The White Solution

There has been a lot of talk about the white supremacist movement as of late. Of course this is due to the “protests” in Virginia. And this has seemed to ignite those folks across our country of similar beliefs. I am not one who likes to pigeonhole a group of people who don’t agree with my set of beliefs, but perhaps I need to think of a way to help them in their plight. The white supremacists want whites to be large and in charge. I don’t think many of them want people who have darker skin than them to even be in this country.

Unfortunately for this group, that fight is a futile one. The last time we went to real loggerheads about this would have been the Civil War. Yes, it was about slavery, but the subtext (perhaps there wasn’t anything “subby” about it) was the dominance of white people over people of color, and the belief that the white folks are simply genetically superior. Well my friends, you can’t un-ring that bell. That was a losing effort and I’m pretty sure 99.999999% of our country does NOT want that to happen again.

I might have an idea for this woeful group of white people. Their own state!!!

Yes, we have large portions of our country that are vast and open. Let’s take a huge swath of land and let them have it as their own. Hey, this is not really unprecedented. We already gifted the Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, etc. nations their plots of land. Let’s continue the love! We’ll have to name the state something. For this little piece I shall name it Ignorance.

Yes, the State of Ignorance.

However, there must be a set of caveats in place to be a resident of this state.

First and foremost, to be permitted to take up residency in the State of Ignorance, thorough DNA testing has to happen. If said applicant has ANYTHING resembling non-white in their body, no admittance. Imagine Eugene’s surprise when he realizes that his great-great-great granddaddy had relations with one of the house slaves back in the day, and he was a distant by-product of that child! Yer out, Eugene!

Secondly, nothing of any other culture than white culture will be permitted. Jazz, of course, is right out. Also, rock and roll since it has its roots in jazz. Classical music is fine, except for Mendelssohn et al. And food, let’s not forget food. Oh my. No Italian food shall be allowed within the borders of Ignorance. Along with anything southern fried that has its roots in the black traditions going back to the days of slavery. No Japanese, no Chinese, no Mexican, no Phở. You get the point.

Thirdly, you’ll end up having professional sports teams. You can’t be bringing in anyone of color for your teams. When your NBA team heads out to play the Cavs, Warriors, Celtics, etc., you’ll be sending a lily-white group of players into that action. And football, and baseball. You should be good with pro hockey, though remember that there are a scant handful of black hockey players in the NHL, yet with so few numbers, one of them is a complete all-star. (PK Subban.) Oh, and you can’t have any home games. White only in the State of Ignorance.

Fourth caveat: no imports of anything made by anyone of color. The Chinese connection is gone. You’re genetically superior to every other people group so I’m sure you can make a shirt better than some Chinese kid earning fourteen cents a day. Check your cars as well. Years ago I visited a Shimano plant in California. This is a Japanese-owned company. I was told that Saturn bought parts from them to put in their cars. Saturn…the car company that prided itself in being 100% American. Any cars with part from countries where the people are of a darker skin tone? Nope.

Fifth caveat: You can’t leave the United States. Though the majority of the country vehemently disagrees with your way of thinking, we still are compelled to protect you. If not, at some point Germany might say, “Dude, we already got it wrong in the ’30’s and ’40’s. We can’t let you do this, so we’re attacking you.”

There are probably a few other rules and regulations that would be applicable, but this might be a good start.

Of course if you ever want to leave this state and drop its ideology, the rest of us will take you in with open arms. Well, most of us. You see, we accept you and really want you to join us in a united and diverse society.

