One Man’s Quest To Conquer Hate … One Person At A Time

This is a post I originally wrote and published in August 2017, and it is one that I think bears repeating today.  Racist incidents, white supremacy and white nationalist groups, have been on the rise of late, fueled by a racist president and religious groups who somehow think their god prefers pale-skinned people.  Episodes of white police murdering unarmed Black people, for no reason, and getting away with it have become frequent events.  It seems to me we are moving in the wrong direction, my friends.  But one man is doing his part to try to bridge the racial divide, to help people understand that we are all the same, that skin colour does not make a person better or worse than any other.  I have added a few things to the original post, including a Ted-x Talks video that I think you’ll find interesting.

This is the post that I originally wrote for this week’s Good People post, but then I had second thoughts. I had quite an internal debate with myself about whether or not this man actually fit the profile.  In past posts to the category, I have highlighted people who gave of their time or money to help people in a more direct sort of way than this person is doing. I have also tried to avoid conflict, controversy and politics in my ‘good people’ posts. This is where my debate came into play.  I nearly scuttled this post altogether, but it kept nagging at me, and an inner voice told me I needed to write it. Mr. Daryl Davis has not adopted special needs kids, he has not set up foundations to help feed the poor, he has not built homes for people in need. What he has done that qualifies him for the designation ‘good people’ is quite different than the norm, yet I find it timely, in light of recent events.  So, I let my instincts lead the way, and while I have not included him in the ‘good people’ category,  I definitely DO consider him to be a good people, and as such, I want to share with you what Mr. Davis has done and is doing. So, please allow me to introduce to you R&B and blues musician, author, actor and bandleader, Mr. Daryl Davis!

Daryl Davis is a talented blues pianist who has played with the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Percy Sledge and many others of Rock ‘n Roll, Jazz, Blues, and even Country music fame.  While it isn’t his music that is the focus of this post, it was music that opened the door for what he has done.  But first, let us go back just a bit to when Daryl was ten years old.

At age 10, Daryl joined a boy scout troop in Belmont, Massachusetts. He was the only black child in the troop, but that didn’t matter to the other kids, for they had not yet begun to see the world in terms of colour.  One day, young Daryl was proudly carrying the flag, with his troop, in a statewide parade to commemorate the ride of Paul Revere when the crowd began throwing rocks and bottles at him. His first thought was that perhaps the crowd did not like boy scouts.  But then he realized he was the only boy being targeted, and he soon found out that it was the colour of his skin that people did not like. This was Daryl’s introduction to racism, and it sparked a lifetime of curiosity about those attitudes, a curiosity that drove Daryl to do what he did, what he does.  And what, you ask, does he do?

The headline for the article in NPR reads:

How One Man Convinced 200 Ku Klux Klan Members To Give Up Their Robes

For the past 30 years, Davis, a black man, has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says once the friendship blossoms, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided. Since Davis started talking with these members, he says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes.

How did it start?  I shall let Mr. Davis explain in his own words:

“I was playing music — it was my first time playing in this particular bar called the Silver Dollar Lounge and this white gentleman approached me and he says, “I really enjoy you all’s music.” I thanked him, shook his hand and he says, “You know this is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.” I was kind of surprised that he did not know the origin of that kind of music and I said, “Well, where do you think Jerry Lee Lewis learned how to play that kind of style?” He’s like, “Well, I don’t know.” I said, “He learned it from the same place I did. Black, blues, and boogie-woogie piano players.” That’s what that rockabilly, rock ‘n roll style came from.” He said, “Oh, no! Jerry Lee invented that. I ain’t ever heard no black man except for you play like that.” So I’m thinking this guy has never heard Fats Domino or Little Richard and then he says, “You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man?”

Well, now I’m getting curious. I’m trying to figure out, now how is it that in my 25 years on the face of this earth that I have sat down, literally, with thousands of white people, had a beverage, a meal, a conversation or anybody else, and this guy is 15 to 20 years older than me and he’s never sat down with a black guy before and had a drink. I said, “How is that? Why?” At first, he didn’t answer me and he had a friend sitting next to him and he elbowed him and said, “Tell him, tell him, tell him,” and he finally said, “I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”

I just burst out laughing because I really did not believe him. I thought he was pulling my leg. As I was laughing, he pulled out his wallet, flipped through his credit cards and pictures and produced his Klan card and handed it to me. Immediately, I stopped laughing. I recognized the logo on there, the Klan symbol and I realized this was for real, this guy wasn’t joking. And now I’m wondering, why am I sitting by a Klansman?

But he was very friendly, it was the music that brought us together. He wanted me to call him and let him know anytime I was to return to this bar with this band. The fact that a Klansman and black person could sit down at the same table and enjoy the same music, that was a seed planted. So what do you do when you plant a seed? You nourish it. That was the impetus for me to write a book. I decided to go around the country and sit down with Klan leaders and Klan members to find out: How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”

That encounter happened in 1983, and since then Davis has made it his life’s mission to promote understanding, because as he says, “when two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting”. What he does may not seem like much to some, but in my mind, he is doing his part to change the attitudes of the bigots and haters, one person at a time, using words, music and intellect rather than rocks, bottles, guns and cars as weapons.  Think about it for a minute … what if every one of us who believe people should not be judged by the colour of their skin were able to sit down with just one member of a white supremacist group and, through open, honest dialog, help that person to understand that we are all a part of the human race?

In 1998, Mr. Davis wrote a book, Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan, where he recounts some of his experiences.  For example, the time when one Klansman told Davis that “All black people have a gene in them that makes them violent.”  Davis recalls …

“After a time I said, ‘You know, it’s a fact that all white people have within them a gene that makes them serial killers. Name me three black serial killers.’ He could not do it. I said ‘you have the gene. It’s just latent.’ He said, ‘Well that’s stupid.’ I said, ‘It’s just as stupid as what you said to me.’ He was very quiet after that and I know it was sinking in.”

