Saturday, March 22, 2008
Everyone was really happy at this positive turn of events.
However, there was a little problem.
Though the steroids were not the kind usually associated with body building and "roid rage" they did in fact have an effect upon this friend of mine.
He had been a gentled middle age guy. He was even tempered, and considerate, and kind.
His wife, his children, and he lived in a nice home, and everything seemed wonderful.
But something began to happen.
I noticed it at first last Fall. An odd comment or two.
It just wasn't him - not the person I knew.
I tried to ignore it, but I knew something had changed.
He had somehow become more aggressive.
When I say this I mean to say, dangerous sounding. He had made this really odd comment.
We were at the store together and we were over in the section where all the axes and sledge hammers were, and he picks up this tool that's half sledge hammer, and half Ax and puts it in his cart.
I asked him what he was going to use that for, and he said if he ever needed to remove some tree roots he had the perfect tool. I asked if he had a spot in his garage for it, maybe on the wall between his sledge hammer, and his ax, and he said, "No. I'm going to keep it in the house".
I asked, why in the house, and that's when he said something most scary, "No. I want to keep it where it's needed". And he let out this evil little laugh - but not a laugh which consoled me at all, but a frightening little laugh, like a - I'll get even kind of laugh.
I was most disturbed by this, but let it slide, because well, everyone makes a really bad joke, or at the worst everyone has has a really bad day - still it was disturbing.
Another thing I noticed was that he was collecting things - to be prepared.
To be prepared?
To be prepared for some kind of event - some disastrous future event.
I figured it was a guy thing, but it did sound a bit obsessive, a bit more macho than he had been in the past. Most guys probably would collect tools, and survival related gear if they could afford it money-wise, and space-wise, but he had become much more concerned about it.
I shrugged it off. I figured he must be hanging out with an old buddy of his again who is in the military.
The next time I saw him - there was a definite change.
What had been a beautiful night was spoiled by some back and forth comments between my friend and his spouse. I had NEVER heard even one impolite quip between these two before, but there it was hidden within their most civil exchanges.
Still such things happen in marriages, but from that point on I knew something very definitely had changed.
Then not long ago I was shocked and saddened to hear of their break up.
And it centered around an incident.
I won't go into the incident, but it didn't involve violence, so much as it did rage.
I told this friend that I was concerned that he might not be aware of the subtle but very real side effects that steroids have on personality.
I pleaded with him to get some help, but he completely denied that steroids had anything to do with the rapid disintegration of his life since taking them.
He called steroids a miracle drug - a miracle drug that had changed his life.
Now he lives in an apartment complex, all alone, in contact with his wife only to plan their upcoming divorce.
In one year of steroid use this rather remarkable gentle intelligent middle aged man's life was turned completely upside down - destroyed really - and he's in total denial about it.
That's quite a miracle really, but not the kind one hopes for.
I'm hoping and praying that all those taking steroids take the time needed to learn of the subtle, but real side effects such drugs can have upon personality - while the gentler steroids which doctors prescribe for inflammation may not be associated to "Roid Rage" they do in fact have significant psychological side effects. Side effects which can ruin relationships built over the course of a lifetime.
Please continue your search here
Friday, March 21, 2008
by Jerome Prophet
We're granted one moment
One fleeting chance to see
But instead choose to chase a false and distorted reality
Out hot molten blood sets fire to our hearts
Rushing with hate and pounding its fate
Setting our course toward damnation and rape.
We see ourselves at the pinnacle now
Yet running and scampering away with the crowd
We're thinking and scheming, believing and dreaming
Telling ourselves it all matters somehow
Betrayers of self and selves yet unborn
We red blooded beast we're weary and worn
We'll destroy all we have in the name of our gods
It's all for the taking the stealing and raping
One precious moment built upon greed
We gather and gather more than we need
And then we return to darkness and mud
Believing ourselves immortals and good.
-Egyptian Book of The Dead-
Most of Dave's posts consisted of portions of local, state, and national news stories often quoted from the Illinois State Journal-Register with which he mixed short, but entertaining personal comments. Dave's experience as a former news producer, reporter, and radio talk show host was evident in his style of writing - often time inviting reader comments.
Dave often shared snippets of his personal life revealing that he was married, had a young son, and two daughters. He also revealed that he lived on Springfield's prosperous West Side, which he advocated calling New Springfield, but never revealed where he was employed.
He occasionally wrote of a former spouse, with whom he appeared to have a negative relationship - stating that she was one of the factors behind his decision to remain an anonymous blogger.
Dave wrote often of his concerns for the U.S., and was highly critical of the Bush Administration, and the Iraq War. Although admitting that he voted in the recent Republican Primary he recently endorsed Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
Dave's final post hints that he may resume blogging at some point spurring several of his regular readers to post comments pleading for him to resume posting.
