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.
I thought I would have a go at this “RANT” thing again, this the 25th or 26th one – hard to say, the early archives are incomplete,and does it really matter anyway? You would think after that many years I would run out of things to rant about, and in some respects you would be right.
The early rants were filled with tales of children and the joys of parenting – followed by those perilous teenage years – I go back and read those just to remind myself how lucky I am to be here. Times have mellowed though: grandkids, Starbucks, politics, texting, and general stupidity seemed to have taken center stage – some even accuse me of getting soft and losing my acerbic sarcasm – I invite them to come over and help me plant roses – no takers yet, strangely enough.
But now what? Another regurgitation of the year’s events, grandbaby drool stories, the horror of modern-day travel, drive-thru frustrations, why morons continue to text and drive…would that bring a smile to your face and have you nodding in sympathetic understanding? Ahh the comfort of tried and true rant material…
Or would you rather hear how a text notified me at 35K feet that my older sister had suddenly passed – you know “passed” cause it’s so much nicer than died – maybe some details on her decades fighting opioid addiction until her body simply succumbed in a bathroom alone. Would it help to understand how it felt standing in her empty kitchen spooning her ashes from one big box to a number of smaller ones; the memories cascading like so many fine particles? No, I’m guessing not…
So, by now a few of you are like… “holy shit he’s completely unhinged this year…” Well no actually… but sooner or later we come to the realization that the accumulation of life experience forces a certain clarity. The sharp pinprick of this present reality if you will… The young have the pleasure of rushing headlong into that blurry and distant place those of us that have some years already inhabit, but once you’re here – if you haven’t started, it’s time to pay attention.
It struck me on a night drive – Tammy and I take a drive every evening, grab a coffee, cruise around the lake, and catch-up on the day; something we’ve been doing for years – anyway, I realized I had started measuring things by how much time I might have left. Freaked me out a little I have to say – I have always kept a “list” of things I wanted to accomplish in life and ticked a few off here and there… we all have one and sure it matures with time and experience, but I had never really considered there might be an expiration date on some of it; sobering to say the least. I am pretty sure we all have these moments: the loss of a loved one or a friend, catastrophic events like 9/11 or a school shooting – all are milestone reminders… it’s the paying attention that’s important however.
I am okay with the running out of time part – I am not okay with running out of experiences. It’s not as simple or cliché as living without regrets or the common refrain of “leave it all out there…” I want to make sure I love deeply enough; touch not only the hearts of my children, but their minds and spirits as well. Help strangers where I can, stand for what is right without regard for personal cost, and embody what it means to be a true friend. I want to breathe in clear cold mountain air, and feel the warm sun on my head as waves break against the shore… and I want to share all of this with as many as I can. I used to believe life was about fulfilling some list of material accomplishments: job, money, stuff… but the longer I live the more I understand life is about the living.
So, what does all that mean, you might be asking… and uhh not really a rant dude… I hear you, and don’t worry I still get irritated by the ass in the Prius that doesn’t know how to order at Starbucks – by the way have you tried the Peppermint Brownie cake pop? Oh my God! Or the fool that thinks it’s okay to pick out each individual donut in their two-dozen order at the Dunkin’ drive-thru. What about service animals that are not really service animals on planes, do I really need to go into this? Millennials with beards… not a good look young lady… How about not vaccinating all the little bio-terrorists running around, or making medicine you can’t live without unaffordable for most folks. You get the point, there is still plenty to rant about, plenty to make you shake your head and say $%@#$%@# (you know what that means right?).
Admittedly, I still do most of those, but I have had some experiences this year, some realizations, and come to some conclusions that lead me to believe maybe all that really isn’t as important as I thought; and I may even be questioning the overall level of my response to these situations… ‘cause is that really how I want to use my time, my experiences… probably not.
Unbelievable, simply unbelievable… dude just ordered a soy decaf peppermint mocha latte with two shots of espresso, extra whip and chocolate drizzle… I don’t care if he is driving an F250 that’s a bullshit order – get the F’ out of my drive–thru moron!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays… and oh by the way – the middle part is the important part…
The sky blossoms a kaleidoscope of color – the heat a lover’s embrace on a winter morn… It’s only a moment, but in that moment the realization of a thousand other moments… the compression – expansion – dissipation of time itself… a horn blows – the traffic moves and it occurs to me we have no moments to waste…
– A Christmas Story –
The flamingo pink had faded to a shade closer to Pepto and the stucco was cracking and chipping in a dozen places, it didn’t matter though no one frequented the Pink Pony for its curb appeal. Kandi pushes off the wall taking a final drag on the diminishing cigarette she had bummed off Nigel, the stucco leaving a dimple effect on her soft skin. Time to get back inside, Nigel didn’t care if you took a “break” but he would be looking for a cut if you were more than a few minutes. It had been a good month though – December usually was, but any month you didn’t have to spend on your knees to make rent was a good month in her book. The sad string of multi-colored lights tacked around the door and the line-up of Christmas inspired names were the only nods to the holiday. She had chosen first – Kandi Kane – cause her plain jane eastern Iowa looks and “Heidi” didn’t inspire a man to drop twenty on a lap dance.
Like most little girls she had grown up with bigger dreams than her opportunities could fulfill. It had been three years since she had left the little nothing farm town for the big city where those dreams were all going to come true. Why her mother hadn’t stopped her was still a mystery – well maybe not, her mother had a hard-enough time taking care of herself, never-mind a teenage daughter with wants no waitress’ tips were going to quench. Nigel had seen her coming a mile away, fresh off the bus, small town blues, and nothing but a decent set of tits and legs to her name – “Heidi, you know like in The Sound of Music,” she had told him. He had laughed in what had seemed like a cool British accent at the time, that was now just annoying. She had only found out months later that there wasn’t any “Heidi” in The Sound of Music.
She holds the pole and kicks up her heel before losing the red sequined bra – mustering what passes for a smile she struts over to the three drunks sitting stage left, bending over to pick the singles up she gives them a good view of her goods, hoping for another few bucks but not really caring either way. These guys are all regulars and more interested in their beer than her boobs. The place is empty by eleven and Nigel cuts them all loose early with a slap on the ass and a Merry Christmas! Wrapped in a hoodie and carrying her heels in one hand and bag in the other she catches the #3 bus home. She leans her cheek against the cool window and hums along to radio… “jingle bells, jingle bells…” – “Merry Christmas mom,” she whispers to the dark brushing a tear from her cheek.
I sit here wonderin if the worlds gone to hell
Got Tom Petty playin’ the stories we could tell
I cant find the words to splain the way I’m feeling
And I don’t know how to stop starin at the ceiling
So the tears fall and the memories keep flowin’
And there aint nothing for it but to keep goin’
Cause I sit here wonderin if the worlds gone to hell
While Tom Petty’s playin’ the stories we could tell
Whispers in the wind
Ancient wisdom bring
Hear them singing
Songs of peace & war
Listen there is more
Fear we are them
Born to fail again
Whispers in the wind
…As you stand there naked and alone in the dark of your own truth, the facade of your personality and ego stripped from you while the scintillating shards of every experience you’ve ever had pierce you again and again do you feel it? Do you grasp it? Does the overwhelming beauty, horror, joy, and sadness of this life overwhelm you? Does it drive you to your knees, do you look to the heavens searching for an answer some explanation a reason for it all? Are you crying out for more, for just another moment, for one last breath? If not then it’s time you started living my friend…