facing another way, part 3 of 5

thinkinga personal reflection in anticipation of the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2017

When I look back to 2016 for epiphanies or revelations of change for others and for myself, among many things, I think about…

Election Day, November 8, and the culmination of a tumultuous, rancorous presidential campaign and the ongoing ramifications, reverberations for America and, I daresay, the world…

I grow more fretful (fearful?) about the incoming administration, which, given Donald Trump’s continuing and consistent airing of his stump-speech rhetoric and his choices for Cabinet and governmental posts, appears to be more politically and socially conservative, indeed, regressive than I find fitting or faithful to our American identity as expressed in our national motto, E pluribus unum.

The rise of nationalism, nativism in the politics of many countries in Europe and America[1] as governments sought to grapple with numerous concerns; prominent among them, the explosion of violent ideological extremism and terrorism, immigration and the migrant crisis of millions of dislocated peoples, and cyber-insecurity and its immediate effects on domestic and economic security…

I wonder whether America, both concerning our presidential administration and we as a people, particularly in regard and response to extremism and terrorism, can and will sharpen the line between justice and vengeance, between increased safety and the loss of our personal liberties, between self-defense and, if vengeance is our course, self-destruction of our national soul’s health.

The continued minority community-law enforcement tensions, heightened by police-involved killings of black men and what seem to be retaliatory shootings of police officers…

I worry that the trust-mistrust of the police, which distinctly divides along racial lines, may be, if not conclusive evidence, then a dreadfully proverbial canary-in-the-coal-mine-warning of America’s yet to be resolved societal and systemic inequality in the respect for human life.

The Bethelehemic experience of birth, bearing the joy of new and innocent life and a renewal of hope for the growth of love, peace, and justice in this world…

I have shared, often through the “miracle” of Facebook, in the wonder of the births of babies of friends around the nation and world. Still, I worry about the world into which these new lives have come; a world where, as I perceive it, hatred often overrides love, war outweighs peace, and inequity outbalances justice.

Illness

I witnessed and walked with others through their bouts with sundry sicknesses from moderate to severe and their rounds of various treatments. Late in the year, I, and later still, my daughter underwent surgeries to correct longstanding conditions. The infirmities of friends and family, and my own brought me face to face afresh with my unhappiness, sometimes, I confess, my bitterness about life’s often sudden and always uncontrollable turns of chance and circumstance and gratitude for the restoration to health whene’er and for whom it came and a commitment to live as well as I can for as long as I can.

Death

I joined with countless others with saddened sentiments of the deaths in 2016 of many notable persons and personalities; the accumulation of their departures seeming to pick of speed in the last months of the year. Most near and dear, Timothy MacBeth Veney, my brother from another mother, died in July. That Tim was Pontheolla’s and my forever “frienily” (a friend who is family) and married to Loretta, also our forever “frienily”, stirred and still stirs sorrow. Yet, given Tim’s especially virtuous love, verily, righteous lust for life, I have come to a higher appreciation for the content of human character of others and my own, a broader attention to crafting and caring for my legacy to the next generation, and a deeper acceptance and less fearful respect for the enduring reality of human mortality.

Continuing to look back, again I ask, what do you see? How have you been changed?

More to come…looking forward

 

Footnote:

[1] Sometimes I think of this development as a Western expression or perhaps reaction to what has been termed, rather misleadingly, I think, as the “Arab Spring” of late 2010 forward; a time when multiple Middle Eastern countries witnessed the advent of citizen demonstrations protesting the way things were and compelling change. What makes Arab Spring a confusing or, at the least, an ambiguous descriptor is that the political transformations largely have been away from an Arab nationalism toward a Muslim identity.

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election crumbs

I am a 62-year old African American male born and raised in the United States of America. That is my 17-word self-descriptor (or as a friend more succinctly opines, “we black men of a certain age”) that serves as euphemism for my blunter half-as-long self-characterization: I see everything through the lens of race.

To elaborate. In 1952, I was born. In Missouri, via the eponymous Compromise, admitted to the Union in 1820 as a slave state. In St. Louis, home of the Old Courthouse where Dred and Harriet Scott initiated their 1846 lawsuit to obtain their emancipation and, in 1861, the site of the last known slave sale in the city. In 1970 (as I wrote in a previous blog post, looking race in the eye, August 14), “I graduated from high school and from college in 1974, thus coming of age after the Civil Rights Era…and during the Black Power movement.” Somewhere along my life’s course, I came to believe that a nation that formed itself as a union on the economic, political, and social foundation of institutional slavery forever would bear in its body the DNA-strain and in its soul the stain of racism. And – though, yes, I know the meaning of self-fulfilling prophecy and I am aware of the spiritual matter of being preconditioned to see what it is I believe – little in my experience dissuades me from my perception.

The mid-term national, regional, and local elections are over. Republican Congressional and gubernatorial candidates fared well. The Democrats, not so much, save in places like the District of Columbia, where I live, which is an historic Democratic Party stronghold. Muriel Bowser is DC’s mayor-elect, the second woman to hold the post since the inauguration of District home rule.

Throughout the mayoral campaign, the issue, the reality of race was downplayed, as, I think, is de rigueur in circles of enlightened, progressive thinkers. Nevertheless, Ms. Bowser, as all of her predecessors, is African American and her opponents, David Catania and Carol Schwartz are white. Moreover, even a cursory look at DC’s electoral map reveals that Ms. Bowser swept into office by carrying the eastern half of the District, not coincidentally, the locale of predominantly black precincts. The preponderance of votes for her closer competitor, Mr. Catania, came from neighborhoods west of the north-south running 16th Street corridor, for generations a white-black demarcation line. Further, Mr. Catania garnered substantial support in parts of the city considered notably affluent, for example, Capitol Hill and Georgetown, which raises for me the specter of racism’s twin, classism.

Harkening back to another previous blog post (standing somewhere, September 22), I think of Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman who beseeches his aid in healing her daughter. He declines, citing his mission to his own people, saying, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” With the persistence of maternal love, she, challenging the brusque dismissal, replies, “Yes, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Matt O’Brien, in his Wonkblog post, 1% of voters say economy is “excellent.” Perhaps they are rich?, appearing in this morning’s Washington Post (Section A, page 9), observes that Democrats were pummeled on election day largely because voters are disenchanted with the economy, and this despite a current several month period of stable growth. This widespread discontent can be traced to the quarter century stagnation in take home pay for middle class workers and, I aver, the continuing growing wealth-disparity between whites and blacks. O’Brien writes, “amid all this doom and gloom, the exit polls tell us that 1 percent of Americans actually believe the economy is ‘excellent’.” These are the rich who “command a bigger share of the income pie than…at any time since 1928.”

In response to the Canaanite woman’s bold challenge, Jesus said, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed. Not to stretch this biblical story beyond reasonable shape and sense, it is not difficult for me to make a metaphorical connection between the 1 percent of our American households and the master’s table. And with the elections over – though, yes, attention before and now is turned to the presidential campaigns and Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – I pray those in office, in regard to our persistent problems of addressing in helpful, hopeful ways the twin scourges of race and class, will have the spiritual grace of generosity and the gumption of political will to discern how more than crumbs might fall so to be shared with all.