The New Gettysburg Address


On 16 April 2014, after listening to a lecture about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, I wrote the following:

Two Hundred and thirty-eight years ago, the founders of this mighty nation espoused an idea borne of enlightenment; that all men were created equal and that freedom and liberty should flow from that equality. Sadly, though, only men of a certain stature or standing were deemed worthy of such liberty and freedom – despite the birthright of equality bestowed upon all. To correct this injustice, a great Civil War was fought to settle the issue regarding the extent and nature of such birthright – the right which states: to be born is to be equal.

But the ghosts of some who fought and lost that war still haunt this nation in the year 2014. Those ghosts continue the battle to deny all that which they hold dear for themselves. Subsequently, a new Civil War erupted in 1865 and still rages today. This war is designed to deny many of us the same freedoms claimed by this nation’s fathers. This new war, fought with words and violence under the force of law has claimed thousands –- many of whom were as worthy as many of those laid to rest in Arlington. For too many, the law begins and ends on the page without ever touching the heart; hence this war.

To that end, it is both our burden and our privilege, to ensure that those before us who fought, wept and died for freedom and liberty for all – whether it be in the first Civil War or the one that still rages today – did not or have not done so in vain, so that this nation, shall again be reborn and that a government of all the people, by all the people and for all the people might actually be on earth.

Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney
16 April 2014

You may read Lincoln’s version below.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Published in: on June 22, 2014 at 2:35 AM  Comments (1)  
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Wishes


I wish my tears had washed away what caused them.

I wish I could know what I want to know.

I wish I had been who I am now … and who I will be.

I wish I had been less certain of what I knew and more certain of what I did not know.

I wish I were better to myself so I could have been better to others.

I wish I had loved more cautiously … less deeply.

I wish I had understood humans better and sooner.

I wish my children knew how much … how deep and how wide.

I wish my secrets realized that I have changed.

I wish my mistakes showed more compassion to me… and to others.

I wish time had favored me more than it has.

I wish time were in less of a hurry when it raced and sprinted when it crawled.

I wish… but then I keep on living.

Published in: on April 20, 2014 at 6:17 PM  Comments (1)  
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Sugar and Salt


In March of 2014 I went to a Coney Island restaurant and ordered my usual: two coney dogs, fries and water. After finishing my meal, the server asked me did I have room for dessert. I stated that I did not and that I was ready for the check. She then replied that some person, who wished to remain anonymous, was picking up the tab for my meal. Somewhat taken aback, I asked was she sure. She said, “Yes. From time to time someone comes in and pays for a patron’s meal and does so anonymously.”

I told her that I was moved by such kindness. I wish I could personally thank whoever this benefactor was. I must have told her how kind that was at least several times. In any event, I looked around and about forty or so people were dinning – some alone, others with someone[s] else. There was nothing about anyone that would have led me to believe it was him or her or them. So, I left.

More than being impressed with such a random act of kindness toward a stranger, I was forced, once again to recalibrate my notion of human beings. Much of the time, as reflected in my essays and screenplays, I focus on the underbelly of the human beast. I see humans in all their agony and grief precipitated by the greed, selfishness and cruelty of others. But every now and then, someone does something that forces me to adjust my perspective; I am forced to see that inhumanity exists because there is humanity.

To that end, I have to acknowledge that there are men who truly respect women and would not even dream of abusing them. I have to admit there are white people for whom one iota of racism is repulsive and would stand up against any who would dare discriminate. I know there are black people who actually respect themselves by truly believing that the dark skin of a black person is as beautiful as light skin on a black person. And, yes, there are straight people who would stand up against homophobes with the same vigor as they would against any violation of a person’s humanity. I cannot ignore the fact that there are wealthy people who understand that poverty is more of a function of a structure developed and perpetuated by the elite rather than a combination of laziness and a sense of entitlement on the part of those who suffer such poverty. In short, I know that humans are as base as they are sublime; they are as sweet as they are salty.

The times I have done something similar for a stranger, I asked myself why. Not consciously, but otherwise, I realize I do so to add some sugar to the potion I drink each day lest I be what I so often loath about humans.

I then ask: If it were possible for someone from another planet populated with a peaceful species whose technology was behind ours and which was replete with resources that humans could use, came to me and asked, should they allow humans to arrive and settle on their planet, what would my answer be? My answer quickly sinks me back to being surprised — nearly shocked — that a stranger engaged in a random act of kindness.

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 9:03 PM  Comments (1)  
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My Favorite 17 Things


