Shady in the house

– How long you called Shady?

– All memory long, or thereabouts.

– Nice sound.

– Been trustworthy from jump street, so there’s some humor in it.

– Like jazz notes, the sound. Shay-dee. Shaaaaay-deeee. 

– Saxophone.

– Clarinet, could be.

– Absolutely, yes.

– It’s a good name.

– Thank you, man.

– You’re thinking these days?

– It’s like Benjamin Franklin said when some folks asked him what kind of government the new constitution created. “A republic, if you can keep it.” We’re going to find out if we can keep it.

– This president.

– Does not want the republic.

– Shady’s a good name.

– Thank you.

– Jazz.

– Clarinet.

– Shaaay-deeee.

Too many friends & in-loves?

“Holy crap! I’ve got way too many people who love me and care about me in my life!” is something I’ve never heard another living soul say.

Truth is, I don’t know, and have never known anyone who complained, at least within earshot, about having too many people who love them and care about them. Close friends, in-love folks.  I’ve never known a soul to fret over being overstocked on either front.

The bonds of friendship and in-love are the very veins through which love and friendship flow; they are also the veins through which loyalty flows.  

The absence of loyalty always poisons bonds between friends and in-love ones. 

I love my friends. How can I not? They’re my friends!

Someone once told me, “You know, you tell a lot of people you love them,” in a tone that led me to think the speaker believed my character trait might be something I should reconsider keeping, or, at least, tone it down a bit. 

Not a chance.

First of all, I can’t help it. And, if I could, I wouldn’t. I instinctively feel love and compassion for my fellow beings, until they give me reason not to. Even then, I mightstill care, I simply don’t act on it. T

There are rare instances when someone’s choices and behavior are so repellent and dangerous, I am unable to feel anything other than anger. Years ago I played in role in helping to put a man behind bars who had raped and sodomized a number of boys, grammar school ages. The brutality that man inflicted on those lives, and the lives of their loved ones, cannot be put into words. At least, I can’t do it.

But these folks, thankfully, are in the minority. 

There’s a man, in his fifties I would guess, who works as a checkout bagger at nearby supermarket. His name is Vincent. Vincent has neatly cut and combed gray hair and a full, well-shaped gray beard. He is small in frame and wears glasses with dark frames over a pair of the kindest eyes you can imagine. 

Always, Vincent is attentive to you, the customer, hopes your day is going well. Means it. Vincent glows with kindness. Now, when we chat, as I leave I’ll sometimes say, “Love you, brother,” and I mean it.

How can you not feel love for someone who brings kindness into the world?

Last year, or maybe it was the year before, I decided, on a whim, to go for a 18- to 20-mile walk on a really hot day, without enough water. I ran into trouble (duh, Peter) and had to call for help. 

The first responders in the ambulance were all about making sure I would be okay with every fiber of their being. These, men, in this case, who did not know me from Adam, were heart and soul committed to making sure I kept my life.

Of course I felt love for them, then and now.

One of the most heartbreaking, and, in a very real way, tragic realities, are the number of friendships and in-loves that implode because one or both could not, did not, or would not, or were incapable of recognizing and accepting the presence of some unhealthy behavior patterns they might be stuck in. Patterns they deserved to be free of!  

When a child gets raised, one way or another, getting the message that he or she is poor example of how he or she should be, and are supposed to me, that child’s self-image gets damaged. Moreover, what “supposed to be” might mean can be a whole other world of hurt for the child.

You don’t come out of these experiences without some unhealthy patterns in your repertoire. Chances are, these no unhealthy patterns were the very ones you had to use in order to survive your childhood. Absolutely. Fair enough. 

Nevertheless, you are responsible for getting free of them, now that they are toxic. Is this fair? Hell no. It’s not fair. It’s reality.

Here’s another reality. You deserve your freedom. And tell some folks you love them while you’re at it.

A Question for White Racists

I am a 66-year-old white man who has seen and known racists who are white, and I have a question I’d like to ask them.

Now, how things and people come to be (and why) are not matters I am degreed in. I am, however, fortunate, if that’s the right word, to have lived a life in which I’ve not had the yoke of racism hobble my character. However, I’ve seen white racists and known white racists and, I have a question I am bound to present respectfully, because people are free to be bigoted if they want to be.

I have a memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asking an audience, angered by an attempt a white man in his fifties had just made to punch Dr. King, and I paraphrase honestly. “If you had been told, every day of your life, for more than fifty years, the blacks were bad, what would you believe?” 

And there it was, the beautiful thought-clarity and spiritual sense of justice of Dr. King, pointing out a salient, heartbreaking reality.

All bigotry is learned.

Back to my question for white racists. Clearly, one of the basic tenets of white racism is rooted in the believe  you are, because you are white,  in some way superior and preferable to the black and brown races. In short, the lighter skin reflects a human value you believe is lacking in black and brown races.

And so, to my question.

If white people are superior to black and brown people, because they have lighter skin, then someone needs to explain tanning to me?

All those white folk out there on the beaches, trying to do what, get a tan. They are trying to get darker.

When is the last time anyone heard a black or brown person say, “Oh sweat, look at the time, I need to rush down to the Pale-ing Salon, see if I can’t, lighten up a bit.”

Here’s a fact. Bigotry never defines reality accurately.

Protecting from a loved one

They are not easy times when you must, I believe, protect yourself from someone you love. It can require disengaging them from your life.

There are any number of real reasons for this being the healthiest choice on the table, but none are, the person I need to protect myself from is a bad person, a bad human being. Unhealthy? Yes. Bad? No. Absolutely not. The range of problematic conditions has its fair share of members, alcohol, drugs, addiction, personality disorders, and so on. These elements know no bigotry.

That someone we may need to distance themselves from someone doesn’t make them a bad person and it doesn’t free them of their responsibility for wounding others, as well as themselves.

When someone fires off a few sentences of verbal cruelty, say, I believe the self-inflicted wound runs deeper and does more damage to the perpetrator. Someone tangled up in behavior patterns that wound the lives of others – lacking any empathy whatsoever in some cases – already has a low self-esteem, whether they realize it, admit it, or don’t.

A person in this kind of struggle has basically two choices.  They can recognize the unhealthy patterns they’re  in, and get the help and support they deserve, and get free of them. Or, they can surrender their lives to a method of life-management that guarantees conflict, pain, suffering, heartbreak, and guilt. Everyone of us deserves the chance to get well. Not everyone realizes it when getting well is necessary.

The reason the perpetrator takes the deeper wound is this. On some level, he or she knows what they are doing is wounding and abusive and looks to degrade the target. So each time the perpetrator strikes, he or she is reaffirming the message they got taught about themselves, when some where along the line, they may have been degraded, even on a daily basis, often by some adult who could not be escaped.

In fact, I know of some wonderful acronyms for the word, FEAR. It can mean, Face Everything And Recover, or, Fuck Everything And Run.

My instinct is wedded to the former.

Not nice is not strong

If someone says, “I know I’m not being nice to you, but I have to be tough,” they’ve memorialized the completely false assertion that being unkind is, somehow, an act of strength.

Rubbish.  Being unkind requires no strength. Zero. All it does is wound, and repulse.

Giving anger decision making power is a lot easier than managing it in a healthy way. Anger, in and of itself, is not the problem, the relation one has with it can be.

Respect is never too much to ask for; neither is kindness.