling, running, walking whatever shut the fuck up – we’re all just trying to get through the day… just leave everyone the fuck alone already
Happy everything, hope you have a wonderful fucking day – do I really need to keep hearing about it?
Since obviously no one will tell you – you suck at relationships cause you’re an asshole stop posting about it please… it’s definitely your fault