It Matters

These days racism seems to have emerged more overtly  in the public consciousness both in the instance and in the outrage. It is heartbreaking but complicated.

Racism never left us in this country, it just was disguised in the name of correctness for a time. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. But in a peculiar and sad way the return of overt racism and it’s concomitant behaviors is a good thing. This comes under the category of the devil you know is easier to fight than the devil you don’t. Not that racist behavior is ever a good thing.

And while outrage is good and appropriate, social media outrage unaccompanied by action, doesn’t do anyone much good other than to shine a light. For some of us knowing what to do other than sympathize and voice our outrage is perplexing and difficult.

I just finished reading the autobiography of Albert Woodfox, a story of one of the most egregious miscarriages of our “justice” system that I know of; and I was a public defender for a good long time. Albert Woodfox was wrongly and improperly convicted, slandered and tortured and was kept in solitary confinement conditions for forty years. His memoir is full of the injustices done to him and many others, but it is also filled with grace and courage and compassion for others. Albert Woodfox is one of my personal heroes and this book should be required reading for everyone. Louisana, it’s congress people, judges, attorneys and most especially the former governor, Bobby Jindal, should forever hang their heads in shame.

Woodfox talks not only about the system and the injustices it did him,  but he talks about racism in rational and meaningful terms. He talks about the vilification of the Black Panther Party that was founded to do good, not violence. Woodfox preached constant non-violence to all those he was incarcerated with. His strong compassionate voice serves to set right many of the notions that were born in the sixties when striking workers held up signs that said “I am a Man” and continue today when movements like Black Lives Matter are vilified as themselves racist. One might ask why anyone in this country and this age should have to identify that they are human and worthy.

And if you think that inequities of race don’t continue to exist in our criminal justice system, look at the demographic statistics. Even more, read this book and see what the state invested in continuing to incarcerate an elderly innocent black man. And understand that it was not until 2016 after eighteen years of court dates, disappointments and many lawyers and supporters efforts, that he walked out of prison. And he did not walk out acknowledged as an innocent man. He pled nolo contendre prior to a third trial that would clearly again be unfair. And even as he chose freedom, he agonized that he had sacrificed his integrity by doing so.

Albert Woodfox is a man of unparalleled ntegrity, courage and grace. I wish to live with a fraction of that. And so, when you don’t know what to do when faced with racism, speak up even if it seems dangerous; take out your phone and record it; be counted; take action.

You have a voice, use it.

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Luck, and Action

Gratitude, essential and elusive.  Something I have tried very hard to instill in my son; that regardless of what we don’t have we are so much luckier than many.  I think he gets it.

There is something guilt provoking in being grateful that others’ misfortunes are not yours.  But isn’t the essence of gratitude the idea that “it” isn’t or hasn’t happened to you? Yet.

The state of the world often brings tears these days, yes crying again. The Hondurans who have lived here as productive citizens virtually all their lives, now to be sent “back” to their non-home. The violence and deaths in Gaza and Israel.  The dreamers who have never known anywhere but here. The national parks being dismantled and made less accessible.  The children who go hungry in this wealthy land. The teachers who have to strike for a living wage, knowing they are hurting the children they love. Nazis marching in our streets, openly racist and anti-Semitic; behavior that while existing, was frowned on and mostly repressed for decades.  The black men gunned down for no other reason and the women who mourn for them. And on, and on, and on.

[tweetshare tweet=”I remember the intense idealism of the sixties and seventies, I lived it. And I have always held dear the notion that love and good, coupled with action, would win the day. I dedicated my first career to that notion, and to a love of the constitution and the rights of the underdog.” username=”@trienahm”]

I remember the intense idealism of the sixties and seventies, I lived it. And I have always held dear the notion that love and good, coupled with action, would win the day.  I dedicated my first career to that notion, and to a love of the constitution and the rights of the underdog.

I fear that love is no longer enough.  But as a personal matter, I have to remain positive; about the world, about my life.  And the shortest line to positivity is gratitude.  So I practice a prayer of gratitude every day on the way to work. Radio off, spoken out loud, thanking the universe for what a good life I have and acknowledging how intensely lucky I am in so many ways.  And the antidote to negativity and especially self pity is always gratitude.  And then there’s always action, fuel for gratitude.

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Things I Want My Son To Know #3 ~ Have Faith

Have faith. Whether or not you have religion, which I will talk about in a minute, have faith. A spiritual life and a religious life are not the same thing. Believing with your heart that there is something greater than yourself, whatever you call it, means you are not alone when you don’t have people around. It means you don’t have to control everything in the world. In fact, I have come to realize, I have control over just one thing, my behavior. I can’t control my thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes, imaginations. But I can control how I act. I want my son to know that faith has an action component. Having faith means getting up and going to work or school for another day when you think you can’t, unpacking one more box on moving day when you are about to drop, reaching for an f sharp when you have barely ever sung an f, putting one foot in front of the other when there seems no point. The action component to faith is never giving up but allowing faith to carry you when you have nothing left and believing that you will be okay no matter what. It means living in the moment. You can make sensible, logical plans but in the end you have only the now and you can’t control the random part of what life will bring you. You create what you can and then faith has to kick in. I do believe that religion is important, it gives a community, a history, a ritual and a sense of belonging. But whatever you choose about religion, find some faith, find a way to be spiritually centered in your life. Suit up one more day because you are alive, do the job one more day because you can, reach for the f sharp, always.

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