It was a day of great jubilee.
“When freedom come, I didn’t know what that was.”
Abraham Lincoln officially outlawed slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t until June 19th, 1865, that the slaves in Galveston, Texas, were made aware of the news by a visit from the Union Army and Major General Gordon Granger. Apparently news travels slowly in Texas. And Texans, as we well know, like to do what they want. Wouldn’t want a little thing like equality, or better yet, public health, get in the way of their treasured individual rights.
In Texas, where people are allowed to bear arms in public streets without licenses, as long as they are not “brandishing” them. Seems guns are no problem for your average Texan. Wearing a mask in public to ensure the containment of a global pandemic, however, now that’s crossing a line. With ICU beds in urban hospitals almost at capacity, there remains the blackly comic reality that despite much of the rest of the country being #inthistogether, Texans remain defiantly on their own, with nothing but their own ego to accompany their fall from grace. This virus indicates, among other things, the pre-existing condition of hubris, a distinct lack of humility, a misogynistic tendency to want to dominate, rather than relate to, the process that is unfolding.
The same year Maj. Gen. Granger rode into Texas and proclaimed the slaves free, over in Tennessee a bunch of bruised Confederate veterans founded the Ku Klux Klan. This is our history in America, just over 150 years old. Two long lifetimes. Five or six generations. People still remember the chains in their cells, in their blood, as well as the sweetness of emancipation.
In Los Angeles an 8-year-old black boy worries that his life expectancy is short. His mother says a prayer every time he leaves the house. The last black man in San Francisco laments the world he is giving to his children from a windy overlook in Bernal Heights. A crucial aspect of parenting black children in 2020, especially black young men, is how to engage with law enforcement on the street.
You have to have this conversation.
It’s not optional.
Race is a concept. It was created to impress people. To create fear of difference. But sometimes fear is gonna lead you to the wrong place.
“Rayshard Brooks wasn’t just running from the police, he was running from a system that makes slaves out of people. This is much bigger than the police. This is about a whole system that cries out for renewal and reform.” (Pastor Warnock, NY Times)
I just wept.
It’s burning down the house.
The dam has broke.
I love you as you love me and the green alligator on the Governor’s polo shirt is NY Tough like the rest of us it seems. A whole system crying out. Gun violence on the rise in the streets. We are looking for a new Batman, just as his father passes through the mist. 60 cop cars going down the street, a mile from the station. Helicopters everywhere and Wendy’s is burning.
As race riots rise up across the country and coronavirus spreads unchecked in Red America, Trump decides to hold a rally for thousands with no social distancing requirements. Originally scheduled for June 19th in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with no acknowledgement of the date’s significance, or the Black Wall Street Massacres, which occurred in Tulsa in 1921, and were subsequently cemented by the selective memory of history. At the time, the Greenwood district of Tulsa was the wealthiest black community in the United States. Then mobs of white residents attacked black homes and businesses and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district, killing hundred and leaving thousands homeless.
Trump decides to reschedule his rally for the following day, and who would have thought, a bunch of Korean Pop fans decided to attend “in absentia,” bloating attendance predictions and leaving our beloved POTUS without the crowds he and his team had anticipated.
Click Clack Bada Bing Bada Boom.
Maybe it sounds crazy that I feel bad for the President. But I suppose that’s the ultimate catch of narcissism. The emotions, wherever they may come from, are real. There is a person underneath that excess of bravado who really did want all those 19,000 seats to be filled with a parking lot full of fans outside applauding, and he didn’t get it. He didn’t get what he wanted.
Perhaps it was some strange act of sabotage preventing the hoards of fans from piling in to show their support. He’d certainly like to think so. But these things happen to the best of us. Who hasn’t thrown a party that wasn’t as highly attended as they hoped? In those moments we need to be okay being with those that did choose to come; or even alone, if need be. In any case, we must accept the disappointment, and let go of the expectations that created it.
If you don’t want to be disappointed, don’t have expectations. That’s one option. The other option is forbearance; which is to say, patient self-control, restraint, and tolerance. In other words: keep your chin up, stay humble, and show appreciation.
However, especially in relation to our beloved POTUS, there is a clear cycle being enacted. While our inner empathetic mothers want to comfort and support any inner child that is crying, even if it is inside Donald J. Trump, we know that as soon as he gets up tomorrow morning he’s going to be looking for someone to blame, and another policy measure of constriction to prove it. Everyone is always doing something against him. Foreign people are taking all the jobs. That evil virus is coming over here from China. Tests are providing false results, which is to say, an increase in cases of Covid19. Meanwhile, people are dying.
Real people are dying. Lots of them.
So let me pose a real rhetorical question: What will it take to humble Donald J. Trump?