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A Cup of Coffee Given

I love coffee. No, seriously…I really love coffee. I am not what people would call a coffee snob that only drinks the very special artisan brews that require bank loans to afford a cup. I love most coffees. From Fuego, here in Rochester, to Intelligentsia in Pasadena. From Starbucks to McDonalds. From Denny’s to a Keurig offering. It doesn’t matter. Just to be able to sip that beautiful, dark, hot elixir of life. AAAAHHHHH!!!! It’s also the smell. The smell of beans being ground, of a pour over, of an automatic drip performing its task that will bring us this fabulous goodness. And the sounds. Coffee leaving the urn and sloshing into a cup is a sound that was ordained to bring joy from the beginning of time. One caveat: Instant coffee, I believe, was invented by pagans. That being said…

In February of 1992 I made the unpleasant discovery that my wife was involved in a long-term affair that had been going on for quite some time. It rocked me to the core. That first night alone in a bed was indescribable. There was that sort of weeping happening that rarely comes upon people. You know the kind, body shaking, face crumpled up, ugly crying as it were. It is indeed a strange thing to have, in one moment, the trajectory of your life drastically yanking a sharp turn. Hopes, dreams, stuff like that. I had no idea what was going on or what I was going to do. I just needed to get out of that house as soon as possible. My friend Larry heard about my plight. He told me that his place was available for however long I needed until I figured out the next step. I packed up some things and headed into Pasadena.

Larry. A complex character. Incredibly talented sound engineer who has always treated his craft as an art form. Still does. I’d been able to work with him from time to time and he would create beauty out of every single project. At this time in 1992 he was the sound engineer for a network game show. You would think it was a waste of his talent working on something so mundane. No matter, Larry approached each program as if it was the New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s ninth. The real complexity came with Larry’s personality. One moment you think he’s mad at the entirety of the earth, the next moment he has the heart of a child. He himself had had his struggles with relationships. Sometimes you could see sadness in his eyes. But then the next moment, delight. At any rate, he offered a friend some help and I accepted.

I don’t remember sleeping very much that first night at Larry’s house. Too much was churning through my skull. I was trying to make a plan. I was trying not to be sad. I was being sad. More ugly crying. Then the morning light began to ease itself into the window. At that time I was working as a location scout and was in the middle of a job in which I had to find a very artistic jogging path for a Reebok commercial. As I got ready early that morning I had absolutely no desire to head out onto the road in search of something that had no merit on anything that mattered to me. Especially at that moment in my existence. But even a grieving person needed to make a living.

It was raining hard that morning. Rare in Southern California. I had always found comfort in the rain coming from an area of the world in which rain was a regular part of life. I walked out onto Larry’s porch and stood there. The sights, sounds, and smell of the rain was soothing. It didn’t take what was roiling around in my head or my present turmoil away. Or the sadness, a kind I’d never known. Or the feeling of being completely lost. But the rain relaxed me just a bit.

I heard the door open. I turned and saw Larry approaching. He said nothing. In his right hand was a cup of coffee. He held it out to me. I took it. I don’t even remember thanking him. He turned around and walked back into the house. Let me say this; in my life people have done wonderful things for me, given me nice things, told me flattering things. That moment in time in which Larry saw his friend hurting and did the only thing he thought he could do will stay with me until I breathe my last. He could have tried to say he felt badly for me. He could have tried to give me advice. He could have simply just attempted to start a conversation. Nope. He somehow knew that anything he could possibly say would have been inadequate. And he knew I loved coffee. So that’s what he did. He gave me some coffee. (It was delicious by the way.)

I read the Bible as many of you who know me know. In Mark 9:41 Jesus said, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” Let me tell you, Larry probably didn’t extend a tasty beverage to his friend because his friend “…bear(s) the name of Christ…” and it wasn’t water. But to me, it was this gift that seemed to be given from God Almighty. It was in that moment, in that place and time that Larry became the hand of God to me.

Larry knows this story, not because he possibly remembers the moment. But because I’ve reminded him so many times about how much that meant to me. I hope I have been that person to someone. I hope I will be that in the future.

Larry, thank you again.

 

(One side item of note. I didn’t write this to remind people that my wife hurt me. That water is so far from the bridge I practically don’t even remember that period of time, and everyone has moved on and is living life. This is not about her or about me really. It is about what one person did that was an act of God to me.)

Ya’ll should be glad…

…that I am not Jesus!

I woke up early on this Easter Sunday and decided to read chapters 19 through 21 of the Gospel of John. You know, a proper Good Friday through Easter Sunday reading. I read those things that happened that morning of resurrection and I thought to myself, “If I were Jesus, I think I would have don’t things a little differently.”

