When I was a child, I would cry when I was called names. It didn’t seem like anyone else was getting the same treatment, but in victim mode, one seldom sees anyone else’s pain and misery but their own. Continue reading “On Michael Brown and Toni Morrison”
The Definition of Strength
It has always seemed to me that the common definition of strength is not what it really is.
Many Americans this morning are celebrating that force is being used in the war-torn Middle East. The missiles fired on Syria were supposedly dropped because the administration, specifically, the president, were horrified by images of people who had been hit with a deadly gas.
Then, the Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) was dropped in Afghanistan, killing a some members of ISIS.
Many Americans are rejoicing. They are saying that the moves made by the administration show “strength.” People are saying, “we are back in the game again.”
The game? What …game? Is it really a game that we seem to be on the brink of a deadly war?
Diplomacy, I guess, is a punk technique. In the presence of ISIS, the only way to handle this is to “bomb the —- out of them.” The way of the Empire is to engage in war, to force change by killing innocent people and destroying other countries.
People have been absolutely incensed with former President Obama for not engaging in war. It made him and the United States look weak, they say.
But this new president – this is the Popeye against the Brutus called terrorism. He really believes he can destroy ISIS with bombs.
Meanwhile, he is hurting his own people by proposing budget cuts that affect programs that help the poor, the elderly, and children.
It doesn’t matter, though. He does not see the irony of him and his administration being outraged about Syrians treated badly by their government while his own government is treating his own people badly, under the sanction of the law.
All that matters is that he is showing “strength” in a conflict which seemingly has no end. Americans will run to participate in a war against an idea, and in a war which has such deep roots that not even the strongest nuclear weapon would be effective.
Is it arrogance or hubris that makes a nation “strong?” That seems to be the message. In a world in which so many people profess to believe in Christianity, which touts the formation and preservation of community, the basic Christian message seems to be disposable.
Refraining from force is perceived as being weak. The strong do all they can to maintain power, a mindset which inevitably causes the less fortunate (or “weak”) to be trampled upon. The deployment of force is held more dear than is the exercise of compassion and restraint.
So, this American president is standing on a platform, beating his chest, bragging about his strength. He is Popeye; his “spinach” is the belief that using force means or defines that very strength.
Meanwhile, the huddled masses, here and around the world, will be trounced upon, and nobody seems to care.
So much for strength.
A candid observation …
America Is Not Safe
I have waited to write anything as I have watched the developments in the story of the horrific shooting in Oregon because I had to think.
I had to think, to wonder, what is going on in America, and what I came up with is that America is not safe anymore.
I had been thinking that for a while. I am no longer comfortable going into movie theaters or any public venues, really. When I drive I am really conscious of using my turn signal and watching my speed — which I always did, but with more intentionality now. I think of Sandra Bland, now dead, after she was arrested for <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/21/us/texas-sandra-bland-arrest/” target=”_hplink”>allegedly not using her turn signal</a>. I think of saying things, writing things, to let people know that if I end up dead in someone’s jail cell, that I did not kill myself. I take time to pay attention to the things I warned my son to take note of when he began driving, because I was afraid for him as a black man in America, a young, brilliant, handsome black man in America whose life is never safe here.
America is not safe — not because of international terrorism or ISIS, although ISIS as a force exists. America is not safe — not because of black on black crime. Yes, we in the black community need to be concerned with the destruction of black lives wherever and however it happens, including in our own communities. The one thing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said that I agree with is that all black lives matter. There is no doubting that the destruction of black lives occurs in black communities.
But that is not why America is not safe. Black people for the most part do not target and kill white people. Black people, most often go after other black people. Back on black crime is not the reason America is not safe. America is not safe because of white on white crime, because of this tendency of mostly young white men, angry with the world, or angry at their circumstances, and definitely angry at the government, think the way to handle their anger is to go into public spaces and just shoot, or kill masses of people in whatever way they can.
I remember thinking how unsafe America was when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I was angry at them for targeting a building with innocent people — including babies — inside. It’s OK to be angry with the government; that is part of being a citizen in a country, but to just bomb a public space, or to just go into a public space and begin randomly shooting, is a punk way to handle the anger. It is a punk way and it is despicable and it is cowardly.
