Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where do We Get Our Ideas?

As the country (and the world) listens to the Nameless one in his last moments, it is like a washing machine stuck on the spin cycle. To listen to his version of his presidency is to understand why he will be considered the worst president in the history of our great nation. It is clear from what he says that he is either the greatest liar of all time, or, more likely, he doesn't have a clue about the damage he has done to the very fabric of our society during his imperial presidency. But, this diatribe is not about He Who Would Have Been King but is, rather, a query about how and where each of us acquired our ideas and understanding of our great country as we have grown up. Point One: Think back to your school days and try to recall any information you received about the role of slavery in our society as this country moved from revolutionary times to the true Civil Rights Era (circa 1965 and Martin Luther King). Looking back, it is clear that the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation were just the initial baby steps in the process which, in essence, has culminated in the election of our first black president. What has triggered this is my thinking this morning is an uncomfortable moment during a holiday Christmas party where a person I like very much stood with me and chatted for a few minutes and used the "n" word no fewer than five times. How this relates to this morning's theme is it indicates to me that many white people still have not owned up to the fact of life that black people are human beings too and not some inferior living things that arrogance and ignorance can relegate to a human trash pile. This likeable and funny and warm human being at the party got this idea from somewhere and it is my contention that the official story of our country, like Bushy's current spinning, has downplayed what for black people must consider a really bad joke; i.e. the notion that all men are created equal with the asterisk for a large part of our history that this concept did not apply to blacks. How could Thomas Jefferson, the owner of many slaves, sit down and pen these words is one question. But, to me, the greater question is how we as young kids and adults could listen and learn to believe that we are the greatest nation in the world because of our principles and completely ignore the question about Jefferson? I am, if course, only using Jefferson as an example because our history is replete with incidents of racism that if lined up side-by-side could only spell out a final historic conclusion that we have been, and in fact continue to be, a de facto racist society. One has only to drive along Jefferson Avenue from Grosse Pointe, Michigan into Detroit where, literally, in a few hundred yards, homes move from small mini-mansions to the ghetto, from white to black skin color, to have this point illustrated most dramatically. But, this diatribe is not completely about racism. My intention is to apply it to any number of other idealistic notions in our society such as dissent and minority points of view. As a nation, we, on paper, pride ourselves in our wonderful and historical guarantee of freedom of speech, but witness what we do to one or another who dares to express anything other than the dogma of majority opinion. We get these ideas from somewhere. We need to change them. We need to move from a nation that says "do as I say" to one that says"do as I do."

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