Dave's final post gives no hint as to why he chose to stop posting, but a recent post reveals that Dave has been suffering with the chronic, and for some debilitating, disease Eosinophilic Esophagitis.
He had also revealed his sense of betrayal by a lifelong friend JeromeProphet another Springfield, Illinois blogger. A link to JeromeProphet, which had appeared on Dave's blog since June of 2005 was removed only days before Dave's announcement.
UPDATE: Dave has left a comment in which he states that his health was not the reason behind his decision to cease blogging. Other corrections appear within his comment, and this post has been updated to reflect those corrections. No bad intention were behind the errors. And I only speculated that health might be the reason. And of course I wouldn't be so foolish as to believe that anything I could ever write would trigger a decision on Dave's part to cease blogging.
The reason I didn't indicate how many daughters Dave has is because I wasn't sure if he ever indicated just how many he had from his post, and was too tired at the time to search his blog to confirm. Also, while I knew he had written about having a daughter I felt that it was better to err on the side of safety, and not give away any facts that had not already been published.
Thanks to Dave I have added the letter "s" to the end of the word "Quits" which I misspelled. I have been criticized for having pointed out similar mistakes on Dave's blog, and I only did so to help Dave, but it appears my good intentions have been interpreted along with every other aspect of my blogging as some sinister attempt to bring Dave down.
The word debilitating was used to describe the disease, which it often is for those who suffer from it, not to describe Dave's personal condition, and the original wording of the sentence was structured in a way which could have been misinterpreted, I have modified the sentence to prevent that - except in the case of those most determined to find malice where none has ever existed.
As for those who have spewed their uninformed bias, and hatred, even referring to me as the Devil, I could respond in kind, but I can only suggest that you find other activities in your life to fill the void that so obviously exist so as to motivate you to comment in such a way.
I have no need to apologize for any of my posts, the long list of false accusations directed at me which were included in Dave's recent post about his health problems constituted one of the most obviously "passive aggressive" examples of blogging I have ever seen in text.
To drop that bomb, and then close up shop, instead of staying around long enough to cite sources for his allegations in fact makes a matching bookend for the post that Brian Pierce ended up retracting.
I call you to task Mr. Dave. Cite your sources, or be revealed for what you have done.
Show me a post in which I accused you - specifically - of being a racist.
As to your problem about me writing about the West Side - learn to live with it. Not all bloggers live in the same economic class, and not all see things as you do. What you have done is to take comments I make about class in the U.S., and locally, and have decided it's all about you.
I write about race, and it's about you. I write about class and it's about you. I write about gas guzzlers and it's about you. It's all about you. Get this, it's not all about you. My post are about what I want them to be, and they're rarely with you in mind.
And that is my last word on this. There were years where you and your first wife and three sons lived in town where I never heard from you or saw you, and we did just fine. We never see each other now, but the expression familiarity breeds contempt can sometimes prove true. Maybe if we never knew about each other's blog we'd still be alright with each other? And maybe that's the lesson here. Because no matter how good the group, be it the Beatles, or the Who, eventually egos tend to flare, and it all comes to an end. I hope that's not the case, but I'm requesting for the sake of what remains of our "friendship" that you cease from reading my blog.
Love and peace to Dave, his wife, one ex-wife, two daughters, four sons, and any pets too.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Reason 452 why my life hasn't been entirely fabulous (despite what a grossly uninformed and judgmental "friend" thinks): I have Eosinophilic Esophagitis. I've suffered with it for a long time and am now, finally, getting some good treatment for it.
I wish this on no one, it can be hell.
Of course, this thing will not prevent me from laughing at the self-proclaimed Po' Man over gas prices while simultaneously being a bad parent, bad blogger, bad voter, owner of an evil truck, occasional typo scofflaw, someone completely undeserving of my income or the home in which I live, racist white-flighter, etc, etc. Cuz, you know, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
Note: Sorry about that last paragraph but I'm using my blog (arrogantly and because I'm filthy rich) to call someone whose been acting like a complete asshole lately an, well, asshole. I'm sure he can take as well as he dishes. Apologies sincerely welcome.
Update: Yes applying for sympathy before going on the counter-attack is a cheap ploy but this blog, like the Bush administration, is not bound by the Geneva Convention.
THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW IS IN RESPONSE TO THE POST ABOVE
Jerome: What do you have to say for yourself Mr. Prophet?
Prophet: About what?
Jerome: You know damned well what, about the post above by TEH!
Prophet: Well, I'm happy, very happy for Dave.
Jerome: You're happy? You're happy that Dave has an incurable disease?
Prophet: No, that he said he's found a treatment.
Jerome: Well that's pretty odd isn't it?
Jerome: Why pretend? I mean it's obvious you are not really a friend at all.
