Paradoxical Readings – June 28, 2015

This week I cried tears of grief and joy, as the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples, and as the funerals proceeded for the nine fallen in South Carolina. While the Confederate flag is being lowered, and the rainbow flag raised, I am acutely aware that there is much more work to do to.

Changing the Flags

President Obama summed it up beautifully in his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney:

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

It’s a terrible thing that nine beautiful lives had to be lost in order for the history lesson of the Confederate flag to sink in for many Americans. Finally, many are starting to understand that the flag, as Ken Burns said “is not about heritage, it’s about resistance to civil rights.” So perhaps some good can come of this. The momentum for the removal of the flags continues.

Why it still hasn’t happened in South Carolina (by the time I am writing this), I don’t understand. It is incomprehensible that something so offensive, so hurtful to so many continues to exist on state property. So, clad in tree climbing gear, Bree Newsome took matters into her own hands. Admirers and supporters abound, myself included. Just take the bleeping thing down!

Bree Newsome, our new super hero. Ava Duvernay tweeted that she wants to direct the film about her.*

Gillian and I took in the week’s events, observing the memorials for the fallen nine, and celebrating the Supreme Court marriage equality victory on Friday night with a bottle of bubbly and a beautiful meal (pan seared scallops with arugula, tomatoes, corn, avocado, and a gorgeous herbacious dressing – yes, my spouse is a genius in the kitchen, and that’s how we roll). We’ve been waiting a long time for this, trying to be married for the last eleven years, succeeding once and for all in 2013. Yesterday’s victory is just a sweet conclusion to our personal struggle, and our witness to the national struggle for marriage equality.

The week’s best Twitter hash tags were, hands down, #UrbanOutfittersbelike, mocking Urban Outfitters for ridiculous prices, and #AskTheNearestHippie, making fun of Antonin Scalia’s screed of a dissent of the marriage equality ruling. There was also this tweet from UHaul, who finally seems to get the classic lesbian joke. I can’t believe they haven’t cashed in on it before now.

Tears and laughter are both healing in their own ways. This week was certainly an opportunity to find the paradox of finding hope within sadness, and a realization of work left to do in the same moment we celebrate a significant success.

The wind is at our backs. Let’s not get complacent.

* Ava Duvernay Reportedly Directing Marvel’s Black Panther

Martin Luther King, Jr. On Complacency #MLK

On this anniversary of the March On Washington for civil rights, I have been looking for some choice quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. One pattern that I have found is his clarity in speaking out on complacency and inaction. Those who do nothing while witnessing injustice and wrong-doing do worse than those who commit acts of injustice. The privileged have a responsibility to do what they know is right.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.

We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul.

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

Protesting Proposition 8 – It’s All About Love

Today, protests will be happening around the country. LGBT folks everywhere are speaking out for marriage eqality. When I stop to think about it, I get chills thinking that Gillian and I were there and witnessed the spark that set all of this off.  Though we’re no longer residents of California, I’m so glad that we can march in solidarity here in Chicago today, and perhaps even bring the movement for marriage equality here with a stronger presence.

For more information about rallies happening around the country, please visit this site.

I will be among many other livebloggers from around the country, and you can follow our tweets here. Also, you can find some video covereage of the action in San Francisco here.

Peace everyone! Let’s remember that this is all about love!

Small World, Hard Lessons

Gillian started a really cool new job this year, and her office is in down town Oakland. She told me over the last couple of months about this really cool guy that she has run into in the elevator. They struck up conversations a couple of times. She told me he was the editor of a local paper for the black community in Oakland, that it was a new job for him that he was really excited about. She told me that he was really nice, and she was hoping to get to know him a little.

That man was Chauncey Bailey.

Gillian and I were in Chicago when he was killed, waiting for a plane to fly home to Oakland. We were supposed to be on a flight the night before, but we were bumped. Gillian was supposed to be on her way to work that day, and it just happened that we were instead at Midway in Chicago. She very easily could have been a witness to the brutal assassination.

His death hits home for many reasons. One, it happened blocks from my home. Two, while people are killed every day it seems on the streets of Oakland and other cities, this more high-profile murder touches the lives of many people raising the visibility of the problem of violence in our communities.

Yes, there are big problems like poverty and education and drugs that lead to violence that need to be addressed to curb the problem. A long-term approach is what is needed to turn the ship around. Meanwhile, however, people are taking matters into their own hands in demanding that their neighbors and family members take some responsibility to make changes now.

I am saddened by the death of Chauncey Bailey. I wish that Gillian and I could have gotten to know this man. I wish that he could have lived to continue his good works in this community that so desperately needs men like him. Now we can only hope to learn from his legacy as a journalist and activist and the tragedy of his senseless death. The hardest lesson, perhaps, is that we are responsible for helping to make the change that we want to see in the world.

July Fourth Musings

On this national holiday, I find myself wondering why there aren’t more people in the streets protesting what is going on within our current administration, fighting to preserve our civil rights. I’m not just talking about a minority that is being treated unfairly. I am talking about the erosion of the Constitutional rights of all citizens. We should all be f****ing pissed! If you’re not sure why, take a look at this video:

The latest antics should make all of us alarmed and angry. I could go on about the various scandals and horrific actions of Bush Cheney & Co., but there is no need. We all know the litany of offenses and crimes they have committed. But this crap has been going on for so long now. During the entire time Bush has been in office I have often thought to myself “Well, this must be it. They’ver really done it this time. There is no way things will get any worse. They are really going to be taken to task, called on the carpet, have to answer for their bad behavior this time!”

But it hasn’t happened! Why aren’t people hitting the streets the way they did back in the 1960s? Or even at the beginning of this immoral war? Do we need every protest to be an organized event that features entertainment and T-shirts? These types of events are important cultural moments, but I really wonder what it is going to take for people to get really angry, angry enough to really effect change.

Meanwhile, Bush’s approval rating is in the toilet, at an all-time low, according to that ever-reliable source Fox News. And still, Bush has the gall to pardon Libby (and yes, I do mean pardon — let’s call it what it is. Libby is getting off easy, and Bush & Co. are a bunch of hypocrites). What will it take to stop them?

They never will until more of us start paying attention and getting angry! I think that many of us feel so depressed, disaffected, and powerless that we think nothing that we do will matter. So, what am I doing? Will marching down my quiet neighborhood street with a picket sign really make a difference? Maybe not immediately. Maybe my neighbors will think I’m a little nutty, but I know may of them are aligned with me politically, and those who are not or who maybe don’t care will stop and think about the erosion of their Constitutional rights.

Well, I’m not marching down the street exactly. I, too, feel depressed and disaffected and powerless. I’m not sure what to do, and in some ways I feel that my very survival is a subversive act. I do what I can, I speak up, and I pay attention, and I am outraged.

Today I’m quietly being patriotic in my blogging, relaxing with my wife as we grill our steaks, as she makes her fabulous Ceasar Salad and as I make strawberry rhubarb pie. Perhaps I’ll post the recipes later.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody! Exercise and fight for your civil rights while you still can!