If I woke up as Jesus that morning, the first item on my agenda would be a visit to Pilate. I would have mosied right into his bedroom, right beside his bed, and gently given him a wake-up slap on the forehead. When his bleary eyes finally focused on me, I would yell, “Hey! Remember me, you moron? Yeah, that’s right! You found me INNOCENT, but you decided to listen to those idiot religious leaders who stirred up an unknowing mob of sheep! You had me flogged…FLOGGED! Do you know what that feels like??? (Meanwhile, Pilate’s wife wakes up and is a bit startled.) I would point to her and continue my diatribe. “You should have listened to your wife! In fact, let this be your mantra until you are dead: ‘I will listen to my wife. I will listen to my wife. I will listen to my wife.’ I cannot BELIEVE your lunacy!!!”

I would continue my lecture for some time. But then I’d be sauntering right on over to Herod’s palace and give him a what-for. I’d visit each house of each Roman soldier that participated in my torture and death. Maybe I’d head over to Rome and pound on the door of Caesar’s castle.

I’d save my last visit for that lying sack of compost named Caiaphas. Oh man, would I lay into him. “You’re not worthy to be wearing those priestly clothes!” And I’d be stripping all of them off of him until he was naked. “That’s called being naked! That’s what you did to me along with other things!!! How’d you like that rip down the middle of your sacred curtain in the temple? Yeah, I did that!”

But that isn’t the story. Here’s the first sentence recorded by Jesus in John’s account after his resurrection: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Yes, that’s right. His first act was to comfort a grieving person. Then he says, “Mary.” Sheesh! If that was me in Mary’s place and Jesus said, “Dude, why are you weeping like a jr. high girl?” and “Perry,” I don’t even have words to describe my thoughts or feelings!

It doesn’t end there. Jesus keeps on moving through the ranks of followers over the next few days. “Peace” and “believe” and “feed my sheep” and other things like that. (I don’t think he used the word ‘moron’ one time.) Comfort, encouragement, commissioning to do good. Yeah, his decision was probably a better move than what I would do.

Maybe I think in my heart that vengeance is the better way to go. Maybe I believe strongly that people getting their “comeuppance” should be life’s greater policy, that Karma is king. Turns out, Jesus’ retaliation was love and forgiveness and commissioning. Man, that’s hard for me! Well, I’ll keep making the effort. I don’t really have that much faith in myself, but I have faith in Jesus. At least that is a decent starting place.

Happy Easter!

Love and Such

I’ve never read Sam Keen’s book To Love and Be Loved before, but something close to that phrase was rattling around in my skull this morning. I don’t know why. I awakened far too early, made a pot of java, gathered all my morning accoutrement (I needed to use that word this morning), and sat at the dining room table of my parents-in-law. I opened my journal, popped the top off of my lucky fountain pen, and started writing almost without thinking. This is what vomited out onto the pages:

Good Friday. And it is indeed a good Friday. I am loved and I love. Is there really more that we need? Oh, I am quite aware about things such as food and shelter and know that we cannot physically survive without said items. But to have a sense of love around is quite a gift. And a gift that I will often, most of the time in fact, take for granted as if it will never be gone. And perhaps it won’t for me.

But what if it suddenly disappeared?

If that happened, I believe the wave of grief and sadness I would feel might be close to unbearable. Maybe completely unbearable. Would a good comparison be between the sun and the earth? What if the sun suddenly disappeared? This planet, this beautifully ordered place, would immediately be, not in a state of chaos, but chaos defined. In my faith the creation story happened when a love-filled being took the boiling chaos of nothing and created order. (We kind of screwed the pooch when we decided a little chaos is good for the soul, but that’s another story.)

Chaos is not me at this point in my life. Oh sure, I might do things from time to time that are small (perhaps medium to large) chaos producers…but I am loved and I love. In this incredible state of existence my chaos is ordered. Yes, I am loved and I love. Is there anything more that I need?

National Women’s Day

I rolled out of bed this morning and was informed by the news that today is National Women’s Day. I pondered this off and on. Jen (my spouse) hopped out of bed about an hour later and began to get ready for work. Then I heard that some were encouraging women to not go to work or shop on this day. I heard this while saying goodbye to Jen as she left for her workplace.