A friend once asked me to compile a list of my favorite things and rather than create a list of the usual items such as my favorite color or movie, I decided to veer off from that well-beaten path. I decided to include in my list both the mundane and the not-so mundane. But before I agreed to do so, I asked myself why would I create such a list in the first place. My answer? I hypothesized that the odds of someone having the same favorite things as I would be small if there were at least seventeen things on the list [depending on what the specific items were, of course]. I figured that a list of seventeen things would set me apart from most if the list consisted of the other than usual. That which I do often or that happens often can be defined as “Favorite”. Thus, the following:
1] Favorite mistake: When people think I don’t know I’m being played.
2] Favorite lie: All my children will miss me when I die. [All but one have rejected me because I rejected their religion … I miss them and my grandchildren]
3] Favorite fantasy: I save my mother by deleting her husband.  [That’s one way I cope with having been used as unwitting bait to lure her to her murder … in front of me]
4] Favorite exercise: Learning the new, the newer and the newest
5] Favorite truth: That some truths are elusive and it is those truths that make their pursuit/capture the stuff of pure unadulterated bliss
6] Favorite five-letter word to hear: “Daddy” [especially when my baby girl calls me]
7] Favorite complexion: dark [I reject the notion that light or white skin is the sole standard of beauty … there is as much beauty in the night as there is in the day.]
8] Favorite Ice Cream: Hagen Daz Butter Pecan [especially without the pecans … then what would it be called?]
9] Favorite “God”: The one who is anti-religion, anti-spiritual … anti-worship, anti-prayer and anti-“holy” writings … the one to whom the only thing that matters is how humans treat each other and other life forms
10] Favorite cereal: Frosted Flakes [they don’t get soggy as quickly as their non-frosted counterpart and I don’t have to add sugar]
11] Favorite childhood memory: the summer my mother’s husband left for CA to prepare for our arrival in September [He was as useful as a piece of used toilet tissue]
12] Favorite body part: the brain [but only when it is in gear and with a full tank]
13] Favorite accessory:  Money [it has been known to be as important as oxygen]
14] Favorite time of day: When I am alone  [2nd Favorite time of day: When I am with someone that matters to me]
15] Favorite activity: Lamenting the nature of my powerlessness [If I had the power, I would impose love and respect for all — as I define them]
16] Favorite pain: Pondering why there is so much misery, grief and turmoil juxtaposed against the notion that humanity is here, on purpose as opposed to by chance
17] Favorite wish: To know what “God” knows about the why and how of EVERYTHING [why is there beauty, black holes, butterflies, roaches and orangoutangs… why do tigers hunt alone but lions in packs … what is consciousness or truth or the nature of space-time, gravity, etc. … and every damn thing else?]
Published in: on February 27, 2014 at 12:02 AM  Comments (17)  
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The Iron Hand of Irony


At the age of fourteen I made one of my crucial life-altering decisions ever: I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Five years later, I married a young lady who was also a Jehovah’s Witness. We would come to have four children whom we also raised as such.

After more than twenty years as a prostelizing minister, I submitted a letter to the elders of my congregation in which I renounced and rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses — their tenets and practices. All my concerns, doubts and disappointments clashed and culminated in my decision to repudiate the doctrines of that religion [eventually, I came to dismiss any and all religions].

Consequently, I became a pariah and was subsequently officially ostracized by Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was painted as a heretic and, as per their beliefs, I was to be treated as if I were contagious.  I was disassociated [which is worse than being disfellowshipped]. Any Jehovah’s Witness who even spoke to me would risk explulsion or some other form of punishment by the organization.

My children, for many years, however, would speak to me well into their adulthood. Though I was not allowed to walk my daughter down the aisle when she married nor attend her wedding reception, I still had a fatherly relationship with my children — albeit somewhat stilted at times.

Twenty-five years after I rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses, I wrote a book containing 116 short essays — 23 of which explained my perspectives about religion.  This polemic act exacerbated matters. My adult children [except one] rejected me and treated me as the other Jehovah’s Witnesses did.

To that end, I could no longer see my grandchildren. Thus, my grandchildren [except one] are growing up without knowing me. My children will not allow me to see or talk to them because I, as the consequence of being a heretic, was considered an untouchable.

The irony: I raised them to be Jehovah’s Witnesses and that they are. They follow the tenets of that religion. Once I rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs [now nearly 30 years ago], they choose to adhere to its tenets and reject me. How ironic!

They are faithful to their beliefs as I am to my beliefs as a deist. I will not “repent” and embrace that religion and apparently, they will not reject that religion. I am not angry at them; their mother and I raised them accordingly and only one of them has decided to live differently. So, only one grandchild will come to know me.  The rest, will only think of me as someone who is to be avoided.

Sometimes irony stikes as softly as cotton; other times it pummels you with an iron hand.  Short of one of us yielding or acquiescing, I hope my children miss me as much as I miss them because I love them preciously. Then, at least that would be some consolation and the iron hand of irony would not hurt as much.

Published in: on December 2, 2013 at 5:29 PM  Comments (2)  
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… Without Expecting They Will Do The Same Unto Me


When I was in my twenties, one of my cousins, with whom I was raised, responded to a concern that I had presented to him. He spoke of being quite willing to solve my problem. His solution was to kill the person who was my source of angst, if necessary. That statement did not move me one way or the other; what he said afterward was indeed profound. It must be clear that my cousin was “street-wise and street-tough”. He saw himself as my protector since I was “book-smart” but “street-dumb.” During this discussion, he concluded with an insightful comment: “I would easily do that for you but I wouldn’t expect you to do the same for me.”

I never forgot those words. I did not think he was calling me a coward. He was acknowledging and accepting who I was — he was the killer; I was not. He respected who/what I was. I took that conversation to heart and embraced its wisdom. [For the record, it was not necessary for my cousin to do any killing to protect me]

I once pursued the affections of a remarkably attractive woman. She said I was the most intelligent and romantic man she had ever met. Nonetheless I was not blind about the limits of her feelings. I eventually told her that I was in love with her but that she was not in love with me and I no longer expected that she would ever be.  Like my cousin, I acknowledged and accepted the difference in what we each brought to the relationship. [This was even after I had no choice but to deal violently with her ex-boyfriend who was stalking her and threatened me] She eventually married someone else.

