Posted in Musings

Indiferencia Se Mata – The Quiet in the Land

My good friend, Verle, may he rest in peace, had a saying that he learned from his Latino friends that he would share often as we would strive to work outside in the West Virginia wilderness within the great buzzing clouds of gnats.

“Indiferencia se mata.”

“Indifference kills them.”

In other words, if you ignore the gnats, they won’t bother you.

Now there is no question in my mind that Verle’s mental capacity far outstripped my own so maybe it worked for him. Though he still would wear a bug net over his head when he was working outside. But in all honesty I really do think he reached a point where even in the midst of a buzzing cloud, the gnats had ceased to exist, at least for him.

I am wondering if perhaps the above adage might be worth applying to the seemingly endless negative rhetoric streaming from a certain White (Supremacist) House. (Or to any such useless drivel). In this age of the 24/7 news cycle and our ability to respond in an instant through social media to anything deemed disagreeable, it is far too easy to give attention to that which probably should be ignored.

Hear these words from Helen Keller:

“It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.”

So the question becomes, what or where or to whom are we expending our limited energy and resources?

Sometimes I wonder if our initial response is simply to alleviate our guilt at not being able to take the necessary steps towards lasting change within or without.

There, I wasn’t silent. I said something. I’ve done my part. Now on to the next tweet. Hey you, asshole, learn to drive!

Hmm, I wonder. Each day is an opportunity to become a better person, and to the best of our limited ability, to make the world around us a better place.

Am I becoming a better person? Am I treating the people around me with kindness and respect? Am I becoming less of a jerk? Am I gentler with my myself and others? Am I helping to make this world a better place?

If, at the end of the day, I can answer yes to these questions, then for that day at least I can say that I am on the right track.

I wonder what would happen to me and the world around me if I would spend more time in prayer and praise than I do in reacting to yet another ignorant comment or bit of negative rhetoric.

Christ have mercy.

Posted in Musings

Holy Week – Church Burning

I too mourn the burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

I too sing Ave Maria with the thousands gathered in tears around the sight.

But where is the mourning for the black churches burning throughout the South – eight sacred places gutted since 2014?

Where are the thousands of witnesses gathered around these fires crying, singing Lift Every Voice and Sing?

A cathedral burns.

It is live streamed to millions around the world.

It will be on the news for days.

A black church burns.

The world turns
its ash streaked face away.

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Rhett O’Rick

you think it’s a paltry thing
these words you so quickly sing
without thought as to in whose mind they might land
like Rhett you quite frankly don’t give a damn

then suddenly the world is Scarlett red
the violent acting on what you said
now i find your response laughable my friend
in your pretend world love is Gone With The Wind

(Image by Alexander Parsonage)

Posted in Musings

This Maelstrom of Myopic Malignity

In these waning days of summer, when the clouds hang low in crooked shades of blue, heavy with promise, it seems the Dixie storms of my boyhood home have joined the dark migration from the South to here.

Unlike my brown sister, I was not forced to leave by men in white robes, whose cries of hate in the dead of night remind me of the grinding thunder outside my window, the flashes of guns and fire crisscrossing that landscape long ago like the lightning inside the billowing sky.

I make it inside before the clouds open up, but my mouth is thick with the bitter taste of sulphur, my eyes blinded by the strikes, my ears ringing with the booming of ugly words, my heart filled with fear.

I have yet to find someone who can walk between the raindrops, who can step out into this tempest and not get wet. I must succumb to the baptism, confess my capitulation, and admit that I too have contributed to the din of divisiveness, to the howling hurricane of hate.

I cannot control the weather. Yet I can control my response to the storm.

I can wall myself off from the tempest or I can offer shelter to another who seeks refuge from the deluge.

I can let the thunder drown out my voice or I can let my silent prayers reseed the clouds.

I can cower in fear from the strike or step boldly outside, turn my face to the sky, and scream my resistance into the pelting rain.

I can listen with joyful ears as the ugly water disappears with a roar into the gutter, running blindly underground, until it dissipates with a whimper in the bright brine of the cleansing sea.

Posted in Musings

Der Untermensch

The term is almost 100 years old, first used by the Klansman Lothrop Stoddard in 1922 and then subsequently adopted by the Nazis.

It means subhuman, or literally “under man.”

It was used to describe those whom the Nazis deemed lesser beings, whose sole value in life was to be terminated or worked as slaves.