The coverage of the shooting in Oregon has rung hollow for me. Our politicians are more concerned with holding onto an illogical insistence that “common sense gun laws” will keep people from owning guns. Pro-gun advocates insist that more people having guns will reduce gun violence and deaths from gun violence. It is insane and illogical reasoning, borne out of a stubborn resistance to “big government.
The sheriff of Douglas County, John Hanlin, does not believe there should be any kind of gun control and even suggested that in the Sandy Hook situation, where 20 <em>children</em> were left dead, might be a conspiracy. He posted a piece on YouTube after that incident, saying that “there has been a lot of deception surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting.” He suggested that the grieving parents might be “crisis actors.”
This, from a “law enforcement” officer.
There has been much talk about these young men, mostly white, who go into public spaces and gun people down. They are bad people, the experts say. They are mentally ill.
Perhaps. But the point has been made that people who are mentally ill are more likely to kill themselves than others for the most part. And, the case was made by President Obama, that in other modern countries there are just as many young men who are mentally ill, but we don’t hear about them gunning people down like they do here.
Attempts to explain the behavior of the mass shooters have relied as well on profiles, saying they are angry. Lots of people are angry. They don’t mow people down.
No, there’s something else going on. America’s culture is one of violence; the people from the Mayflower came into this new land mowing people down, specifically the Native Americans who were already here. We are a violent society. One of our core American beliefs is that the way to handle anger and to acquire and keep control of others is by and with violence. Cowboys were violent. Those who settled the West were violent. The debate over slavery was handled with a horror called the Civil War.
The answer, actually, to Dr. Martin Luther King’s campaign of non-violence, was violence. White people actually said that his non-violent campaign was inspiring and forcing violence in return.
America, with its core value of violence, is not safe. These young men, staunch supporters of the Second Amendment, are good, wholesome American citizens, with American values.
That’s what’s scary, and it’s at least one reason why America is not safe.
Fear Produced Ferguson Disturbance
Police are allowed to use deadly force if they are ‘in fear for their lives.” I get that. It makes sense…
Except that when it comes to black people, it seems like police are always in fear for their lives.
Fear of black people is nothing new. Time magazine calls it “Negrophobia,” and defines it as “the unjustified fear of black people.” (http://time.com/3207307/negrophobia-michael-brown-eric-garner-and-americas-fear-of-black-people/) The article talks about phobias in general; they are “extreme aversions,” and they can cause impulsive, irrational, behavior. When I was a child, I had a phobia about bees; if I saw one, I ran. If one, God forbid, was in my car, I was prone to want to stop the car wherever it was and get out and run. My daughter has a phobia about spiders. If she even thinks she sees one, she will grab whatever is near to spray on it and will spray it until it drowns. She even bought a special vacuum cleaner which she kept near her, plugged in and ready to go, so that if she saw a spider, no matter how small, she could get her vacuum cleaner out and get rid of it.
It seems that many white people have…that kind of unnatural, unjustified fear of black people. A friend of mine said he got onto an elevator which already had a passenger – a white woman. As soon as he got on, he said, he could see her tense up. He stayed on the other side of the elevator, so as to try to reduce her discomfort. When the elevator door opened, she darted out …only to run smack into another black man who was getting on. My friend said he thought she was going to faint. Negrophobia. We who are Negroes have seen it and felt it.
In the recent debacle in Ferguson, it felt like fear was running the agenda. Those police officers, wrapped, as they were in riot gear and equipped with military weapons, were afraid. All they saw was a sea of black faces, people whom they do not really regard as people, people whom they have not cared to try to get to know. They saw people who, they believe, are mere brutes, objects, not people, devoid of feeling, emotion and, frankly, human worth. What I saw was a group of frightened white people ready to kill “the enemy,” i.e., black people. It didn’t matter that most of them did not loot and were not armed. They were part of the “enemy camp,” to be feared as much as an Iraqi soldier might be feared in the war over there.
Brandon Hill, the author of the article in Time, wrote, “Phobic people hyperbolize a threat that is not actually present, and trip themselves into aggression.” Police, mostly white, have been given a steady dose of “black people are bad people,” as has been the general public. Many white people still, in the 21st century, have not met and do not know any black people. All they have is the myths, the sound bites and the media depiction of black people as animals, aberrant entities in this nation who, frankly, are bringing the country down. Bill O’Reilly said that the problems with black people come from “the culture.” He is, of course, inferring that black culture is deficient in and of itself, not allowing one iota for the impact of racism, poverty and general oppression on the lives of so many African-Americans. He obviously does not know the culture of this people which has sustained and strengthened them as they have fought racism in every aspect of their lives. He does not know, or care about, black fathers and mothers who work two and three jobs to sustain their families. He does not know about how central faith and God is to this people who have been discarded by the country they helped build. He does not know this culture which teaches a crazy lesson that people are to forgive their oppressors, because that is a central tenet of Christianity.