In a relationship, no matter its nature, there are context and structure, resulting in the way things work. Relationships can be uneven or lopsided — sometimes deliberately or sometimes unconsciously. Coping with an asymmetrical relationship [and they all are, in one way or another] can pose a challenge because it can be a source of angst and grief at worst or excitement and variety at best. Understanding and accepting this phenomenon will go a great distance in avoiding disappointment. Such was the case in the above two examples. I did not disappoint my cousin; he accepted that there would be no reciprocity. The sweet darling did not disappointment me; I accepted that there would be no reciprocity.

This approach has served me well. Nonetheless, I must admit it is more of a defense mechanism than anything else. Sometimes I resign myself to the reality that to avoid hurt/disappointment, I should accept that sometimes I will give more than I receive — much more. Sometimes I should be willing to do for a friend what s/he would not do for me.  If I am wrong, then I am delightfully surprised. If I am correct, then I am spared pain. Only when I fail to do this, am I disappointed and grieved; then I quickly resort to the safety of this defensive frame of mind. In short, I try to do unto others without expecting they will do the same unto me.

Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 9:45 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Law v Justice


Justice is the dark child of what is fair but the law is whatever is written on a white sheet of paper as decided by those in power. Much of the time the two are one in the same [or perhaps in tandem] but too often, they are at the opposite ends of the same sword. In theory, justice is a function of the proper and equitable application of the law. Nonetheless, there is an inherent weakness with respect to any law. This is most clearly presented by the words of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes of the US Supreme Court. When speaking about that which was developed to be the basis of all US laws, namely, the US Constitution, he said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”  This truth behind this comment is buttressed by what R.G.H. Siu stated in his book, The Craft of Power:  “The power of the prophet lies not in his bringing the word of God to mankind but in his interpretation as to what the purported word of God means. Truth, it seems, does not determine what the prophet says; instead, what the prophet says determines what truth is. The fight then is over the privilege of interpretation.” To that end, interpretation can distort justice while fully supporting the law. Stated another way, “We are all equal before the law, but not before those appointed to apply it.” Stanislaw J. Lec 

The spirit of the definition of justice is fairness. Now, of course, what is fair is also subject to differing opinions but when it stands in contrast to the law, then it can become obvious.

 That is why, despite the passage of the 13th and 14th amendment to the US Constitution which ended slavery and granted former slaves US citizenship, the Supreme Court, in 1896 determined that the segregation was not in violation of those amendments. In Plessy v Ferguson, the Court decided that Blacks could be excluded from public facilities for Whites as long as there were “equal” facilities for Blacks. “Separate but equal” allowed the interpreters [Justices] to appear to honor the law while perpetrating an injustice. Fifty-eight years later, that same Court [albeit different Justices] determined that “separate but equal” was an injustice and thus reversed Plessy v Ferguson with Brown vs The Board of Education. As another example: After World War II, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East executed Japanese officers for water boarding American POWs. Water boarding was deemed to be torture, except when the Bush-Cheney administration sanctioned it as a useful interrogation tool – [i.e., enhanced interrogation]. The history of this country is replete with other examples of contradictory court decisions or reversals.

In short, Siu, Hughes and Lec tell us all we need to know about law and justice. People in power speak of the “rule of law” or that we are a nation of laws [laws that can be interpreted in more than one way]. We, however, are less a nation of justice. The law is designed to create and maintain order and if fairness is achieved, then fine. If not, then at least it is better than anarchy.  Admittedly, “fairness” is a challenging concept to define and attain but nonetheless, we often know it by its opposite — unfairness. To that end, justice is often a by-product and not the aim of the law.

By extension, it could correctly be stated that the law is more the servant of the rich and powerful, and the task master of the poor — even more so if the poor are non-white. The statue of Lady Justice displays a scale in her left hand and a sword in her right. And, she is blindfolded. The scales are supposed to represent justice because she is blind to the status or position of those who come before her as she weighs the facts. Also, if necessary she will use the sword to execute or punish. I do not see it that way. Lady Justice can see through the blindfold and serves at the pleasure of those who interpret and apply the law.

So, can justice ever prevail as the rule and never the exception? The facts and reality tell us not. Law is easy but justice is not. Nevertheless, it is a goal worth a relentless and myopic pursuit. Otherwise, the law will win and “we the people” will lose.

Published in: on September 9, 2013 at 3:24 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Hail To The Black Woman_Part II


Another poem from thirty years ago.

 

proof

 

searched for proof of God.

 

studied,

listened,

thought.

 

Still,

 

searched for proof of God.

 

’til,

I saw

the

rapture.

 

Her beauty … awesome

it made my eyes follow her …

 

Full ripe lips,

doe-brown eyes

as she approached

 

cherry-round ass.

 as she strolled past.

 

 

…a dark chocolate delight

 

no other way to explain it

 

…there is a God!!!

 

 

Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney

Published in: on August 11, 2013 at 2:22 AM  Leave a Comment  

Hail To The Black Woman_Part I


I wrote several poems honoring dark complexioned African-American women more than thirty years ago [I used to write poetry long before I began writing essays and screenplays].

