Moments With a Senior

d985f93d22de83265dd90148f1edc2f5I had a moment in a Walmart store two days ago. Having forgotten to pick up laundry detergent, the main thing I came for, and finding aisles for drinking water completely bare.  On advice, I headed over the next morning at the store’s opening hour. I didn’t realize items stocked in the morning became cleared shelves on a daily basis until I witnessed water and disinfectant products urgently disappear. Walking up the detergent aisle, the shelves were largely empty and in unsettling disarray. Two or three of the last jugs of off-brand chlorine bleach were strewn in a way that removed them from their respective price markers. At just 7:25 a.m., it was actually eerie to see.

She looked at me asking “how much are those?” An elderly woman seeming in her eighties pointed to the last two bottles of bleach as the third whisked away in front of us. “$3.99” I told her. There was a change purse in her hand with a few ones protruding out the top. Snapping it shut and pausing for a moment, she just sort of stood there gazing toward the floor.

I waited to see if she needed anything else. “Well, I’m not paying that for bleach!!” as she raised her head. “Thank you“ she said evasively, turning away and then stopping. Turning back around to me, I recognized a look of sincere disappointment on her face crowded by words of self-reassurance. The kind we’ve all heard one time or another when something important to us wasn’t panning out. “They said this whole thing was overblown anyway, didn’t they.” That’s all she said, then turned again pushing her cart off down the aisle. It struck me because it was obvious by her peering into her change purse that she couldn’t afford the bleach. It stuck with me because it was even more obvious she was uncertain and clearly becoming afraid.

Leaving the pasta aisle, it was a deciding moment when I saw her again standing at shelves the rummaged-through disinfectants once occupied. The rest of this story is the obvious stuff. Like most of you, I don’t make a habit of posting good deeds or mitzvahs. They are private and just something you do. In this case there’s a pattern however, one I think is worth talking about.

I grabbed disinfectant cleaner and paper towels off the shelf and hand sanitizer and a small bottle of chlorine bleach I already had in my cart. She was just finishing up at checkout, so I abandoned my cart and rung the four items through the self-checkout line. It’s a good thing too, because old ladies get rock star parking with handicapped placards and she was just getting in her car when I got to her.

I handed her the bag and told her the whole thing has not been overblown. That people like us, older or with compromised immune systems or predispositions to respiratory problems really need to pay special attention. We talked about hand washing and face touching and commonly exposed traffic areas like mailboxes, doorknobs, laundry room counters, delivered-item packaging and the like, that are now special risk for some of us. She asked questions and offered comments making it clear she only recently became aware this could be serious for her. I don’t think I remember in recent history doing something more appreciated by someone than this conversation we shared. But that isn’t why I am writing this today. I had another similar moment stopping at Dollar General on my way back home from Phoenix last night. An elderly customer having been told they were out of disinfectants of any kind, asking a stocker if it was necessary to sanitize hands. I was glad to see the stock clerk lean into the question with some answers longer than just a few words.

What this has me recognize are several important things. The first of course, when noticing a senior or anyone for that matter struggling to pay for small items – it’s a great place and a great time to be aware of opportunities to help – whether food or household items when we can. The cupboards might be a little barer, with visitors and helpful observers a bit more scarce than usual. Secondly but not secondarily, it’s very much worthwhile to show up if you hear questions from seniors about this pandemic. It occurred to me leaving the second store with a second occurrence  that there had been an even earlier conversation in the post office – an elderly man misinformed about the severity and the seriousness of this virus that brought on group conversation by those waiting in line. I live in a largely upper-senior neighborhood so this three-time occurrence inside a week may be more prevalent or opportune in my world. Still, what also appears largely in play is the right-wing media misinformation unchecked. Fox News median viewership is age 65. There is a lot of misinformation out there currently misdirecting a lot of vulnerable seniors.

Even though the president is now beginning his save-face efforts in an epidemiological turnabout – and Fox cancelling Trish Regan for ridiculous rants of conspiracy – Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Jesse Watters, Fox and Friends and Ed Henry responding to Fox’ top brass memos concerned with toning down the tone deafness probably for liability concerns- and of course the Juniors Trump & Falwell along with the ever right turning Dr. Drew pulling up the Trumpian rear by playing down reality.

Having a conversation with a senior who asks what may seem a minor question, might be all the difference in the world – in their world – a fact-free world fostered by the flagrantly fakest of news. 

A Dogs Last Day

It’s been an uphill battle for a long time now – hard to step through all the obstacles real or perceived. Sometimes I ask myself that question. Is what I see, think or feel real or perceived? And the answer always remains the same. Is there a difference?