In my opinion (and this is not a fact), it will not come from talk therapy. It needs to be something like violent bouts of diarrhea or vomiting; the kind of fever that makes you think you are going to die; chills that prevent you from moving. We don’t want to kill our antihero, for that would defeat the purpose. There is a very fundamental lesson that he needs to learn, and that is humility. His egocentric vanity is poisoning the fabric of American society, even as he was created by it, that selfsame amplification of the gangrenous parts of our shared history.
(Do we follow that analogy? Does that mean we need to amputate?)
Many would say that he is a lost cause. But the Bodhisattvas out there know what I’m talking about. We’re not all getting out of this mess, without all of us.
Still. The facts and figures are startling, not the least of which were the 9 minutes he spends explaining a moment of minor embarrassment he had last week. Seems he never keyed into the idea that sometimes the best way to deal with a mistake is to focus on other, more important aspects at hand (global pandemic, racial unrest, record unemployment), rather than call attention to the mistake itself by trying to fix it.
No, I do not pity Trump. But I also do not hate him. He is the one who has to sleep in his bed at night, and there is a lot of blood soaked into those sheets. Just imagine how that would feel, sleeping in a bed with sheets that were soaked in the blood of all the beings that you have harmed in your life. They reserve a special place in hell for people like that, because a jail sentence isn’t long enough to learn his lessons. He needs lifetimes upon lifetimes. Then maybe it will be a cockroach in his cell, who finally teaches him how to make friends. How to care for another being. How to see that the well-being of that other being in fact makes his life better.
That cockroach is going to have its work cut out for it, finding its way into the heartmind of Donald J. Trump. The former Commander-in-Chief will piss about and swear and complain about being in hell for (at least) a few eons. He’ll probably even try to tell Satan that he was President of the United States of America and he deserves better treatment. Satan will laugh, and singe Trump’s toupee. Because in hell no one has to be pretend to be nice anymore, not even if you’re Donald J. Trump, and perhaps especially not in his case. But after a bunch of eons go by and Trump loses his tan and his hair and probably a lot of weight because of the sauna-like conditions of hell, maybe some of the negativity will start to drain out of him, as well. Maybe that cockroach will become his first real therapist, the first one that really mattered, just because he keeps showing up there on the wall of his cell, saying nothing (and by default listening). And with nothing to do but twiddle his thumbs or talk, Trump will talk. And because there is no media outlet in hell, the only things Trump will be able to talk about are the things inside his head and heart. And of course it will all be blame, at first. Melania, how she didn’t save him. How his children didn’t either. How his father got him into all of it to begin with. How his mother wasn’t perfect. But maybe, just maybe, at the end of all these endless sessions, Trump will finally come to a point where he hits the center of the walnut, and without even realizing how he got there, find himself inside his heart.
It will be such a shock that he will cry. And cry and cry and cry and cry. Trump will cry so much that his tears will put out the fires of his personal hell, and maybe he will even just melt there, like the Wicked Witch of the West, a sacrificial consequence of intolerance.
I suppose we shall see.
We shall see until we can no longer.
But let us bow our heads and say a prayer for that cockroach in hell. God bless you for breaking open the heart of our brother Donald.
“Residents of Resurrection City and my fellow citizens.
I stand here today with many mixed emotions. For it was five years ago that my late husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in this very spot and told the nation about his dream…Your presence here today indicates to me your great love, devotion, and dedication to those ideals which my husband set forth in his dream and which you will continue to follow through until they are fulfilled. I want to thank all of you from all over this nation who have come here in support of this solidarity day. Today on this most important day for all Americans, my heart and prayers are with you.
The finest memorial…would be the tangible action our country takes now.
It is fitting and proper that we come again to the Lincoln Memorial, this symbolic and important spot where we have come several times before to present our case to the President, to the Congress of the United States, and to the American people. We are here because we feel a frightful sense of urgency to rectify the longstanding evils and injustices in our society: Racism, Poverty, and War.
The sickness of Racism, the despair of Poverty, and the hopelessness of War, have served to deepen the hatred, heighten the bitterness, and increase frustration and further alienate the poor in our society. The rumblings of discontent from the disinherited, downtrodden and dispossessed of our society have finally become united around the issue of Poverty…ill-fed, deprived of adequate jobs and education opportunities, and barred from full political participation in the life of this nation. They have come to Washington seeking to better their conditions and in so doing they are dramatizing to this nation and to the world the desperateness of their plight. In a nation so rich in natural resources and material wealth, the richest nation in the world, a nation founded on the principles of justice and equality for all…denied access to the wealth that surrounds them.
I’m speaking of the American Indians, the Mexican Americans, the Puerto Ricans, Black Americans, and the White poor, who all live below the poverty line. Too long have we heard pious platitudes and made faulty promises to our less fortunate brothers. Our destiny is tied up with their destiny, and we are being forced to place the issues where they belong — squarely on the conscious of the American people. All of the problems we face in trying to build a community and a nation of brotherhood which we need desperately can be attributed to what I call the triple evils of our time: Racism, Poverty, and War. All three of these evils can be reduced to Violence. We can therefore say that Violence is the disease which threatens to destroy the basic fabric from which our society is woven; the undergirding fabric of love, understanding, justice, and peace.