Beauty In Black

you stood
in a shower of moon beams

undressed
like an orchid unfolding

AND BEHOLD

A MASTERPIECE!

as if
handmade
not born

your nakedness
deep double black

starlight
swirling round
your soft dark curves


full lips
kissy fresh

bright eyes
baby brown

round ass
apple ripe


that night
I have memorized you

the definition
of beauty

and knew from that night on

that beauty
looks best
in black

Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney

Published in: on August 11, 2013 at 2:13 AM  Leave a Comment  

“… All Others Considered Dangerous”


After having watched the George Zimmerman trial in which he was charged with second degree murder/manslaughter for the death of Trayvon Martin, I told several friends that despite what I considered damning evidence of Zimmerman’s guilt, he would not be found guilty. I predicted that the jury would bless him with a verdict of not guilty because of the underlying framework of the major institutions in our society: White-skin privilege.

From before the inception of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, western Europeans have dominated and exploited non-whites primarily for commercial gain. This fact can be disputed but not in any way that reflects honest, fair and intellectual scrutiny of history [but past and current]. And to this very day, government studies and studies by various universities have proven that discrimination against African-Americans with respect to housing, education, employment and the judicial system [just to name a few of the major areas] is as vibrant as it is insidious — is as ubiquitous as it is effective. Today’s racism seldom reveals itself in an “in-your-face” kind of bravado but it usually hides behind a mask of decency and so-called, “equal opportunity or justice for all.”

Zimmerman’s attorneys’ arguments of self-defense are believable only if one suspends one’s faculty of reasoning and also if one denies the context of race relations in these United States of White America. Consider this: If seventeen year-old Trayvon Martin had been armed with a handgun while driving a car and decided to disregard the suggestion not to follow George Zimmerman but instead accosted him and then after a struggle, shot and killed Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin would have been immediately charged, tried and convicted of second degree murder. This is not mere speculation. Proof?

Proof: Please note the case of Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville Florida. This “mother of three fired a single shot into her kitchen ceiling two years ago to warn her husband, Rico Gray, against continuing his physical attack on her. . She was convicted of aggravated assault in a matter of minutes — and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. She was prosecuted by the same prosecutor who brought charges against George Zimmerman [as a result of the Governor, under pressure, appointing her as a special prosecutor. [http://mhpshow.msnbc.com/_news/2012/05/11/11658879-marissa-alexander-gets-20-year-sentence?lite]

So when a Black woman invokes the “stand-your-ground” law she is denied justice. Thus, there is no doubt if Trayvon’s and George’s roles were reversed, Trayvon would have suffered a fate similar to Marissa Alexander. But when a White man tracks, accosts and kills a young Black man, he is exonerated. In short, society and the legal system have, in effect, stated, “How dare a young Black man not stop and let himself be detained by a White man who had no badge, no uniform and no authority [until the police arrived]. How dare a young Black man fight back against a stranger whose only credentials were his white skin and a handgun. Don’t you Black people know that when a White man follows you in your own neighborhood, you had best comply and assume the position?”

But in order to assuage any possible feelings or perception of guilt, Zimmerman’s attorneys had to paint Trayvon as the pugnacious one who initiated the fight; as if Zimmerman was to say, “Trayvon made me do it.”  This is similar to the instance when during the first half of the twentieth century, two sheriffs approached the body of a Black man who had been lynched and shot through the heart. One of the sheriffs jokingly and derisively exclaimed, ‘How in the world did this n—– hang and then shoot himself?’ In keeping with this mindset, Zimmerman’s attorneys proceeded to lynch Trayvon [albeit posthumously] and then blame him. This is one of the most successful way to ameliorate White-guilt while preserving White-skin privilege.

Obviously, not all White people are racists; in fact, many are not. And I am always heartened by Whites who reject the racists beliefs about Black people held by many of their race. But enough of them, however, are racist to one degree or another,  so that the institutions and the system will always favor the dominate group and to ensure the perpetuation of White domination of all the major institutions. In short, racism is instrumental in that it serves to preserve the power and privilege of the one race vis a vis the other. And one way to preserve this power is to discount the value of a Black person’s life and place a premium on a White person’s life. Zimmerman’s freedom was worth more than Trayvon’s life.

Another way Whites reveal their notions of Blacks is indicated by responses to articles about murder. When you read an article about a Black person committing murder, there are often comments about Blacks being savages and miscreants by nature. When you read articles about Whites committing murder [even those murders of movie-goers or elementary school children] the readers’ comments almost never mention anything about Whites being savages or miscreants by nature. In other words, the perception of many racist Whites is that when Blacks commit murder, it is because that’s “who they are” but when Whites commit murder, there is silence about race — no comments from readers that mention race. That’s because when a White person commits murder that is just because that particular White person is a murderer. All these notions about Blacks, are sew into the mindset of many Whites and these views facilitate or lead to verdicts as mentioned in the above-two cases.

Finally, I find it revolting that many Whites are enamored with Black athletes or Black singers, Black actors — Blacks who entertain them. But in the absence of their fame, they would not want such a person to live next door to them or to marry their children. This is because, as one poster from the 1800s announced: Wanted: Singers, Dancers, Actors … all others considered dangerous.

PS. There is one take-away regarding the Zimmerman verdict. Now I can carry a handgun, follow somebody [against the advice of law enforcement] who is minding his own business, accost him, create a situation where a physical confrontation is likely, then shoot him because he is winning the fight by giving me two minor scratches on my head! And I will be found “not guilty.”  Oh, I silly me, I forgot: I cannot get away with that — I’m a Black man!

Published in: on July 15, 2013 at 2:00 AM  Comments (2)  
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Is It Ever Fair To Blame The Victim?


