Say, “If Only.” [on KS Friday]

“God is silent. Now if only man would shut up.” ~ Woody Allen

If only.

We knew this was going to be a chaotic week. A run off election in Georgia that would decide the control of the senate. The counting of the electoral college vote as a president openly mounted a coup against his own government. The District Attorney in our town revealing his decision not to prosecute a police officer that shot a black man 7 times in the back [we knew the decision prior to the announcement. Our little courthouse was better protected than the nation’s capitol]. And, let us not forget the out-of-control pandemic cracking our already-fragmented system of healthcare. Record numbers. Record deaths. Record denials of reality.

The election in Georgia is decided. The rats are jumping off the national ship after the violent coup they incited blew back on them. The local D.A. offered a litany of sad justifications that boiled down to the usual sleight-of-hand: the man was black so he was, therefore, dangerous. No charges. Case closed.

The spin whirling through social media would be hysterically funny were it not so readily embraced by so many. The info-bubbles remain intact. The blame game is run amok. Personal responsibility for words spoken – and unspoken – is too much to ask. Systems usual.

It’s too soon to tell whether or not we really survived this week. It is too soon to know whether we learned anything from our national shame, our jousting realities. We do know this: we are yet incapable or unwilling to address the problems that plague us.

Unlike any other time in the history of humanity, we have so many avenues in which to blather, so many media into which we can scream. We delight in our echo chambers – who doesn’t want to hear, over and over again, their beliefs parroted back at them? The sound is deafening. So many words wielded with nothing really to say. It seems the only tool in the box is to shout down the other side. Competing filibusters. We hold ourselves hostage.

Words matter until they don’t. Words, words, words.

If only.

read Kerri’s blog post about WORDS & SILENCE

Sort [on Flawed Wednesday]

As I type this morning, concrete barriers are being set to block off the streets downtown, fencing is going up around the courthouse, plywood panels are once again screwed into place, covering the windows of businesses. We are hunkering down for an announcement about whether or not the officer, who shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times, will be charged. Also, the little kid with the big, big gun who murdered two people blocks from our home is being arraigned. His bail was posted by the My Pillow Guy. Truly, you can’t make this stuff up.

Also as I type this morning, the party wrapped in red on Capitol Hill is choosing personal gain over principle. Despite placing their hand on a holy book and swearing to serve the Constitution above all else, they’ve chosen – they are choosing – to serve their ambition above all else. Apparently, the holy book and the Constitution are useful props for photo ops but any real dedication ran away with the fox.

As I write this I’m suddenly flush with a revelation that I blame on Horatio. He once told me that every challenge we face in these supposed-united-states is a tension between dueling philosophies: Every-Man-For-Himself vs. I-Am-My-Brother’s-Keeper. My revelation: To believe, again and again, that leaders-wrapped-in-red who are committed above all else to personal gain should honor an oath to something larger than themselves, like their holy book or The Constitution, makes us the fools. It is the natural end, the path of least resistance, for adherents of the philosophy of selfishness, to believe in nothing greater than themselves.

And, after today, why should we expect them to represent with integrity our best interests? They are demonstrating just how incapable they are at leading. Leadership, by definition, requires a concern about something other, something greater, than your self.

Why should we expect more? Red is the new yellow. To twist a bit from Forrest Gump, “Cowardice is as cowardice does.” It is nigh-on impossible to write a farce of these conflicted-united-states. Such is our dedication to the ridiculous, the mad-fantastical.

2020 was the blue ribbon winner of miserable years. Our picture was blown to bits. So, as part of our new years invocation, we did a jigsaw puzzle. 1000 pieces. We brought order and sense and, finally, a completed picture together from so much disarray. It is what we hope to do for ourselves in 2021.

The first step was to sort, to turn over the pieces and see what was really there. Find the edges. Colors. And, so it is. Today we sort.

We’ll again pack a “go bag” in case the expected violence spills into our street. We’ll witness the antics of a failed state as performed by the privileged, sacrificing the greater for the lesser. Seeing what is really there. Accepting what is really there. “The problem with you, Robinson,” Doug delighted in saying, “is that you want it all to make sense. None of it makes sense.”