Racism in American society can be traced to the period of slavery in this country, when it was felt that black persons were completely inferior to white persons. Perhaps racism can be traced to that dark period in our history when slavery became institutionalized for 244 years…and segregation was practiced for another 100 years…so you can see that the roots of racism are very deep in the psyche of the American white man.
All forms of economic, political, social, education, and religious exclusion of the black man from the mainstream of society can be attributed to racism. Therefore racism means being deprived of human dignity, self-respect, and equal opportunities in education, of jobs, decent housing, political and social endeavors. Extreme hatred and bitterness against the black man has been shown by the white man due to his racist tendencies. Often this hatred has manifested itself in the violence of lynchings and murders by which many negroes and civil rights workers have been victimized. To say nothing of the crippling effects of segregation and discrimination which have been experienced. Racism is related to poverty. And it is as easy to display racist attitudes toward a minority group, whether they be black, red, brown, or yellow.
When we talk about poor people we are dealing with the class structure of society. Therefore the poor whites are similarly affected. The difference between the poor whites and the poor blacks, red, yellow, or brown, is that it is possible for the white poor to lose their identity as they become more affluent, because they do not carry the stigma of color as society would refer to it. Poverty can produce the most deadly kind of violence. In this society violence against poor people and minority groups is routine. I remind you that starving a child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her child is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical needs is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence. Even the lack of will power to help humanity is a sick and sinister form of violence.
The violence of war is understood by everyone. There is hardly a family which has not been victimized by the affects of war, in that a husband, a father, a brother or a son, has been wounded or killed in the line of duty. What a nonsensical and cruel way to try and solve conflicts.
We have come to realize the broad dimensions of violence in our society. The problems of racism, poverty, and war can call be summarized with one word, violence, which seems to be fashionable in our society. If we do not stop this madness we will certainly destroy ourselves and the whole world. There is need for a creative approach to the crucial problems which we face in our nation and in the world. I believe firmly that the women of our country have been called to this hour to furnish the kind of forthright, honest, dedicated, and creative leadership, necessary to bring about positive solutions to the difficult problems we face.
The approach must be the non-violent approach, for the means must be in keeping with the ends. Because these problems of our society which I have discussed affect the women of this nation so deeply, I believe they will see the necessity of joining a campaign of conscience, in which all ethnic groups, all religious persuasions, all economic circumstances, and all social backgrounds will until to produce a solid block of woman power. And seeking solutions to the three evils of racism, poverty, and war, it is clear that there is need for a renewal of the great spiritual and moral insights embedded in our cultural heritage. We must dedicate and re-dedicate ourselves to making a society based upon the principles of love, truth, non-violence, justice, and peace. This does mean a kind of re-thinking and re-ordering of values and priorities.
Women, if the soul of this nation is to be saved, I believe you must become its soul. You must speak out against the evils of our times as you see them. Those of us women who have been blessed with the privilege bearing children have the sacred task of rearing them with a knowledge and understanding of our democratic heritage, and the eternal values of love, justice, mercy, and peace. As women and mothers, we have a common concern for the happiness of our children and their families. To unite our efforts throughout the world we must compel those governments which ignore human dignity, which deny freedom fo the individual, which block social progress and national independence, to put an end to every sort of persecution. Somehow we must rid ourselves of racism and teach our children the meaning of true brotherhood. Our children must be taught to be concerned about and to develop a deep sense of appreciation for those who are less fortunate than ourselves, the least of these. They must know that all of society is interrelated. What affects one directly affects all indirectly…
One hour of war could buy your community a new school, hospital, or cultural center. All of this is to say that a guaranteed income, a job for those who need a job, could be had, if the war was stopped and the will created by our government to act on behalf of its deprived citizens.
If we are to survive this dreadful period of social change, we must adhere tenaciously to the philosophy of nonviolence. We the women must lead the way in adopting non-violence as a way of life. We must teach our children the nonviolent way so as to stop the chain of violence that is spiraling in our society. The first step is to recognize the power of love. It is the answer to all of the problems which mankind faces. Love is the key to understanding. Love is the only force that can destroy hate.
If we act now, we still have a chance.
Our choice is between non-violence coexistence, and violent co-annihilation.
The road to justice, peace and brotherhood is difficult. We must renew our strength, increase our faith, and gird our courage. In the words of the black poet, the late Langston Hughes, a black mother counsels her son to keep faith in the future.
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinda hard.
Don’t you stop now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”
(Coretta Scott King, “Solidarity Day at Resurrection City” — June 19, 1968)