Victims of crimes of all sorts are sometimes criticized or blamed for what happened to them. In response, defenders of the victim often accuse such critics of “blaming the victim.” This is especially so when women are victims of sexual assaults. Often she is blamed if she is dressed in something short and tight or low-cut and form-fitting. Or if she agrees to go to the room of a man she just met late at night. And even if she is intoxicated and subsequently assaulted, it is stated that she should still be held blameless. I agree that any one who sexually assaults [or otherwise assaults] another should be prosecuted and if convicted, imprisoned for quite an extensive time. Nonetheless, is it ever fair to blame the victim?

There is a concept developed by sociologists called, “victim precipitation” that is defined as any action taken [or not taken] or words spoken [or not spoken] that incited the perpetrator to victimize such person. For instance, bumping a person without saying, “excuse me” or bullying a person or perhaps failing to stop talking thereby irritating and provoking the perpetrator. Victim precipitation would also include being attacked by the spouse of someone you were dating — but you did not know she was married.

In the law, there is a similar concept:  “The fact that an individual is lacking in intelligence, judgment, memory, or emotional stability does not excuse the person’s failure to act as a reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same circumstances. Finally, a person who undertakes a particular activity is ordinarily considered to have the knowledge common to others who engage in that activity.” [http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/negligence] 01 July 2013. Thus, according to sociologists, criminologists and the law, there are times when one can blame the victim. Sometimes victims are culpable and bring “shit on themselves.”  Which is why many parents will preach to their children about socializing with the wrong crowd or never leaving your drink unattended, or to leave before the argument escalates into violence or to leave the party with the girls you came with as opposed to going off with some guy.

As one judge put it, “Sometimes we just have to take responsibility for what happens to us.”

BUT, whether a victim should be blamed or not is not the issue for me — because clearly as per the law and social science, sometimes one can blame the victim. The issue, from my perspective is whether a victim should ever be surprised — guilty victims or even innocent victims.

If you sell illegal drugs, should you be surprised if you are arrested or robbed or if someone tries to kill you?

If you drink and then drive, should you be surprised if you have an accident or are arrested?

If you bully another, should you be surprised if you are subsequently ambushed or suffer some sort of retaliation?

If you stop to get gas in certain neighborhoods late at night, should you be surprised if you are attacked and robbed? Yes, it would be wrong for someone to rob you, but should you be surprised? [Engaging in a perfectly legal activity does not absolve one from taking prudent actions]

If you are a woman, drinking with a group of men you barely know or go to a stranger’s room alone, should you be surprised if you are sexually assaulted? Yes, it would be wrong/criminal for someone to assault you, but should you be surprised? [Engaging in a perfectly legal activity does not absolve one from taking prudent actions]

As I stated, the issue is not whether you, as a victim should be blamed, but under certain circumstances [NOT ALL CIRCUMSTANCES] should you be surprised if you become a victim?

Yes, I am most aware that many victims of crime were engaging in perfectly legal activities and through no fault of their own, they became victims. There are certain situations, however, when, if one can blame the victim or not, the victim should not be surprised at being a victim. In other words, the more important question may not be whether the victim should be blamed but whether the victim should be surprised.

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 9:43 PM  Comments (2)  
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My Credo


There is no idea or belief I so dearly cherish so as to shield it from rigorous scrutiny or thoughtful challenge. There is no idea or belief I esteem so highly that I will not alter it or abandon it — sacrifice it in favor of standing even closer to the truth.

I penned and published those words several years ago and they have served me well. The corollary to that statement is: I hate being wrong; I detest it. In fact, I abhor being wrong so much that I desperately want to know when I am so that I can stop. Such a credo requires constant monitoring and evaluating of my ideas and beliefs — primarily those [but not exclusively] that are the substance for how I live my life.

Most humans, however, tend to hold onto their beliefs with the same tenacity and vigor as when a pit bull chomps down on another dog’s body during a dog fight. Humans will sacrifice the truth of a matter to their own opinion or to an idea that is incorrect. People do not like to change their mind. This reality is probably a function of believing that changing one’s mind in the face of other information is a sign of weakness or a feeling of being diminished as opposed to one of maturity, if not wisdom. In these instances, stubbornness becomes synonymous with stupidity.

It is recorded that when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, Jesus spoke of truth to which Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus did not answer. [Though earlier, to a different audience, Jesus stated, “I am the truth…”] In any event, I understand that what is true can be difficult to discern and sometime even relative. What is deemed to be true today, could later be found to be untrue or only partly true. Nonetheless, that does not absolve one of the responsibility to honor truth by continually searching for it or at least dismissing what one once thought to be true. I use the term “responsibility” quite deliberately.

No matter one’s ethos, there are few purposes that occupy a higher place than the love of and subsequent search for what is true. But as stated earlier, humans tend to not only not search, but simply select beliefs that are given them by others or beliefs that constitute “low hanging fruit”. After all, to do otherwise is very hard work. This being so, the easy thing to do is to reject ideas that do not fit into one’s construct of truth about a matter. The story of the psychiatrist and the delusional patient comes to mind:

The patient sits down and declares to the doctor, “I am dead.”

The psychiatrist queries, “How do you know you are dead?”

“Dead people don’t bleed,” he replied. At that point the psychiatrist removed a pocket knife from his desk, rose and approached the patient. He cut the patient on the hand. The patient looked at his hand and saw blood oozing out.

He exclaimed with utter surprise, “I didn’t know dead people could bleed!”