Prophet: That's a pretty rude thing to say, where do you come off saying that?
Jerome: Did you actually read his post?
Prophet: Well, let me take another look. Let's see he's obtaining a new treatment for a chronic disease, and.., and.., and.., WTF?
Jerome: Exactly you, you, "friend"!
Prophet: That is one of the oddest things I have ever seen in my life.
Jerome: How so?
Prophet: Well, he starts off talking about a disease he has, but uses the post to slam me?
Jerome: It is after all his Blog, and he has the right to do anything he wants you bastard!
Prophet: Still it's odd, isn't it?
Jerome: I'll be the one asking questions here!
Jerome: So why is he saying you said all those horrible things about him?
Prophet: Well, you notice he provides no citation?
Jerome: So what?
Prophet: It's a joke! He's joking. He's always had a funny sense of humor.
Jerome: Right. I'd say he's just liberated himself from a fake friend!
Prophet: One would have thought he'd have sent me an email, or called me.
Jerome: This is a public forum here. Blogging is very much the way to end it!
Prophet: Well, I guess. It's not how I'd have done it.
Jerome: That's the difference between being a fake friend and a real friend.
Prophet: What's that?
Jerome: I told you, I'd be the one asking questions here.
Prophet: Then ask me a damned question!
Jerome: Testy now aren't we? You feeling pretty bad are you?
Prophet: Well yes I am. I really liked Dave, and for many years too.
Jerome: Then why did you post all those horrible things about Dave?
Prophet: That's just it, I never did.
Jerome: Right! You stinking ugly liar! Do you think Dave would lie about this?
Jerome: Then why would he say these things?
Prophet: He's gone mad?
Jerome: Next time you ask a question we'll end this interview.
Prophet: Well he did say he was on some new medication.
Jerome: I've had enough of this. You only prove your guilt with every word.
Prophet: Well long ago when Dave and I were "friends" he had a sense of humor.
Jerome: So you admit you were just "friends"?
Prophet: No I just used the "" to emphasize my disappointment, I feel betrayed.
Jerome: You feel betrayed?
Prophet: Yes. It's like bizzaro world or something. To see this kind of allegation.
Jerome: Well let's look at what he alleges then - we'll prove what you've done!
Prophet: Go right ahead, because if I've done those things well maybe I'm insane.
Jerome: Did you, or did you not recently post on backyard swimming pool accidents?
Jerome: And was it not about Dave?
Prophet: Well, not entirely. Some of it actually.
Jerome: Ha! You bastard! You made up that horrible story about knowing someone, that their children drowned just to stab at Dave!
Prophet: No! I actually did work with a couple who lost a little girl, and nearly lost their son!
Jerome: But why for God's sake use that story to publicly embarrass Dave?
Prophet: I never even mentioned him by name.
Jerome: Surely others in the blogging community would know who you were talking about?
Jerome: You wrote about visiting an old friend and his son didn't you?
Prophet: No, I changed all of that.
Jerome: Then how in the hell did the blogging community find out?
Prophet: Dave came out and made a big deal about it, acting all insulted.
Jerome: Still, you wrote the post - and your intent was to hurt Dave!
Prophet: No. Actually, I wrote the post because I care about Dave's son.
Jerome: Bloody Bastard! You've never been anything but a "Friend" so stop it!
Jerome: And you called Dave a racist!
Prophet: Well, I guess.
Jerome: You admit this?
Prophet: Well I've made myself pretty clear from all of my post about race that I believe everyone is.
Jerome: A racist?
Jerome: Well, any good American would dump your ass right there. Dave's not a racist!
Jerome: You smug bastard, what I'd love to do if only I could! And what about gas prices?
Prophet: I don't even know what that means!
Jerome: Sure you don't. You recently wrote about gas prices!
Jerome: So there! Yet another one!
Prophet: I'm totally lost now.
Jerome: Yes you have lost, and what a friend he was too.
Prophet: This is all a bit confusing.
Jerome: You're telling me?
Prophet: Look the Dave I knew loved a good conversation, and some disagreement.
Jerome: You fool. You never knew Dave at all. Blogging isn't about dialog it's about..,
Prophet: But it is a dialog. It's just another part of life, and life is about learning from..,
Jerome: Your mistakes?
Prophet: Yes. I say some things to piss Dave off, but he gets all pissed about it.
Jerome: Well what did you expect?
Prophet: I didn't post about the swimming pool to piss him off, but he needs a bit of a kick.
Jerome: How so?
Prophet: Well, blogging is in my mind a lot like MASTURBATION!
Jerome: You disgusting pervert!
Prophet: No seriously, we're all out here in our little worlds doing it alone.
Prophet: But in a way even though we're doing it alone we want to believe we're not.
Jerome: What a warped little mind you have. But what does this have to do with Dave?
