Sunday, January 30, 2011

To Keep From Crying In The Midst Of It All

Sometimes we have to laugh to keep from crying because the tears won't fix this problem.

What problem?


Our country has been overtaken to an enormous degree by multinational corporations whose only loyalty is to the bottom line.  It is destroying us from within, and even more so, since it also brought our latent racism and classism to the surface with the election of President Obama.  And the boogyman is hard to pinpoint now.

Right now, the people are taking to the streets in Egypt to say "enough is enough" against their 30 years-in-power leader.  Bands of young men, understanding the boiling point of being fed up, have armed themselves with sticks to protect their respective neighborhoods, because when protest emotions get high, sometimes things happen, especially when those protests are because of years and years, generations of mistreatment.

As I thought about our people, for all people who want a decent middle class living, the right to live, are my people, I also thought about this country and what is happening, and wondered, where are the "huddled masses" who came to this country to escape the Lords and Ladies of the Manor in England, only to find a deeply classist, caste system in this country?  That caste system grew over the years to not hold down the ethnic Europeans but to put laser focused vision on keeping black people in servant roles.  This has now come to the 21st century and the same "invisible hand" that Isabel Wilkerson wrote about in The Warmth of Other Suns now trying to keep anyone of Hispanic descent in those subserviant roles, or simply, not in this country at all.

1% of the population controls 34% of the wealth in this country and the Republicans in office, masters at public relations and advertising, are demanding even more for the same corporate tycoons who destroyed this country through their endless greed.

The commission that was formed to study the crisis concluded that it was preventable, well, duh!  We knew that when it happened.  Some would say they knew that going back to 1980 when Reagan set out a systematic approach to destroy the great middle class, all those internal immigrants who made it North and worked, toiled even, in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, and Washington DC, only to see it dwindle away in their children's generations.  I think the elders Wilkerson profiled in her book, even my late father, are turning over in their graves to see where this country is going.

No, we don't have Jim Crow, officially, but we do have the same evil spirit lurking in every part of our country.  I keep saying Republicans, because they have been the banner, the carrier of this evil and only for their corporate gain, for greed, not for some precious ideal like religious freedom or the right to life, for it that was truly their aim like they snookered the sheep in the conservative religious denominations, then they would follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to help the least of these, to share, and to render unto Caesar what is Caesars (Jesus wasn't running around demanding a tax cut for the uber wealthy only to pile on the debt to the utterly destitute).

The human condition demands more from this country than just making a profit, more than just the bottom line for these new "citizens" now declared "human" by our supreme court.

I think reading and hearing more about the complicity of corporate america in this great recession and enduring evil against humanity is one of the reasons I have wanted to stay away from corporate america and seek my career in sustainable business, entrepreneurship, efforts to help people.  Yes, an M.B.A. graduate like myself could have pursued a career in brand management in Minnesota or Battle Creek, to create yet another brand extension of yet another box of cereal, but is that serving humanity when people are starving in this country, when health care is seen as a privilege of the few and not the right of the many?

The realization is that this country has always been economically divided and a place for the "haves" over the "have nots" and the desire of the "haves" to suppress at all costs the "have nots" to make sure they protect their gold, much like those refined and dressed people on the Titanic still trying to carry away their furs and diamonds and gold when the ship was sinking in the freezing Atlantic, to the point of denying a seat to the less wealthy and working class on the ship because they weren't seen as worthy of life.  It is all a sad testimony of this country.

It makes one sad when they look into the great horizon of the future and see the basic caring of individuals is non-existent, missing from the common lexicon, so caught up in the distractions of the Golden Globes and the Oscars, pacifiers, to keep people from emerging from their rooms and engaging in real dialogue...then taking to the streets to demand change.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pondering The Destruction and The Hope

I said it before and will say it again, we are on a rapid downhill spiral toward destruction.

This country saddens me.  We claim to be the moral absolute and there are rallys for everything from saving the whales to puppy mills and stopping abortion and corporate largesse, yet in all of this, there is a lack of humanity, the simple human decency of a hello.