As can be seen, some people will dismiss or discount information that contradicts their beliefs. Nothing, not even “God” can get them to abandon what is wrong and accept what is true.

To that end, how many people who reject the idea of current global warming as being primarily the result of human activity, would change their mind in light of the influx of more and more  confirming information?

To that end, how many people will reject the idea of creationism/religion as well as evolution in favor of intelligent design and subsequently deism?

To that end, how many people will submit their ideas about marriage, religion, politics, abortion, free-market capitalism, etcetera, to rigorous and unmerciful scrutiny as part of their relentless search for what is true?

Of course, certain matters are not subject to being right or wrong, true or untrue. They are a matter of view point. Such a thing is fine with one proviso: The examination of all sides of an issue.

In short, a human does not deserve to take sides in an issue unless she or he has closely examined all sides of an issue. Such examination should be so thorough that one can argue any side with the conviction of a believer of that side even if one is not. Then and only then, does one have a right to an opinion [an opinion, because truth is not the final arbiter in some situations]

So, I aver again, before I embrace any idea, I will spit on it slap it, punch it, knock it down and kick it, stomp it … and if it gets back up — I will embrace it, until the next time.

Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 4:49 AM  Comments (2)  
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Three Beautiful Words


When asked, “What are the three most beautiful words in the English language?” people often respond: “I love you.” Though beautiful (and powerful), those words are frequently misspoken or misapplied – ofttimes said without really giving the matter the thought it deserves. At the other end, the notion of speaking those three words, for some, creates anxiety or discomfort resulting in those words not being uttered enough or spoken to the right persons.

 There are, however, three other words that are equally as beautiful. What is most tragic is that many people will often fight not to speak these other words; they will go to arduous lengths to avoid saying them despite how obvious it is they should say them and despite the powerful effect those words have in promoting the well-being of all involved. I also submit these three words are spoken far less often than the words “I love you” though they should probably be spoken more so. Those other three words are, “I am wrong” or “I was wrong” and their sister statement, “You are right.”

 Stated with sincerity, those words are twice nice. They can avert wrath, ameliorate rage or otherwise ease a tense situation. Furthermore, they can foster respect more effectively than always being “right.” At the other end, to utter those beautiful and euphonious words sincerely reflects both humility and self-respect. With regard to self-respect, when a person loves and respects himself, there is no puerile-type shame in admitting error; acknowledging error or a mistake is seen as acknowledging one’s humanity or limitations and not as being of less value.

 Resipiscence (a $59.13 word meaning recognizing one’s own error; seeing reason once again) does not require one to truckle or grovel, but simply to intelligently accept that absolute truth and absolute right does not begin and end with who you are – an idea that is easy for most humans to declare but far more difficult to actually embrace.

 It is true, however, that admitting error or wrong can bring with it, dire or inimical consequences. It may subject one to being flayed or excoriated because some people would interpret such an admission just as a ravenous lion would view a wounded calf.

Nonetheless, for the most part, admitting being wrong has more of an upside than not.

As humans, we thrive where there is love but I think, admitting error is as potent an ingredient for our tranquility and growth as any. Saying, “I love you,” has more force if, when appropriate, one can also say, “I was wrong.”

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 1:49 AM  Leave a Comment  

Imagine


The world is replete with varying beliefs about “God” and religion. These varying beliefs have been the source of much of the pain humans have suffered over the millennia. Even to this day, those beliefs engender division, antipathy and misery. Having either read or listened to many of these varying and often contradictory beliefs, I ask you to imagine the following:

Imagine a “God” who had nothing to do with the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, The Book of Mormon or any other “holy” book.

Laws proscribing theft, rape, murder and so forth would still exist and would still be violated as they have been even with these “holy” books in circulation. Besides commenting on morality, these books purport to present doctrines such as details about such subjects as, the essence of “God”, baptism, prophets and prophecies, gender roles, et cetera – all of which provide fodder for debate, division, persecution and even pogroms.

Most importantly, however, someone once said that the author of a “holy” book is not as powerful as the person who has been deemed authorized to interpret it. God” may speak, but the mullah, the minister, the monk, the prophet, the priest, the preacher, the pope, the “whoever”, explains. (No wonder there is this phenomenon: same book, different interpretations.)

Imagine a “God” who is something other than a “He” or a “She.”

How “God” is referenced has subtle implications and ramifications with respect to how humans define their gender roles. Referencing “God” in terms of one of the sexes, and not the other, buoys a sense of entitlement to govern or dominate the gender not chosen to reference “God.”

Imagine a “God” who banned/forbade the practice of religion with all its accouterments.

There would be no churches, temples, kingdom halls, synagogues, or mosques. No need for prophets, popes, cardinals, elders, nuns, ministers, deacons, mullahs, priests, preachers.

Additionally, there would be no need for religious rituals, baptisms, holy water, robes, or collection plates.

Also, no place or time would be considered “holy.”

Thus, without religion, there would be one less thing to argue about or kill over (albeit true that humans will always find plenty of other reasons to do either one) and one less reason to feel superior (or to feel “saved” or “righteous”).

Imagine a “God” who had nothing to do with our successes or our failures.

There would be no reason to “thank God” for winning the ball game, or receiving an award, or finding a job or escaping death. After all, why would “God” help you do any of those things and yet let millions suffer hunger, disease, genocide, rape and torture? That kind of “God” would have misplaced priorities.

