Category Archives: Life

Another New Day

Do I look forward, back, or live in the present?

Another year is about to end in our arbitrary way of marking things. I kind of wish that the year started in September. School and fiscal years would match better. Or perhaps spring, perhaps in April. Either way, winter would no longer be split into two years. As it is, a blizzard in December of one year followed by one in January of the next would appear to be two separate winters on paper, even though people living through them would say that they are all part of the same season.

But I digress.

A part of me wants to look back on 2015. I want to see what has happened, good and bad. I want to recognize the patterns and learn from them. I want to give credit to the good and grow from the bad. I want to see what has been lost and what has been gained as if doing so would quantify and qualify this year as “good” or “bad” in some definitive fashion.

This might be a foolish impulse. For the year itself is just a demarcation of time. Is the year real? It’s not like I can go back to some box, pull out 2015, open it for my friends and say, “that was a good year. See?” as I pull out bits and pieces to display. Or perhaps drink it and let it suffuse us as we chat and remember and then put it back to be remembered at some later date.

I do know that things happened this year. They always do.

I know that many things that happened hurt me. I know that many things pleased me. I know that I ate and drank and ran and played music and painted and danced and juggled and joked and learned and laughed and cried and slept.

I know that I did not die.

And in that, I find that I am one of many fortunate people.

Fortunate. It is not something that people like to be told they are. It is OK to recognize on our own, but to be told is disconcerting.

“Do you know how lucky you are,” asks someone. Maybe a paramedic. Maybe a police officer. Maybe a doctor. Maybe a parent. Maybe a friend. Maybe a stranger.

Our first reaction is almost always confusion or disbelief. You can see it in survivors of accidents or other traumatic events. You can see it just as easily if you grab a child and pull her out of the way of a speeding car.

Tell a person that they are lucky and they do not know what you are talking about. They might even start trying to argue.

“Lucky?! I have a broken arm!”
“What are you talking about? I lost everything in that fire!”
“My car was totaled!”

It does not matter who says it, “you were lucky” is not an entirely welcome statement when it comes from without.

I suspect that is why people have problems with the idea of racial and gender based privilege.

Telling someone that they are privileged is saying that they were fortunate. That they were lucky. That their situation arose more from accident than design. That implies that what they have could be taken away with a roll of the dice, a flip of a coin, a spin of the wheel.

  • If this sperm had beaten that one
  • If this word had been spoken instead of that one
  • If a left turn instead of a right
  • If the driver of that car had gotten a good night’s sleep and could have fought off that cold
  • If that jerk hadn’t spilled coffee on our best outfit on the day of the interview
  • If the thousands of random meetings in the generations previous had not produced you and the economic situation of your parents
  • If the people around us had done things slightly differently

would we be the people we are? Would our situations be the same? Would we have the same goals, hopes, dreams, and abilities?

Calling someone privileged is saying, “you were lucky.” And even if it is true, most people do not want to hear that. They want to hear that they were strong, smart, or talented. But lucky? No one has control over that.

It robs us of security.

Most of us know that they world is unjust. But most of us also believe that we are just.

But if the things that happen to our fellow humans are prevented mainly by the luck of being born to a particular family in a particular social status in a particular nation in a particular period of time …

And if we refuse to help one another out of denial that fortune was the deciding factor, then can we truly call ourselves just?

This is not where I pictured this post going. I was going to write about this past year, the good and the bad. I was going to write about my change in employment. I was going to write about my health. I was going to write about my family. I was going to write about unicycling and magic and who I am and how it seems I am becoming who I want to be. I was going to write about how I do not really make New Year’s resolutions because I try to make course corrections pretty regularly (sometimes daily, but never less than weekly.)

I do not have any answers. I am not even sure if I am asking the correct questions.

I just know that I am going to keep doing what I have been for my entire life.

  • I’m going to keep trying to learn a little more about the world around me and the people in it
  • I’m going to keep learning new skills and improving the old ones
  • I’m going to keep seeking out the nifty and sharing them with everyone who might appreciate them
  • I’m going to roll with the punches when I can and heal from the blows when things get too tough
  • and I’m going to do my best to treat everyone and everything with love, respect, and a little humor.
Aside

This year the International Juggling Association held its annual festival in a place relatively close to me. Furthermore, it was a place which held a special place in my heart.  It was held at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. … Continue reading

I do not know how to begin

I want to write about the whole Zimmerman verdict, but every time I start the post becomes about prejudice, and rights, and discrimination, and profiling, and constitutional principles, and To Kill a Mockingbird, and multiculturism, and multi-racialism, and my experiences. It becomes HUGE.