Prophet: I've noticed that Dave does his blog like a radio talk show.
Prophet: He throws out topics, and waits for callers.
Prophet: Well if he never gets a comment it's sort of like..,
Prophet: Well yes, but no more than other bloggers.
Jerome: So what's your point?
Prophet: To make the show more interesting it's always good to get someone to call in.
Prophet: I thought Dave knew that.
Jerome: You bastard! Don't you tell us what Dave should know!
Prophet: Well, I've come to believe Dave doesn't take criticism very well.
Jerome: Who in the hell does?
Prophet: There are some accusations he made that are totally off the wall.
Jerome: Are you saying he has a thin skin?
Prophet: I'm saying he's warped many post into being about him when they weren't.
Jerome: So he's thin skinned, and wrong?
Prophet: Well not entirely. But it's obvious he's made a decision he needs to justify.
Jerome: Or a just decision!
Prophet: I suspect if I were black and I made a comment about whites he'd take it personally.
Jerome: Many would.
Prophet: Because it seems to me that if I write about the upper middle class he believes I'm writing about him - personally.
Jerome: Perhaps he should? Maybe that's how you're sticking it to him!
Prophet: Or if I talk about people living on his side of town he believes I'm talking about him.
Jerome: It's understood. You're just jealous of him!
Prophet: Or even if I talk about a social phenomena, like white flight, I'm talking about him.
Jerome: Certainly! That's because you are a "friend" you bastard!
Prophet: Maybe so, but I'm the same bastard I always was.
Jerome: Then maybe Dave's changed, and he's done with you?
Prophet: Maybe. I rarely see him. So I don't really know.
Jerome: Whose damned fault is that?
Prophet: Now that's a can of worms I won't open.
Jerome: It's you're fault isn't it? Just admit it!
Prophet: O.K. It's my fault. And it's had a chilling effect over the years.
Jerome: You're uncomfortable saying that?
Prophet: I can't really even discuss why I don't visit Dave. I'd see him on neutral ground if possible.
Jerome: This interview is over. You're fake, fake, fake, fake fake!
Prophet: Agreed. I am indeed.
Jerome: Just one last thing.
Jerome: Why now? Why not before Christmas?
Jerome: Yes, Christmas.
Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke had died. He was ninety.
Read the CNN Story here.
Many years ago I was quite fond of reading paperbacks. Paperbacks were very popular back in the 1970s. Censorship in America had for the most part come to an end, as far as most books were concerned, and the paperback was the means by which authors could reach an eager public.
Before 200 channel cable television, or Internet there were magazines, AM/FM radios, and books.
For an impressionable boy with a strong interest in Science Arthur C. Clarke held tremendous sway with me. Reading his short stories, and books was a way to see a future too distant for me to live long enough to actually experience.
Of course Arthur C. Clarke is known for writing 2001 A Space Odyssey, and for his "invention" of the geosynchronous communications satellite, but for most of those who listened to, and read his futuristic pronouncements we will know him for his faith in the potential for human beings to create a more prosperous, and peaceful world through the careful use of technology.
Thank you Arthur C. Clarke for entertaining me, for teaching me, and inspiring me. You are not forgotten sir.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Barack Obama's Speech About Race
There's something there. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's there. A mixture of intellect, and competence. Of moral vision, and purpose. Of desire for change, yet absence of irrationality. And get this - of honesty - in a politician of all people.
Barack Obama has begun to inspire me - and for anyone to inspire me now, at my advanced age, is quite rare indeed.
Nearly eight years of tolerating the bumpkin fool, the dishonest clown - George "W" Bush - has nearly broken my faith in the political process. I say "nearly", because to give up only enables the "W"s of the world, and that is something that must never be done.
So soon will be the end of our long national nightmare - the army of crooks that slither about K Street, and the halls of the White House will soon be gone - o.k I'm being overly optimistic here, but at least we should expect significant improvement.
That is my hope.
Somewhat jaded, and tarnished with age, but I still recognize it for what it is. It is hope. Hope for a better deal for the American people, and hope for a better world.
Hope that We The People, the real people, and not just the upper two percent of income earners, or the Washington lobbyist, will be represented in the White House.
I've voted for Barack Obama twice now, once during his Senate race, and once in the Illinois Primary, and I hope to vote for him again this November. I'm proud to support Barack Obama.
The following is the full text of Barack Obama's speech on Race, titled, 'A More Perfect Union'. The video appears above.
Oh, and don't forget to check out the official Barack Obama site at mybarackobama.com.
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: 'A More Perfect Union'
Philadelphia, PA | March 18, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery
"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.
This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.
Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.
This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.
And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.
On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:
"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.
Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naÃ¯ve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.
There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.
And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.
She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.
She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.
Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.
Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."
"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.
But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
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