Imagine a “God” who did not need a Satan against which to stand in contrast.

Sufficient is the “evil” within humans without the need for a being who personifies “evil.” Is it that humans are more comfortable pointing to something outside themselves to assign blame for much of the horrors we experience? Assuming that “God” is “good,” Prison Earth is filled with enough evil humans who stand at the opposite end of that continuum.

Imagine a “God” who did not need a hell with which to punish or a heaven with which to bribe.

How righteous or honorable is the person who lives a certain way because he wants to receive an award or avoid punishment. How would worshippers live if there were no prospect or living in eternal bliss or eternal torment? If heaven is a reward for “righteous” behavior and hell for “wicked” behavior, by which standard is one judged? Is it Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism? Which branch or sect of those religions?

What happens to infants who die? What happens to those who convert from one religion to the other? Why punish/torture even the most vile human being for an eternity? How does eighty years of being “wicked” justify billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of years (i.e., forever) of excruciating torment?

Imagine a “God” whose ego did not require adulation, sacrifice or worship from humans.

“God” – the creator of a universe of unimaginable size, power, and complexity versus human beings. Why would such a Being require, demand puny humans to worship, praise and heap adulations on it? Is it not possible for humans to respect and love each other in the absence of worshipping “God”? Of course! I present atheists and deists who are law abiding and exhibit behavior characterized as loving, and decent.

Imagine a “God” who placed emphasis on love rather than doctrine.

Is “God” part of a Trinity, or is “God” a distinct separate being from the other two members of the Triune? Is hell the grave or a place of torment? Is the cow a sacred animal or a delectable source of protein? Is pork unholy or best served fried? Or are love and respect for each human more important? How much sense does it make to observe the Sabbath but lie, or steal or even kill during the other six days of the week? How much sense does it make to condemn homosexuality but pray to “God” to bless your country as it engages in activities of which not even the prophets of your religion would approve?

People declare that all religions teach love and respect for human beings, but they insist on overlaying that notion with all sorts of doctrines and ideologies that turn the simple and sublime into complicated and convoluted.

Imagine a “God” who did not need humans to kill or punish in his/her/its/their name.

Put succinctly, why does an all-powerful “God” need humans to kill each other in defense of “Him” or “Her” system of worship? “God” is in the best position to kill because “God” would know all the relevant facts and motives; humans cannot. “God” would, presumably not kill the innocent while killing the “guilty”; humans often claim that “collateral” damage is unavoidable.

I ask you to please do the following:

Imagine a “God” not made in the image of “HuMan.”

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 1:37 AM  Leave a Comment  
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50 Years


Fifty years ago, my mother stepped out onto a porch and stood next to me. Her husband stood near us both. She feared him but since he brought me with him, she was sufficiently at ease. After all, he had just pleaded so softly for her to step out on the porch to talk. I stood there completely clueless – – clueless as a door knob. Only he knew the agenda; he had come there to fulfill his self-imposed mission. Seconds later, he fired six bullets, reloaded and fired five more. My mother lay in a pool of her own blood. I panicked and fled like a coward.

Fifty years ago on 17 June 1963, I was twelve and we had lived under that man’s tyranny for ten years.

On the fiftieth anniversary of my mother’s murder, these things I believe:
a] When I die, my mother will die again — without ceremony or recognition
b] Praying to “God” or any deity is as effective as praying to a wall
c] As a male, I belong to a species half of whom believe it is their  damn-near divine right to subjugate and marginalize the other half
d] I am ashamed of the half to which I belong
e] Life is not only unfair, it is, at times, egregiously cruel
f] Cruelty is often a function of the image a man has of himself
g] When we come here, we are confined to death row — all the reason to live a life of color in a black and white world

I miss my mother so much; what he did was so wrong — still so hard to believe … so hard to understand … so unforgivable … so painful

But I recognize that death, murder, mayhem and cruelty are as common as their counterparts. My mother’s murder was just one of the billions before her and after her. No worse, no better. That’s life on Prison Earth. Her death is a big deal to me; in the scheme of things, however, it was ordinary. That fact is not lost on me.

Nonetheless, to this day: My heart still bleeds tears for her.

Published in: on June 12, 2013 at 1:52 AM  Comments (3)  
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4,654 Days


From19 September 1950 to 17 June 1963: The number of days from my birth to the death of my mother. 12 years and 9 months of childhood memories seared into my mind.

During those days, I heard and saw him choke my mother to near unconsciousness then beat her then choke her again to near unconsciousness then beat her again – repeating that pattern until he was tired. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I saw him chase my mother into the street – in broad daylight – beating her with the buckled end of a belt – stripping her red dress off, revealing her slip and bra. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I saw him come home as she was peeling potatoes. He beat her because that is what he did on Friday or Saturday nights. I would hear her scream and plead for him to stop. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I would follow her onto the street, in the middle of the night as he kicked us both out the house – she, tugging on her short slip and I in my underwear running down the street. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I would hear him rant and then tell my mother to wake me up. She would come to my door and call me. I would never answer on the first call … I would stand before him, listening or answering the questions of a drunken fool as my mother stood by, helplessly until he decided to go to bed. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

Near the end, she wished I were older so that he would not beat her anymore. She knew I was not ready … too young, too frightened.

Near the end she became brave; she left him – and her seven children – only she stayed nearby. She would meet me on my way to school and walk with me the rest of the way everyday. No more beatings and humiliations. No more broken ribs or face broken beyond recognition. No more screaming and begging for mercy.