Until this moment, I’ve been able to find a spark of hope. It’s so beautiful outside. I keep hoping to sit in the cool with the sun on my skin and just feel the life and the love and the peace of just being here. So many of those moments would come and pass in the years behind me. I never imagined they could end. I never realized just how valuable those moments were.

It’s hard to imagine that day won’t come again. There’s a feeling I get when I stand in a breeze. There’s a comfort that comes because I’m reminded of how beautiful it all is. But I don’t know how to touch the hope that used to wash over me. It’s not there anymore. Every day is a battle. Every morning I wake up in pain. I know it doesn’t look like I try but I’ve moved a mountain before I’ve even opened my eyes.

I burst to tears a thousand times, at the idea that I won’t ever have that sensation again. The chill of a warm breeze turning cold, at that perfect time of year that all it takes is the sun behind a cloud to swirl the cool – and the light on your face pouring honey thick warmth in a drenching stillness chasing a tide of shadow away. I feel like both the beach and the sea – the desert and the sky – the hummingbird and the flower – just me alone.

Have you ever lay by a tree and let it all wash over you? The sound, the scented confluence of competing and ever blending perfume – your senses trying to seize each one like biting off chocolates in search of just one … only to relent. You submit to the symphony, as the futility of
chasing a single note reminds.

Did you ever learn something from a dog in the grass and recognize in that moment how profound her wisdom and how foolish your own? Did it stop you for just a moment from looking back without seeing the future or looking ahead without seeing the past? Did you finally understand why she wouldn’t leave her spot in the grass on her very last day for that moment in the sun – to hurry back to the busy world where nothing is really ever done?

She told me to sit and I did. She said to me without a single word. Now is all you have. Now is all there is.

The 2nd Amendment & Preserving The Constitution

Defending The 2nd Amendment is not defending the US Constitution. That is a misuse of constitutionlanguage. Defending the US Constitution is to defend the right of the argument. The argument for and the argument against – yes, even the argument about what it is the 2nd Amendment means and is. But more than the 2nd Amendment alone, we must take into account where The US Constitution was then and where we are today. Our founding fathers would have far less of a conflict on their hands today, than do our Constitutional purists. They would above all understand, that to defend The constitution does not mean to interpret and defend every letter as written – but rather to defend its intent, its stated purpose, its mission statement, its Preamble. Everything else is amendable.

The most important aspect of The US Constitution is the allowance and the certainty of
“the argument.” Our justice system, the ratification of The US Constitution itself, our legislative process, The Bill of Rights, treaties – all depend upon the allowance and certainty of “the argument.” It took 10 months for 9 states to ratify The US Constitution. That achievement and those that followed all depended on the allowance and certainty of “the argument.”

Under each of these arguments were the intentions toward vs. the resistance against … change. Whatever the constitution says – and it says many things by many interpretations through many generations of a great many scholars – it does not anywhere intend or proclaim the rejection of change. That is the most important thing to recognize for any of us to even begin to understand The US Constitution. Its singular most astonishing brilliance is its profound capacity of accommodation for things unconsidered then, known by them then, yet to be unseen.

An argument suggesting that changing the constitution is wrong in an effort to validate the content of an amendment (a credentialed change) contained in The Constitution, is to say the very thing within the amendment being defended is invalid along with the amendment and The Constitution itself.

Until we comprehend the most important aspect of The US Constitution – enlightened men of their time, making allowance for enlightenment yet to come – this is what it means to preserve and defend our Constitution. It is not immutable or constant. It is evolutionary just as we are. The beauty in it, is the evolving beauty in us as we become a more enlightened society. “God said it that settles it” is a compelling argument with only the choir in attendance. It becomes dictatorial however among the broader and varied population that makes up The United States of America and its citizens short and tall.

We still have a white man’s Constitution in many ways.  Remember … the very first gun regulations were that Black People and Indians couldn’t have one. It’s tough to be a purist without exception on this topic – and not have a juggling act with Freedom and Justice for all.

 

Taking A Knee – What The Argument Alone Reveals.

One of the most important aspects of “taking a knee” is both the high profile visibility of a national stage, and the disagreement about “what’s appropriate where.” 

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The argument that ensues on this subject takes place between people in a manner that reveals their values and their awareness. Values have a tendency to change based on awareness. Before abused children began coming forward as adults- there was very little awareness about child exploitation and sexual abuse. People kept it secret – refused to look at it – found it uncomfortable and kept it hidden. Today, because of expanded awareness – most children know they have rights and possess necessary tools to defend and prevent. Parents seldom any longer say “it’s a private matter” and sacrifice the victim to social vanity as many once did. 