When my son was little, he was unbelievably cute, and people, white and black, would stop me and comment on the same. I found myself resenting the compliment coming from white people, though, because I knew that as he grew, he wouldn’t be so cute. He would be just another black man. He is now a strapping 6’4″ and has fallen into the category of those to be feared; as such, he is at risk of being approached by and harassed by a Negrophobe.
Fear caused the debacle in Ferguson, not the protesting people. A few bad apples looted, feeding into the “bad Negro” motif Americans have embraced, but the debacle was not caused by the looters. The debacle was caused by frightened white police officers with too much power and too many military-grade weapons. Had the officers treated the protestors like human beings, and not like “f***ing animals” the outcome, the response would have been different.
I know that because I know “the culture.”
If more white people knew the culture, they’d be able to replace the fear with respect …and that would create an entirely different vibe between whites and blacks.
I don’t think the fear will disappear any time soon, though. Negrophobia is an American malady which is probably here to stay…
A candid observation …
Are Kids Trying to Tell Us Something?
We must be doing something wrong as a society.
Today a young teen was shot and killed and four others shot and injured by another teen at Chardon High School, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. The alleged shooter is a young man named T.J. Lane who reportedly went into the high school’s cafeteria a little after 7 a.m. and began shooting. Young Lane was said by newscasters to have had a “lot of resentment.”
Only he knows why he is so unhappy. One student at the high school who knows him said he comes from a broken home, but that he was “quiet and nice.” Then whatever happened? For how long has this young man been unhappy or mad or sad, and nobody noticed?
There seem to be a couple of issues in these types of situations: first, a young person is sad or unhappy and either nobody notices or nobody cares. Depression among young people is high, but very often, teens are ignored and their depression or other serious mental imbalance is regarded as “normal,” if unpleasant, behavior for teens. There still is no clear understanding why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot 13 classmates in the horrendous shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Investigators say they had not been bullied, a common reason given for teen violence, but clearly, something was wrong. Those two young men were not happy.
Neither is there much understanding as to why Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Apparently the young man showed signs of being disturbed and unhappy, but few took him seriously.
Whatever the reasons for these horrible shootings, a second thing that seems to keep coming up is that young people seem to think that violence is the way to handle their pain. They must be learning that from us older people, who too frequently resort to violence as well. How many times have we heard that children will do what you do before they will do what you say? It seems fruitless to tell a child or young person not to be violent when they see adults resort to violence all too often.
Not only, however, do the kids direct their violence toward others; too often, they turn the violence on themselves as well.
Something is very wrong.
It seems that people in general are violent, notwithstanding belief in God, a Constitution, or “family values.” America‘s history is peppered with violence, from the time the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. Diplomacy and fairness do not seem to be favored or respected ways of handling conflict; violence, on the other hand, has had a prominent role in conflict management from the beginning.
“Drive-by shootings” were commonplace way before now; in pioneer days, gunfights were common and during Prohibition, gangsters made drive-by shootings almost romantic. Elliot Ness and others were romanticized for their conquests taken by and through violence.
The point is that it seems that we have taught our children that the way to handle our pain is by eliminating “the enemy.” How many of the kids who have gone into schools, shooting, or disgruntled employees who have done the same, have voiced discontent with the way they have been treated by others? Violence is often the last resort of people who feel powerless. Ending someone’s life, or seriously hurting them fills that void…or does it really?
I don’t think young Mr. Lane feels all that powerful now. He has destroyed his life and taken the life of at least one other young person. We older people, I think, need to stop and think. Perhaps we are failing as mentors and leaders and advisors for too many young people, who are struggling with problems of self-esteem and self-love, and who are on a path of self-destruction.
I cannot imagine the pain of the parents of the young man who left home this morning for school, only to die a senseless and tragic death. My hope is that we can learn something before something like this happens again. Violence doesn’t bring a sense of power to one who feels powerless.It only brings pain and, too often, a desire for revenge.
A candid observation.