Red is the new yellow. Where, oh where, will we ever find our edges?

read Kerri’s blog post about the PUZZLE

See It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Systems do what systems are designed to do. For instance, this seawall is a simple system designed to protect one element (land) from the other (water). Left unchecked they come together and change occurs. This wall is a system built to prevent significant changes to the coastline.

Our system, relative to black and white Americans, as stated in the colonial records and enacted through legislation, was designed to keep the two groups from uniting. Division by design.

The law [the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705] was devised to establish a greater level of control over the rising African slave population of Virginia. It also served to socially segregate white colonists from black slaves making them disparate groups hindering their ability to unite. A unity of the commoners was a perceived fear of the Virginia aristocracy which had to be addressed, and who wished to prevent a repeat of events such asBacon’s Rebellion, occurring 29 years prior.” [Wikipedia, An act concerning Servants & Slaves]

A unity of commoners is to be feared. To that end, African Americans were determined through legislation to be less-than-human, three-fifths to be exact. No other group in our history have been institutionalized, bills debated and passed into colonial law, as sub-human.  When we see signs that read “Black Lives Matter” it speaks to a systemic definition, a system that to this day is doing what it was designed to do. African Americans simply want their two-fifths recognized and returned.

To match the denigration of black Americans, poor (non-land-owning) whites were given a promotion, new rights and status. “Many of the European-descended poor whites began to identify themselves, if not directly with the rich whites, certainly with being white. And here you get the emergence of this idea of a white race as a way to distinguish themselves from those dark-skinned people who they associate with perpetual slavery.” [Facing History & Ourselves]

The system only works if pushing the black head down is the mechanism that elevates the white head. The police are merely servants of the system. To redefine the police, through funding changes or otherwise, will not address the root of the pattern. The system will reinvent itself in another form because that is what systems do.

America has a pronoun problem. As I write this I am sitting in my smoke-filled house in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Downtown is burning in reaction to Jacob Blake’s shooting. A quick scroll through the Kenosha Facebook page and I read again and again this question, “What do they want?” THEY. Not a hint of WE to be found. The system is working perfectly to prevent the unity of commoners.

Yesterday, I wrote to my pal David that nothing has changed. I was in Los Angeles in 1991 during the Rodney King riots. I watched Los Angeles burn. Today I am watching the destruction of downtown Kenosha. To understand the violence of the response you need look no further than the violence present in the two videos. In a routine traffic stop, Rodney King was pulled from his car and beaten nearly to death. Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, was shot seven times in the back. In a situation where no club was necessary, a black man was brutally beaten. In a situation where no gun was necessary, a black man was shot seven time in the back. Is the burning of the city more or less repugnant and out-of-proportion than the violence that incited the flames?

My point: The violence is already present. It is the seawall erected through law to prevent the two groups, black and white, from coming together. Slavery was violent. Jim Crow was violent. This latest iteration is, not surprisingly, violent. It’s how the system maintains itself. The form changes but they system remains constant. The violence prevents the unity of commoners.

Finally, consider this: “With the COVID crisis, 40 million Americans lost their jobs, and 3.3 million businesses shut down, including 41 percent of all black-owned enterprises. Black Americans, who significantly outnumber whites in federal prisons despite being but 13 percent of the population, are suffering shockingly high rates of morbidity and mortality, dying at nearly three times the rate of white Americans. The cardinal rule of American social policy — don’t let any ethnic group get below the blacks, or allow anyone to suffer more indignities — rang true even in a pandemic, as if the virus was taking its cues from American history.” [Wade Davis, The Unraveling Of America, RollingStone Magazine, 8.6.2020]

So, if you are one of the legion asking this question, “How can this be happening?” I suggest you ponder this: how could it not be happening. It’s by design.

If you are one of the many wondering what can be done, begin by paying attention to how YOU are participating in the design. And then, perhaps, all us can begin the difficult search to find a path to WE.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the SEAWALL

 

 

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