Sunday, August 13, 2006

Strange and wondrous workings of an ordinary mind ...

It must have been some time after six this morning ... my radio alarm is set for the Sunday Edition of NPR ... Lee Ann Hansen's voice is usually the first thing I recall upon awakening. I'm sure that this is the reasonable explanation (though I don't place a lot of trust in reasonable explanations in these later years).

I can recall lying awake for what seemed hours before dropping off into a fitful on-again-off-again troubled sleep. I was still mentally chewing on a letter to the editor I wrote at the urging of a young member of the city staff on Wednesday. She appeared at my cubbyhole excited, "...Betty you need to address this," says she as she urged me to move aside so that she could bring up on my computer an online edition of the West County Times. It was a story about a summit held earlier in the week -- hosted by Senator Don Perata and the mayors of the cities of Oakland and Richmond on the urgent subject of street violence and soaring death rates in both cities. I read the short article and spent the next few minutes writing a quick online response in the bulletin board provided by the paper. When I read the entries that preceded mine, I was horrified. They were as damning of the young as were the words of the political figures that inspired them to write. Cynicism reigns!

The important factor here was not the story but the young Richmond woman whose desk was in another city department -- but within earshot of mine. She was saying to me in her way, "you believe in us, Betty, and you have the words ...". In no more than a few minutes I pulled together a couple of paragraphs that surely wouldn't change history -- but that might reassure my young friend that, indeed, I do. I posted them, printed out a copy, and lay it on her chair before going to lunch.

I knew that the mayor's dramatic program of change, "Safe Streets Now!" involves as it's key element the hiring of 20 additional policeman to roam the streets and catch the bad guys. In the way that dreams can over-simplify, I could hear myself saying, "...not 20 more cops, please, 20 more school counselors and school nurses to identify troubled kids and bring them help before they're lost!" It's all seemed so obvious -- so simple. But then that's the way of dreams, isn't it? Has the media trained us to expect change to occur within the hour -- before the last commercial is aired?

Then this morning -- as I woke from the next round of fitfulness -- the words in my head formed, " ... Lebanon, the War on Terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, all of it -- makes sense only when the effects of white supremacy and privilege are factored in." I woke suddenly with that all-too-familiar feeling of having solved all of the world's problems in one fell swoop! I knew! But when I woke fully and realized that I'd been dreaming and that the UN wouldn't call me for a statement and that the world was still in chaos, I could hear Lee Ann Hansen's voice as she was interviewing some male voice from overseas. They were talking about the arrests this week by Scotland Yard of the 20-odd young Muslims for suspicion of involvement in the plot to blow up US-bound planes over the ocean. I heard this man comment (by way of explanation) that these were all young Pakistani men who were citizens of England. Then he added, "...though only 5% of the population, young Muslim males make up one-in-five of those imprisoned. He added that, "...though they've lived in Britain all of their lives, they still think of themselves, primarily, as Pakistani." Now why do you suppose that would be?

I sat up in bed then, to give full attention to the obvious. Given no more than those two statements by our reporter, is it not obvious that something dreadfully wrong is happening to the lives of non-whites overseas that is fueling hatred to a degree that has made a growing number of young people of color opt for suicide rather than a future of continuing degradation? And that they will take as many of the offenders as possible with them for the sake of the futures of the generations of young Arabs to follow?

The program loops from five o'clock until ten. I must have heard this interview earlier while half asleep. It shaped my dreams, but I was only sharply aware of the story as I woke at the later airing.

But for a few minutes there, I had the answers and was about ready to pack (no liquids or gels, of course) for the UN to notify the world of my brilliant insights.

Oh how I wish ... .

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