Sunday, January 11, 2009

Find myself lingering over an earlier entry -- the one about the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag (see January 10th) ... .

In thinking back I realize that even as early as those tender years I was unable to place blame for the dilemma. It was as that precocious teenager that I first came into contact with those feelings, but there has been a persistent denial throughout my life -- an unwillingness to place blame upon those around me. It's true, however, that I've not been nearly as forgiving around other issues as I've been about the Pledge. Is it possible that I was already aware at some subliminal level that we were all victims? That I was able to see my schoolmates as blameless and my teacher as unknowing is the pattern that I"ve continued to extend to others -- a pattern that followed me through life? Whenever I find myself faced with the need to rise and proclaim my patriotism, the confusion kicks in. I resent it, but I do not resent those around me. I'm not sure that I fully understand what any of that means.

I wonder now if that didn't have a lot to do with my having grown up in the west without the obvious signs of discrimination that southern black children were so enured to? Those whites-only drinking fountains, and schools, and cemeteries, etc.? It really wasn't until the devastating experience of moving to the suburbs that I came into the actual brutality of racism at a personal level.

The home front workplaces during WWII had certainly prepared us for segregation, but that was in the aggregate. Every person of color around me was suffering similar humiliation so it was in many ways not nearly as toxic and far easier to express resistance to and to organize against. We were not facing it alone. But even then, I may have sensed that "The Lie" was systemic and of no living person's creation, and that those with hands over heart reciting the Pledge were sincere in participating in a ritual that held great personal meaning. Their pride is unquestionable and I, as an African American, can accept that as real and enviable. It is always with a sense of guilt and some loss that I've withheld the actual voicing of those deceptive words, "...with liberty and justice for all". As I've grown older and wiser, I've gradually become aware that at the time that those words were written we were not a part of the all. And, apparently, most Americans (except for maybe John Brown and those who fought so valiantly with him at Harpers Ferry) hadn't yet taken the time to notice.

Even today, I tend to see the problem as less one of human (white) failure as much as a systemic flaw in our institutions. Not so much the sins of Jane or John Doe, personally, but as unknowing and unsuspecting heirs to "White Privilege," therefore individually innocent. I suspect that the reason that I was able to face down that crowd of hostile home owners in Gregory Gardens was because in some way I believed that those white folks were culturally deprived and that I could be of help -- if they would only allow me to. And how insane is that?

But white privilege requires black acquiescence in order to work, and the conflict between those concepts have only recently started to be confronted directly. At least the process has been introduced into civic life. Perhaps that's what occurred on November 4th when we the people went to the polls and overwhelmingly demanded change -- and brought it into being.

The next four years will bring forth conversations that were never before possible, certainly not across racial lines. Those conversations have already begun.

Maybe this is one of them ... .

And to this -- I will bring full voice!

Photo: This was taken at Dorian's dedication ceremony, before we were at all aware of her mental handicap. A pretty ordinary American family, right? Hardly one that should have caused the near-riot by moving into an otherwise all-white community. Fortunately for us, we all survived it and life went on -- eventually and after much pain.
I can't wait to share it! This official invitation -- suitable for framing ... .

This beautiful invitation to the Inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden. Found it in my mailbox only a few moments ago.

It's letter-sized on heavy ivory stock and looks impressive enough to turn heads and soothe hearts, even those of the socially wounded.

Now I'm going to go out to the Mall to buy myself a bigger hat!

Photo: (Can't figure out why it scans lopsided when it isn't) but in order to read the text you'll want to click to expand to full size.
Some housekeeping details on how to use this blog ... .

Since I didn't create it in the first place, I was late in discovering that there are some hidden features that are really helpful in finding one's way around.

By the way, it was created by a gifted artist, the late Sage McKenzie, of Austin, Texas, a member of SeniorNet, the online community where we were both active. It was Sage who used her professional expertise to extend my reach into blogging. I miss her. She became terminally ill and passed away before we could manage the much-needed tutorial. I think that I just (ever-grateful for her generosity) closed my eyes and started to type. Unfortunately, we never met except in the virtual world of the Internet.

But back to the process:

I recently made some accidental discoveries when a friend suggested that I write a book about life with my mentally handicapped daughter, Dorian. As a former director of a school where such children were main-streamed -- she knew of parents who were struggling with similar challenges. Our obvious ability to co-exist relatively painlessly seemed to hold some interesting promise for others, in Careth's opinion. It occurred to me at the time that I may have already written that book, and that all that was needed at this point might be some editor willing to pull that story together into publishable form. The thought has never occurred to me to do so since I've never had any way to assess how others might be living their versions of "Life With Dorrie."

And, no, I cannot see myself ever having the time necessary to become a serious writer. The catharsis and sheer pleasure of blogging is a welcome release, but ambition stops just about where we are now.

One day I looked up above the banner (across the top of the screen) and noticed at the far left above my picture and the archives/directory, that little white search bar. Slipped Dorian's name into it and all of the posts that mentioned her by name (from 9/2003 to the present) popped up! Tried again with "Rosie the Riveter" then "National Park Ranger" then "Papa George" and "Mardi Gras", "Hawking", "Einstein," and "DJ Spooky and Hip Hop", "Unitarianism," and Voila!, up they come, magically. In these almost 700 accumulated entries there may be enough separate stories to fill my bookshelf at least once.

Not being a professional writer, I'm not sure that I could ever do that, but I do know that it's possible. Having lost all sense of where my fingers have rambled on this keyboard over the years; and what adventures, trials, and triumphs that I've dealt with over time, discovering that precious search bar managed to magically bring it all under my control for the first time. I'm sure it is what Sage intended.

I've rarely bothered to go back to re-read older posts, but have chosen intentionally to remain in the present for the most part after an attempt in the beginning to recapture personal history. I eventually found that the past tends to roll out quite naturally from the present and doesn't need more than that to come alive again.

Maybe you, too, will find it so, in the reading.

And -- if you're interested in seeing my park ranger persona in full bloom, try "Civic Engagement" for a place to start, then scroll down to the post for August 26th, 2007. And don't be confused by the fact that this entry appears at the top -- it will, but if you'll scroll down you'll find the relevant others.

Photo: Dorian at 19 working at the Children's Zoo on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California.