I guess it all came to me the other day when I was finally reaquainted with the wonders of television and the Internet (my home system was briefly indisposed and now repaired) and was flooded with all the things that happened in my week absence.  I learned about Keith Olbermann's thoughtful, insightful, and intelligent commentary being silenced for the sake of corporate greed, media ratings, and new owners of MSNBC.  I read that Oscar de la Renta didn't like First Lady Michelle Obama's choice of dress for the state dinner and he just had to criticize her when all she has ever tried to do is be a real woman with a real husband and real children in an esteemed role, she has brought more humanity and openness to the role of First Lady and her style, well, she is unique, individual, elegant, and a tall black woman...not exactly the one Oscar would have designed for in the first place. 

My skipety-do-dah over to facebook was met with a post by an acquaintance alerting us to the DVD Violet Rose about a poor black woman in Texas who was being railroaded to prison because of the DEAs overzealous patrolling of the projects...and not for drugs, she was a waitress raising her children...but because the small town county where she lived needed money...and was rewarded with every "conviction" they the small town court-appointed-attorneys were trying to force her to "cop a plea" and they all would get paid...hmmm.

I just sat down and started thinking about the last twenty eight years I have been an adult (since high school graduation) and the decline in the simple appreciation of life.  My entry into adulthood was probably marred by Reagan's "war on drugs" which was actually a plot to get more arms into the hands of the Contra and fund his illegal work through flooding poor black neighborhoods with drugs and guns.  Then to appease the "religious right" that was forming at the same time, they made poverty a crime but at the same time cut programs that would help people climb out of poverty.

There has been countless greed from industry after industry being deregulated and watchdogs being silenced.  And I thought again, what is happening to the voices of reason and opposition?  Did the one year mark of the Citizens United judgement that made a corporation a person have anything to do with this evil that is permeating through the country?  Funny, an inanimate thing is a person and black men were only 3/5th of a person and black women weren't even counted.  Humph.

Just when the state of our country and the downward spiral seemed endless, I smiled at the thought of the young activists who recognized the sins of the elders and are trying to make differences.  They may not have the power or the finances, but they have the voice, the technology, and the connections to make socially responsible enterprise a reality, they understand that the corporate back scam on homeownership and desimation of the middle class has brought down a destructive power on this country and has to be ended.  So, little by little, they are planting gardens, recycling, teaching, mentoring, discovering slow money and microloans, vowing to show local, send letters at rapid speed to their politicans, and speak out.  There is some hope.

I turned around in my desk chair and looked at my two daughters and somehow felt that it would be okay, they are insightful and hopeful for their future.  There is still humanity and whenever the forces of evil try to destroy the good of the people, the people do rise up, ban together, and recognize their collective humanity.  That is my hope.  There is possiblity and future in the that hope.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lost In The City

This was a magnificient and lyrical streetcar through the streets and lives that made up black D.C. from the early days to the Carter administration.  I delighted in this collection of stories, of lives, seen in glimpses, as if I was riding a streetcar in the evening, catching snatches of their lives through lamp-lit windows.

These stories, told through the voices of young and old women, felt in the hopes of young and old men, were a delicious morsel in this start to 2011.  Edward P. Jones is masterful with the language and like an artist, paints a picture that is forever etched in memory.

The writer's pen was a visual map of words that led me to feel as if I was transported "right down the middle of the street" with my heart intersecting with the wanting and needing of something right "up there." 

It was hard for me to choose just one story.  I like the little girl who raised pigeons with just her father as her guide through growing up and I saw years ahead of the older women who just wanted to have a chance of love, whose hearts still fluttered at the possibility of connection.

I've only visited D.C. twice, both times in a pre 9/11 world when one could just walk up on the capital steps or stroll freely through the monuments that are nowhere near Northeast, Northwest, or Southeast or any of the outer neighborhoods stretching into Maryland.  Mr. Jones, however, brought these streets and neighborhoods to life for me.  I could see myself in The Store as one who would have come to get my weekly wares, watching the young man given a daily, weekly chance to be somebody, eventually owning and passing on. 

It was the story of neighborhoods, the things that make up those stories we tell around the holiday table, that we pass on, that add the thread to the tapestry of our connected lives.  It reminded me a little of my time in Chicago, riding the "L" train from Loop out to Oak Park and wondering about the lives of the people in the homes, flats, and high rises we passed.

Mr. Jones added an important work to the black lexicon.  This is truly a literary masterpiece and one that I will share with my son. 

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