And I do not know if I have the words.

And I do not know if anyone would listen.
Or what difference it would make.
 
And to tell the truth, the entire prospect of writing about this is not just daunting. It is exhausting.
 
I think that it might be too big to be a post. It might be too big for any of the ways that I normally express myself. Prose, poetry, drawing, painting, sculpting, guitar, harmonica, banjo, ukulele, and singing have all been ways that I have used to get things out.
 
But I do not think that any one of them will do it for me this time. I want to try something different. I need to try something different.
 
I do not know if I have the stamina for it, but at the moment, I feel like I need to use them all. All of the arts that I have used in the past. I need to stretch them and make something that is mine.
 
I do not know if I will share it after I am done. Truthfully, I do not know if I will finish. I have a habit of being distracted by life.
 
But I need to try.

Fear of a Name

I do not use it. At least not casually. In the following post, I use the word more than I ever have in my entire life up until this point.

I learned the history. I knew what it meant. It was an insult. A horrible insult. And because I knew that there were names which others found just as insulting, I have always done my best to be considerate with my words. I do my best to use words which convey my meaning. And I knew exactly what I would convey with that word or with words which had similar emotional charge to the people around me.

The word of which I write is nigger, but it could just as well be fag, spic, nip, wop, or any of thousands of other words whose only meaning is derogatory towards a particular group of people.

There are black people (usually urban African-Americans to my knowledge) who have decided to claim the word and use it in reference to each other. I understand that desire but I do not agree with it, so I do not partake in that practice.

I know people (usually caucasian Americans) who are confounded by the fact that the above occurs. They feel that it is unfair that the word can only be used by black people in such a friendly fashion. I have on occasion been singled out by these people and told, “it’s not fair! Yes, I know that you do not use it, but you could if you wanted to!

And to me, that seems to come to the root of their issue. Pointing out that not every black person in America does not use the word, and that it is a controversial practice does not help. The fact that there are any people who can use it without reprisal is not completely what gets them. It is that that they feel left out. Discriminated against.

But I am not in that group. So I really want to stop writing about that. I want to write about what I know best. Me. And where I stand.

I do not mind reading or hearing the word when it is in a story or movie. I do not feel like the word needs to be eliminated. It is a word. A very charged and powerful word, but in the end, it is just a word. And so, it should be used when appropriate. When is that? When you want to insult someone’s race and to infer certain things about their intelligence and abilities. Or when you are watching or reading a story which involves characters from certain points in history or who were raised with certain societal influences.

So, when I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it does not bother me to see that word at all. I have not watched Django Unchained but if I had, I suspect that it would be used correctly there. If I were to watch the television show “Quantum Leap” and they used it in an episode about civil rights in the 60s or something like that, I would think that was fine. If I watched a show taking place today, and I saw a person using it as an insult, I would think that was fine as long as the reactions around it were realistic.

But if a person uses it in my presence, in real life without it being a part of a story, they can expect a very different reaction from me. Especially if they are using it in reference to me, my family, or my friends.

I do not believe in banning words. But I do believe in letting people know where I stand.

I will not tolerate being called a nigger. And if you call anyone in my family that around me, I will let you know of my disapproval. I will tell you that if you respect me, you will not use that word in that fashion. And that a lack of respect from you will have consequences.

I do not care if you and your friends have some special understanding where it is OK between you. I am not in that group.

If I do anything which makes you feel a similar lack of respect, I expect you to tell me and I will address it.

And as for the Paula Deen scandal?

I do not watch her show. I do not read her books. I have nothing against her beyond a general distaste for her cuisine. I do not boycott her. Boycotting would imply that I want to buy her books or watch her shows, but do not for some political reason. No. Her products simply do not appeal to me.

So what about her use of the word, nigger? What about her desire to throw a plantation style wedding with waiters dressed as slaves? What about her being dropped from Food Network and her products from Walmart?

Read the above paragraphs again. I have already said it all. Walmart and Food Network have made their stances clear. I am not a representative of either corporation. I just stand for me.