Racism in America may seem like a long stretch for comparison, but really it is very similar – and this analogy has nothing to do with Black people, but everything to do with white objectors. The difference is-  it is white people who are the secret keepers – the shooshers – the crime enablers who find this uncomfortable to face and discuss. It is white people who believe that their “game night” should not be interfered with while many of the people providing their entertainment have family and community, even children murdered in the streets. If a protest takes place that does not keep the silence at the cost of the crime against others – they are miffed. It is because they either do not comprehend (awareness is shallow to the realities suffered daily by people of color – exacerbated by white silence) or their values are such that white comfort is more important than Black lives. (Refer to Black Lives Matters and seek a correlation with their message). 

The tragic irony is; It is the very fact that white people have the option to view this as a non-priority to their lives that necessitates continuing, strenuous, repeated high visibility. The reality is, white people should have the decency and the moral accountability to be ahead of this violation against humanity. But because of racism, privilege and implicit bias they do not grasp the magnitude that is lived and endured daily by people of color. The fact that a white person can permit atrocity without even investigating the stories they reject at presentation is the reason Black people die – and are forced to do all the heavy lifting for equal justice. The offense of “Take A Knee” is in direct proportion to the degree of white apathy in the heart of the offended. 

Privilege, Starbucks, Neighborhood Watch – and the pervasive crime of white apathy

Things White Folks Don’t Knowmsa q

The hardest thing for me to reconcile in my life today,  is that I have children I love and would give my life for whom I know hear about white people in ways that do not describe me. Yet still, they do describe white America. Words that are not false, are not overstated, but in fact are proven out over and over in the daily life of us all.   It brought me to my choice – my choice of voice or silence – marching or watching from the sidelines.

I am a family friend of a Black American family, and I get the perks of outings with the children. I am that uncle that loves to spoil them – loves to hear them – loves to be in touch with the amazing world of brilliant and aspiring children. Any adult in this role knows what I am talking about. We are reminded how smart they are – we are reminded how vital and essential their exposure to and experience of the world. And we know that the wonder we once had for the world and life – returns to us gazing through their eyes.

When one child gets up to go to the bathroom at a restaurant, I stand between the door and the ones remaining at the table – equal distance so I can see the bathroom door entered and those at the table undisturbed. I do this because they are children and because they are in my care.  But I do it more in ways that no one knows because they are children of color – Black children – that do not carry or share my privilege. No one will touch them, speak to them or reach them in any disparaging way – not when they are in my charge. The intolerable reality is, I do have to watch and I do have to be more vigilant. And that tells me things all of white America needs to know.

Leaving the theater as we approached the down elevator to parking,  a white man stepped away from a Black woman in a manner I have honed my sight to recognize. It isn’t difficult, and it isn’t a mistake when noticing the airs of a supremacist, a bigot or racist. One more Black person came toward the elevator and I saw him grappling with his position. I stepped back from the children and put my hand on his arm – leaned in and whispered “this car is not for you.” He knew and acknowledged what I was talking about. His disapproval now directed at me – he stepped back to wait for another car.  I will not allow him near them, or an utterance under his breath to reach their ears.

My rage was subdued by my insistence on normalcy for the children and disruption of our outing. This subject is above my pay grade and is to be reserved for parents and their children. They need no input from me. Though subdued on my face and in my demeanor, my rage was beyond anything I have ever felt. I wanted to hurt him but they were there. They were not subjected to a thread of it. It’s not the only time or only thing I’ve experienced while in the company of these three exquisite young girls.  I looked toward the man with a boundaried nod, shuffling this laughter-occupied group of girls into the elevator.  No one but me and the Black woman who arrived behind us knew a thing. She was the mass-tilting reason he paused about entry. She knew it. Black people know. They have had to be hyperaware for generations. She gazed into my eyes on the three floor trip down, in a way I have considered over and over as to all that her look had held. It was one of understanding and compassion – but also carried a glimpse of fear and admonishment that perhaps I might not be endowed with such clarity and vigilance in the future. I am white, and I have the privilege of forgetting what others endure.

Two Black men were put into handcuffs for sitting while black in a Starbucks. They refused to leave and were arrested. They were asked to leave because they are Black. This is confirmed by white customers who occupy tables with no purchase yet made – waiting for the rest of their party. The many tweets and comments by white people saying “there must be more to the story” are mistaken or racist bias or both. The police who arrested them are wrong. Everything is wrong with this event.

A dear friend of mine asks these questions that no white person can answer – not without  the glaring face of complicity or self-indulgent denial.