At this point I felt very thankful that she was headed to a place that valued her immensely. Not always the case. Jen worked for an organization that will remain nameless at this time. She was in management for years. Then another management position opened in that organization because the person who was doing that job was failing miserably. That person was a man. Jen interviewed and was happily chosen for this position. She was more qualified than her predecessor, had more experience, more education, etc…then was offered about $15,000 less a year than he made.

Fast forward a couple of years. Jen needed to hire someone to fill a position that had been vacated. She sought after someone she knew would be good. The interview happened and he was offered the job. Human Resources told Jen the salary range, which was decent, and she was able to present a good offer. He then declined. She searched and found someone out of the blue who had become available. Equally qualified. The person, a woman, interviewed and was offered the job.

Human Resources then told Jen the salary range: $10,000 a year less than the man’s offer.

OK, this is an anecdotal piece of evidence. But I urge you to go ahead and look at the national statistics of pay for women vs. men for the same jobs.

It’s is the 21st century. Isn’t it time we pulled our heads out of wherever they might be and address this? All of us? Yes, all of us. That’s all I have for today.

Black Lives Matter?

A number of years ago a friend of mine had a buddy who happened to be African American. That man was also a professional trumpet player. He was driving through Pasadena, California, obeying every traffic law, but was pulled over. Two officers approached him and made him get out of the car and stand with them behind his car. One officer looked into the car and saw the trumpet case. He asked the man what it was and the man told him. The officers looked at each other, discussing the fact that they thought he was lying to them. They said they needed him to prove it wasn’t stolen and that he could play. They got the trumpet out and handed it to him. But first, so he wouldn’t try to run away, they made him pull down his pants to his ankles. There he was, pants bunched around his feet, playing a trumpet while cars passed and while the two police officers laughed at him.

Another friend of mine runs a program that mentors kids in poorer areas of Pasadena and Los Angeles. He helps them graduate high school and gets them into colleges. He had one student who has to regularly drive through San Marino to get to art school. He’s African American. Every time he gets pulled over, most likely because the police officer says, “you match the description of someone we’re looking for,” he puts a notch on his dashboard. The last I heard the count was up over thirty-five.

My friend, James, who happens to be African American and I were talking. I asked him how many times he’d been pulled over for no reason. He lost count.

My friend Byron, who happens to be African American, received a phone call on his cell phone. Obeying the law, he pulled to the side, put the car in park, and answered the phone. A police officer yanked his cruiser in behind Byron, leaped out and yelled at him, asking him why he pulled the car over when he saw a police car.

These are four situations. I’ve been pulled over a few times in my life and every single time except for one I deserved to be pulled over. I’ve never been stopped and told that I matched the description of someone they were looking for.

Now, please hear me out on this one, especially if you are a police officer. I believe in the work of the police. I believe that across this amazing country we have thousands of police officers who, while placing their lives at risk every single day, are trying their best to do the job they were called to do in a manner that is worthy of the badge they wear. Seriously. There are simply a handful who, for whatever reason, carry something inside them that lessens the value of a person of color. At this point I am not even talking about the shootings that have taken place.

That being said, I have some advice for white people. Please give some grace to the Black Lives Matter movement. Sure, they may not be doing everything right as you see it. Sure, things are often said that may cause you anger or concern. But we have a beautiful set of people in our society who genuinely feel hurt. Anger is a responsive byproduct emotion that has its roots in feeling hurt. So many of our brothers and sisters who have darker skin have felt constant fear when around our police officers, in spite of there being no need for concern the majority of the time. When the shootings continued I think these folks simply had had enough.

One more thing. When us white folks hear “Black Lives Matter” and immediately shoot back with “ALL LIVES MATTER,” I’m quite sure this does nothing to help the situation. I’m also quite sure that the black folks understand and agree with the fact that all lives matter. Why don’t we just let them express their frustration and maybe see what we can do to help things.