I would no longer tremble as if I were convulsing.

On day number 4,654, he took me with him to go looking for her. (He retrieved $40 from his pocket and gave it to me. “I won’t need it where I’m going.” His intentions did not even dawn on me.)

We found her, with her mother, visiting with neighbors – a family. He and I stood on the front porch. She came to the screen door. In the softest and sweetest of voices he asked her to step out on the porch with us. She shook her head. He pleaded ever so kindly, in a whisper, like a lover who wanted to make amends. He pleaded.

Finally, she stepped out onto the porch. Folded her arms and asked, so matter-of-factly, “Now what do you want, Odis?” He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket. She held out her hands and in a terrified voice, “Don’t stick me, Odis.” There, as we stood inches apart, he produced a gun and began firing. I panicked. I fled as he continued firing. (Later, I learned, he reloaded and continued shooting – shooting her a total of at least 11 times).1

After running less than a block, I shut down. I stopped the horror from rushing in. I began walking as if nothing had just happened. I stopped my mind as I wandered aimlessly. I ended up at a store and bought an apple and corn chips. I wandered back to the house. I asked to see my mama. The police would not let me see her. I saw the pool of her blood on the living room floor (She had stumbled back into the house – pleading for her life as he continued shooting. Reloading again … then sat on the porch steps waiting for the police.)

The next 30 years, I did not cry. I would remember her death day but shed no tears. Then, 17 June 1993, I had a brutal and life-altering epiphany. For the first time, I wept like a broken child. Thirty years of pain and grief and shame crushed me.

I did not save my mother. The terror of living with him snuffed out any courage I might have had. (Even in my marriage, I was disgustingly weak. Yielding, compromising, and acquiescing just to avoid conflict – trying anything and anyway not to be even remotely like him.)

Too late, I grew a pair. And also,

Too late, I grew into a man who, if it were possible, would avenge my mother in ways that would even make the “Devil”2 glad he wasn’t my mother’s husband. (Would I rather that than to see my mama again if I had to choose between the two?)

In this life, my regrets are plenty but none compares with the regret of failing to save my mama. My heart still bleeds tears for her. My heart still beats with her love for me and mine for her. Her last 4,654 days and my first 4,654 days … too soon she departed, and too late I arrived.

Epilogue

 Yes, I am drenched with a kind of guilt for being used as unwitting bait in my mother’s death and for being worthless as her protector. I also have a sustained disdain for a man who has been dead for more than 30 years. Amazingly, (as far as many social scientist are concerned) I never resorted to anti-social behavior such as drug use, poor performance in school, committing crimes and so forth. I have been able to segregate my guilt and hatred so that they do not interfere with my functions as a productive human being in society. With regard to my marriage, I started out as a weak and always yielding person. I was conflict averse. Later, I began to respect my needs and wishes. In either case, however, I did not resort to violence; nothing could make me emulate the man my mother married. I also, without effort, was the very opposite of the kind of father he was.

In any event, I am accepting of (having reached a kind of resolve) the feelings of guilt and loathing that spring from failing to protect my mama; and I cannot forgive the man who snuffed out her light. To me, to feel guilt-free would besmirch my mother’s memory, and to forgive him would be to dishonor it.

Oh, to be able to return to day 4,653 of my life and know what I know now.


1 The newspapers inaccurately stated my mama and he were arguing. There was no arguing. He calmly and gently begged her to come out. She kept saying no – in the most gentle of ways. Nothing was said, in words or tone to telegraph any anger, hostility or murderous intentions.


2 I use the term “Devil” metaphorically to illustrate the kind of unbridled savagery I would unleash against that man if it were possible … the extent of my abiding hatred for him.

Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 11:17 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Regretting


I have many regrets – as many painful ones as mundane ones. But I do not regret regretting. It is because I regret, that I suffer no delusions about my humanness or the humanness of others. Having said that, there are at least two significant and life-altering events [i.e., regrets] from which almost all my other regrets flow.

The first of those two is that I profoundly regret being absolutely terrified of my mother’s husband — so much so that I did not kill him before he used me as unwitting bait in order to murder her. He murdered my mother when I was twelve. That failure to kill him eventually led to my joining a religion that was more divisive and more controlling than most mainstream religions. Being a “faithful servant of Jehovah” set me back at least twenty years and costs me in too many painful ways. These two regrets are my “sins” of omission and commission — not having done something and having done something.

I am clearly aware that had I saved my mother or decided not to join a “cult” that my life would have been different — perhaps better, perhaps worse but certainly different. That difference would have also led to my being a different person. I like who I am; I do not like the life I had to lead to become who I am — hence, my numerous regrets. On the opposite side, there are a few joys I have experienced because of the above-mentioned omission and commission. My children, grandchildren and friends head the short list of those joys.

It can be argued that those things I regret are what shaped me more so than the events in my life that I do not regret; I would not resist such an argument. I would also argue that regretting, as opposed to not, gives one an advantage. Choosing not to regret anything that has happened in one’s life amounts to more than a tacit acceptance of events; it amounts to equating the good with the bad — a benign or perhaps malevolent indifference. Of course, regretting can be paralyzing and one must keep matters in perspective. I believe I have managed to do so.

Descartes is cited as having said, “I think, therefore I am.” I say, I regret, therefore I am better.

Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 4:50 AM  Comments (2)  
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