“How can I or my children tell the difference between a white person who will shoot us and a white person who won’t?
How do we ask the police for help when we don’t know what KIND of officer will show up—100% compliance will still get you killed, ask Mesa PD ‘bout that. Don’t tell me if I follow orders I’ll be safe, because I will NOT be safe. Miss me with all of THAT bullshit.
Which Starbucks can I wait in for my client, how do I know which door to knock on in my community when I need help?
Are we at the point where white folks have to put HUGE safety pins on their door posts? Businesses have to hang POC welcome signs in their windows?

Until we face ourselves if we are white – we have not faced the truth. The truth is, this is our responsibility – even if you believe it is a construct in which you had no participation. You are participating today – and in so doing you stand on one side or the other. silence is the selection of a position. It is the selection of truth or denial- and it is the selection for racism or equality. Which do you choose?

Things White Folks Don’t Know

s-l640Racial Bias From Neighborhood Watch to Doctor Visits – Black Folks are Dying & White Folks are Sighing Dismissals.

A near tragedy that sits alongside so many others, once again brought to mind the injustices to which I am party. White people like me don’t like to hear it but we are so often complicit in tragedies that seem to have no end in sight. It’s a rickety soap box I stand on because this type of complicity is hard for Black people to forgive – and white people can’t stand other white people who face the responsibility and point out that “you should too.” But I’ve seen the Amber Alerts go viral and so have you. I’ll bet you know someone who reposted over and over or who asked around even though the child missing was counties or even states away.  I can promise you this – there would not have been a Jada or Aaliyah Alert and you damn well know it. Will this article by a guy with zero platform an unremarkable story,  average talent or contribution ever reach anyone or change anything? I doubt it. But I can’t live with not trying.

Another near tragedy. A fourteen year old boy who is lost goes to a door marked Neighborhood Watch. He is lost and needs directions home. What he meets with is white violence and racism that nearly cost him his life.

Neighborhood “Watch Out For Black Kids !”

If you grew up in my time, you remember The Black Panthers. In 1966 when they formed I was only seven years old. By 1982 when Huey Percy Newton fled to Cuba, I was twenty three. I recall the news, the allegations, the horrific criminal profiles of Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, the inextricable influence of Angela Davis and many others. My dad would rail at the television with the riots and the fear mongering that went on about these radical criminals. But who were the criminals … we never learned until later … not if we’re white we didn’t. Most still don’t know, and for the sake of comfort probably never will.

Why is all this relevant to a near tragedy involving this fourteen year old child? It is directly related and it is related to every opinion of every white American alive today that is old enough to have grown children. I was thirty before I began any interest in the reconciliation of my American heritage to the truth. The truth is today and was then that Black men, boys, women and girls have been vilified and dehumanized since the days of Black enslavement – and it is still being done today. If you are white and you are less angry about this than any other child – or Trayvon Martin less than a whiter kid with Skittles, or Tamir Rice or any of the others – if you are white and this doesn’t affect you the same as it would a white kid – you are doing it too.

When this woman opened the door, her fear and response to that fear was the driving force that enlisted her husband to get a gun. Stepping back to the Black Panthers once again, their original intent was to protect Black communities that not only had no protection as white communities did – but also were subject to the biases that drove the mistreatment of their community’s citizens, just as it does with police officers today. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was established because what we see going on today was going on then. Soon, there is going to be an uprising, and candidly I know which side I’ll stand on. White people have to gain an understanding of what is going on with regard to racial inequality – and even legal murder of Black people.

There is no Edgar J Hoover today to conspire and vilify an entire race of people to justify racist attacks by law enforcement and enlist the American public’s white support. We support it on our own through privilege. Yes privilege – that slippery thing that white people like to argue they do not have. I can help you out with your confusion. Privilege is what the white kid has in the kindness of the white woman who hung a Neighborhood Watch sign in case he felt unsafe. That is privilege. Privilege isn’t just in what we get that others don’t. It is what others endure that we don’t have to. Black people face battles we don’t have to. White people don’t face the same battles – because we don’t face ourselves.

There are many white doctors who think Black people feel less pain and under, or incorrectly treat them. Medical Students in today’s educational system, presently taking their final exams believe this myth. You can read this study and many others proving what and why we subconsciously believe these impossible myths.

PNAS (Proceedings of ) National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America Racial Bias In Pain Assessment and Treatment

Still, with all we can prove we cannot pull ourselves collectively from this de facto consciousness that has us not respond to horrors and tragedy we’d never allow happen to white people. Are you white and angry about angry Black people? Answer this. Why aren’t you angry with them?