In an earlier post (It’s in the Blood), I mentioned the remarkable words of one Menno Simons who described this devaluation of others and how our doing so has a direct correlation with our willingness to kill said others.

Menno penned those words in 1539, long before Stoddard or the Nazis laid the foundation in language for the systemic slaughter of those whose blood to them was of “well-nigh equal valueā€¯ to swine’s blood.

Such devaluation has been happening since Cain and Abel. In every case, the end result is death, whether physical or otherwise.

In this day and age of 24/7 social media and talking heads, we would be wise to watch our words. And even more so, to be vigilant in avoiding the realm of thinking of another as less than a precious child of God, who loves each and every one of us with an equal and uninhibited love.

In the eyes of God, no one, let me repeat, no one is “untermensch.”

Nor is a specific group of people “animals,” the term so recently used by a certain person in a position of power. Such a description is merely the wicked lie of the “untermensch” raising its ugly head.

And let’s be clear. It is a lie. It is also very wicked.

As is the old adage;

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Perhaps not physically, but they lay the foundation for such. Anyone who has lived upon this earth for any length of time knows the incredible hurt that can be caused by someone’s words. Or how words can become the catalyst for genocide.

We know the power of words. We can speak death words or life words. We can curse. Or we can bless.

One way of speaking is life-giving. It gives value to the other, whoever they may be. It lays the groundwork for mutual honor and respect.

The other way, the putting down of the other with the language of the “untermensch,” is just as evil in 2018 as it was in Genesis, in 1539, or in 1939.

Whether it leads to physical death or not, such speech is the Zyklon B for our collective soul.

Posted in Musings

Even Further Beyond Vietnam – Towards A True Revolution of Values

On April 4, 1967, a year to the day before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech. We would be wise, in light of the current state of our nation and the world, to hear yet again these prophetic words. King’s words are still eerily relevant today, the 50th anniversary of his death.

“Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.”

King ties peaceful change on a global scale to our American lifestyle, which is made possible by our nation’s inexhaustable hunger for the world’s resources. In other words, if there is to be world peace, then we must reliquish our hold on our “privileges and pleasures” which inevitably lead to war and conflict as we strive to protect them. King goes on to say:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

These words are a reminder to me in this era of the “internet of things” that I too can place a higher value on things rather than people. Such a reflection begs the question:

How can I on a daily basis begin to shift my focus from things to people?

Then and only then will I be able to fully join the peaceful revolution that Dr. King so eloquently still calls us to today.

Originally posted April 4, 2017

Posted in Musings

Wagon Tongue by Elmer Kelton

I like Westerns.

I like audiobooks.

I like Western audiobooks.

For Black History Month, I’ve been listening to Wagon Tongue by Elmer Kelton. The main character is Isaac Jefford, a former slave who is his former master’s right hand man, but he still has to navigate the blatant discrimination of the era.

“The life of a Texas cowboy is tough–especially if he is a black man like Isaac Jefford. Though he is the best at what he does, Isaac is careful not to step “over the line”–until his boss hires a vicious Southerner filled with a burning hatred. Now the time for crossing the line has come.

Take a listen to discover the significance of the book title as well as how Isaac survives and even triumphs in the end.

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

False Flag

another suburban school shooting makes the front page
while here in the inner city it’s another day
that can (literally) take your breath away
either way you’ll say

and do what you always do
claim it’s a false flag
that it’s not true
whatever is different than your beliefs is conviently labeled fake news
while here in the margins over on page two

another black kid is dead
caught in the crossfire of turfwar lead
last time i checked blood is the same color
no matter where you lay your head
you think otherwise you’ve been misled

(ps i think there’s an answer in a book i read)

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Monday Monday Song 58 – Black Man Down

So suddenly this is a news?
My friend you’re confused.
Murder in this nation
is state sanctioned.
I hear the sound.
I see another
black man down.

Would you pull the trigger if the runner had my skin?
Here stick your fingers in the holes where the bullets went in.
Dead is dead.
Blood is red.
There on the ground,
running fast from another
black man down.

The problem you see is AWB,
not even safe in his own country.
“Alive while black.”
Get shot in the back.
Anyone around
to give witness to why
a black man’s down?

I’ve got news for you, my friend.
The truth will out in the end.
You been trying throughout history
like you nailed that colored man to that tree.
But justice is gonna rise up from the ground
because you can’t keep
a black man down.

Originally posted April 2015