As with any advice, feel free to take it or leave it. If you disagree with me, that’s OK. But maybe just think a little more. Maybe offer a little grace. I come from a Christian ilk and I believe it is a Christian thing to try and understand a group of people who feel marginalized from time to time…or a lot of the time.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but haven’t said anything. Then, after posting my opinion on Facebook about Colin Kaepernick, I thought it was time. I still feel Colin Kaepernick’s action of sitting during the national anthem was unwise in that my opinion is that he hurt the cause more than helped it. But maybe I need to extend grace to him. I don’t walk in his shoes. I’ve not experienced his life. My skin has subtly and not so subtly allowed me to walk in a different path. There, I said it.

Thanks for reading this, even if you radically disagree with parts or all of it.

Memorial Day

I woke up this morning, Monday morning, Memorial Day morning. Memorial Day. That’s the day we remember and pay tribute to those who have given their lives for others and their country by serving in the armed forces. As many mornings go, it was quiet and peaceful. I was able to think, meditate, pray, read scripture, etc. I found myself thinking about this day, specifically that concept of “giving their lives…” for others.

I have never served in the military. I signed up for the draft at the ripe old age of eighteen, though was never called. I went to college. I studied concepts. The only reason I ever picked up a weapon/firearm was for recreational purposes. The only fights I’ve participated in were the typical scraps that young boys had, and those were few enough to count on one hand. And I never feared for my life in those moments. There it is. I never feared for my life.

My great grandfather was in the Army. My grandfather was in the Army. My dad was in the Army. My brothers Steve and Avery were in the Army. That’s a very short list that could continue with many other relatives and friends known to me. I recently had a conversation with Avery who served in Korea, came home for a spell, then was shipped off to Afghanistan during our country’s attempts at fighting the Taliban. He was fortunate enough to have never had to fire his rifle at another human being. He was unfortunate enough to feel the fear of warfare. Of going out on a patrol, not knowing if his vehicle would hit an improvised explosive device, not knowing if someone would get off a shot that would take him down. The fear of warfare.

My grandfather felt the fear as he and his unit crossed over the Rhine River from France into Germany in 1945. He saw things that shook him to the core of his being. I remember the first time I realized what that experience did to him. I was young, maybe ten or eleven, and it was the fourth of July. We were all headed out to see the fireworks. Except for Grandpa. He stayed home. I was told that the sounds reminded him too much of the war. That was thirty-plus years earlier and the sounds still took him right back. (I recently saw some fireworks and I thought of him again.)

It’s the fear that keeps nagging at me. I’ve heard the stories. Read the accounts. I remember talking to a WWII vet who fought against the NAZI war machine during the Battle of the Bulge. He’d faced hand to hand combat four different times. He remembered like it had just happened killing a German soldier with his bayonet, seeing his eyes roll back in his head just before his heart stopped. He remembered the piece of shrapnel that entered his leg forcing him to hide in the snow by a tree for three days until the allied army advanced back into his area to rescue him. He cried several times while sharing this with me. I saw his eyes. I saw the fear.

Yes, it’s the immense terror that gets me. To give one’s life for another is one thing. To do it in this way is unimaginable. Willingly marching into a situation that cannot truly be explained, only felt, knowing that each second could be your last. Then that fateful second being your last.

You. That’s what you did, you great soldier. You brave knight of the battlefield. You most likely weren’t fearless. You most likely were terrified. You had horrific sounds erupting all around you. You saw things that I never want to see. You might have suffered intensely before breathing your last. It may have happened quickly for you. But you did it. You gave up your life for others. How am I supposed to repay that??? I didn’t do anything to earn that! You didn’t even know me!

I’m going to a barbecue today. I will make small talk with people that I am meeting for the first time. I won’t talk about you or what you did. But it will be with me. I’ll wear what you did like my own skin because I get to freely breathe air, eat potato salad, enjoy a burger because someone like you did something I’m not sure I could ever do. That’s your gift to me, to us…to all of us. I wish you could see the celebrations. I wish you could be with your family one more time. Thank you for your gift.

For those of you who felt that fear and made it back to us: Thank you, too. We are supposed to celebrate you on Veteran’s Day, but I’m going to think about you today as well.