Friday, September 30, 2016

Diversity is not always as diverse as some try to make it

I am an old, grey-haired white man. Whoopi Goldberg is right, I don’t know what it’s like to be a young Black man---hell, I barely remember what it’s like to be a young white man. I am confident that I could live out my days without giving a second thought to ‘black lives’ or ‘blue lives’ or even ‘white lives’ except for those very few closest to me, those I truly love. Standing idly by, however, is contrary to everything I believe; it’s not the American way. I don’t see the value in standing out in the street, holding a sign, screaming into the face of a cop who probably hates what our world has become as much as I do; and, has no more power nor authority to change things than I do. But, I have to do something. I believe that diversity, or our inability or unwillingness to respect, much less embrace our differences, is the biggest challenge facing our planet today. It’s ironic that the relations between races seems to have worsened recently because we actually are more alike than different. My first black friend, Harry T., passed away last year and I’ll always regret not thanking him for what he taught me. I wasn’t smart enough to understand it at the time, the mid-60’s, a half-century ago, but looking back I can see how alike we were. The prevailing thought during that time was that we, a black kid and a white kid, were vastly different, somehow, but I never saw it and I don’t think Harry did either. In all the ways that mattered to 14 year-old boys (of any color), we were more alike than different—we loved the same music, R&B, Soul, Rock, Irma Thomas, Sam Cooke, Elvis. We listened to it on big radios, glowing inside with vacuum tubes. Our sports heroes were Willie Mays and Mickie Mantle, we both hated biology class, we liked Pepsi over Coke, we loved gumbo and fried shrimp, we respected our parents, teachers, soldiers, & cops. We went to church on Sundays. It was years later before I understood the significance of all that. Our friendship faded away, as did most others of the day, but we reconnected shortly before his death and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
Another young black man played an important role in my significant life decisions. He was a friend, a teammate in high school. I used to kid that he was the second best athlete I ever played with or against, but first or second, he was still better, faster, stronger than I was. He enlisted in the Army just out of school, served with the 101st Airborne Division and died in Viet Nam on Christmas Eve 1970. His death was the driving force that led me to enlist in May 1971—one of the best decisions of my life. The point is that we shared a sense of patriotism---I can’t imagine Calvin turning his back on the flag or the national anthem. So, for most of my life I've been keenly aware of how people are different---age, for example, I find to be more of a differentiator than skin color. In fact I wuld say that gender, geography, size, shape, hair color---all seem as significant or more significant in comparing and contrasting people; but, our differences are NOT as important as are our similarities. Our differences make us better, stronger. P.S. I like Whoopi and we have more in common than most people might imagine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bono, "America is the best idea the world ever had."

I don't usually put much stock in the opinions of celebrities, especially not Irish rock stars. I mean, what could he possibly know about us and our ideas? Well, I take it all back. The title of my post is a Bono quote from a recent interview with Charlie Rose, and I find it to be the most profound, most poignant, most insightful comment I've heard in a very long time----my friends may think I'm crazy, but I put that statement right up there with, "I have a dream ...." and "Ask not what your country can do for you..." America as an idea still exists, it's still a dream for people all over the planet to come to America. It's still the best idea on the planet, the place with the most promise for a safe, fulfilling existence. Bono is an outsider looking in--without party affiliation or American political biases, with what seems an objective view. But, we have problems. No one can deny that. Our biggest problem is that we cannot agree upon the solutions to the many problems. People are sitting or turning their backs during the national anthem, protesting "social injustice" and racism in cities across the nation, and we, all of us, seem to be drifting apart. The divisiveness is driven by forces all around----news stations make it the story of the day, after day, after day. Politicians spend all their time trying to make their opponents look bad (and, that does NOT make them look better). And that brings me to the second part of Bono's qoute, "Donald Trump is America's worst idea" or something like that. He, Trump, may not be our worst idea, but AMERICA, the idea, the dream, deserves better. WE deserve an Honorable man or woman, person of character (see my February 2016 post on "What a leader ought to be.")