Before you say what I know you are thinking, no, I am not wearing rose-coloured glasses, am not a Pollyanna.  I realize that the majority of bigots will not be swayed by conversation alone, but I DO think some will.  Often hate and bigotry are based on a lack of understanding, a fear of that which is different.  Mr. Davis has set out to show that people, all people, are really not so different when you get down to the basics. I DO applaud Mr. Davis for the courage to do what he has done, and continues to do.  His approach is the very antithesis of what we see coming out of our own federal government and many of the evangelical churches today.

Mr. Davis was the guest speaker at a Ted-x Talk in 2018, and I’ve included the video here.  Granted, it is a bit lengthy at just over 18 minutes, but I think it is well worth watching … at least please watch the first few minutes.

My initial reason for thinking of Daryl Davis as a good person doing good things still stands … he is doing his part to remove hate from our society, one person at a time.  This is a man whose hand I would like to shake someday.

What Makes A Nation Great — Part III

In Parts I & II of this project, I spent a great deal of time pointing out the things that, in my view, keep the United States from being ‘great’.  In truth, the word ‘great’ is a superlative that sets my teeth on edge anyway, but it’s something we should always strive for.  If we strive for greatness, perhaps we can at least achieve ‘goodness’. (Links to Part I and Part II)

Make no mistake … despite its many flaws, some potentially fatal, there are good things happening in this nation, there are things that should give us hope for the future.  I didn’t want to end this project without pointing those out too.

A nation is only as good as the people who inhabit it, and we have, in this nation, millions of good people.  Every Wednesday, I write about some of those good people.  Most all of the people I know in this country are caring, kind, compassionate people who would literally give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.

Teachers in this nation are underpaid, overworked, and often expected to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets.  Yet, I personally know a number of teachers who are dedicated in a way that no other professionals I know of are.  I know teachers who have taken a student in for a weekend when there was an illness in the student’s family.  Almost every teacher I know or have known personally go the extra mile every single day, and for little or no recognition … just because they believe that educating our young people is the most important job in the world.

I know people who spend every weekend working in homeless shelters and food pantries to help those less fortunate than us.  I know still others who give a portion of every paycheck to worthy causes that help people … not politicians, but people in need.  During this ongoing and devastating pandemic, there are many people who are bringing food and supplies to elderly friends & neighbors, checking on them to make sure they are okay and don’t need anything.

And let us not forget those on the ‘front lines’, the healthcare workers who are risking their own lives every day, working long hours, to help those who are sick, whether with coronavirus or other ailments.  These people have sacrificed sleep, meals, time with family, and their own health to take care of people they don’t even know.

We have countless volunteer organizations manned by people who help with everything imaginable, from child care to feeding the poor to rescuing animals to visiting the sick & elderly to picking up other people’s trash on beaches and along highways, to name just a few.  The majority of people in this country really do care about other people, about animals, about the environment.

Yes, there are many people who are self-serving in this country, who eschew the diversity and would turn the country into one comprised entirely of white Christians with women taking a backseat as they once did, but those people don’t deserve mention here.  To me, the ‘good people doing good things’ are a large part of what is good in this nation.  But there is more, as well.

One of the items on the list in Part I that I think contributes to what is good in this nation is the diversity.  Just on my own street, we have families from Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Nigeria.  Knowing them has enriched my life.  I’ve learned things about the Middle East that you don’t get from history books.  I’ve tried new foods – some I loved, others not so much.  I’ve made new friends who have broadened my horizons, expanded my world view.  Immigrants have given so much to this nation, asking in return only a safe place to live and the opportunity to take care of their families.

There are signs of hope for the nation.  I think that the majority of people are waking up to what is wrong and understanding that, as a nation, we have taken a wrong path somewhere along the line.  I think people are ready and willing to make the changes we need to start the process of re-building the nation.  The divisiveness we see today cannot continue, and I do think most people realize that it is counter-productive.  I think people are finally ready to stand up against the systemic racism that has always existed here.  The overall response to the murder of George Floyd, as well as other recent episodes of police brutality against black people, is encouraging.  While I despise the violence some of the protests have spawned, I do like the fact that people are finally becoming aware and determined to demand change from our police and government.

The first steps in repairing what is broken in this country must be to realize that our government is not serving us, but rather is self-serving.  We must demand some changes in campaign finance rules, in term limits, and in transparency in government.  We must educate ourselves and our youth in how our government is supposed to work vs how it is actually working, then we must do whatever is necessary to demand change.  We must remind the people in Washington that it is We the People to whom they owe their allegiance, not the NRA, not the person in the Oval Office, and not the big corporations.  We must hold them accountable for every vote they make, for every dime of our money they spend, and for the things they don’t do, as well.  We must do this now, while we still have the right to peaceful protest, while we still have the right to vote people into or out of office, and while we still have a free press to keep us informed.  If we don’t, I see those rights slipping away.

We must learn to set aside our petty differences and focus on the big picture.  Think of two people building a house together.  We agree that I will do the right side of the house and you will do the left side.  If we don’t communicate and compromise, I build my walls 8 feet high, but you build yours 9 feet.  I paint my half yellow, you paint your half pink.  What we end up with is a mess that neither of us can nor want to live in.  This is what the partisan divide is doing to this nation … leaving us with a mess that we cannot continue to live in.  We must learn to put aside the petty differences and work together to resolve the bigger problems, such as racism, affordable education and health care for all, helping those who need help, narrowing the income gap, and more.  And how can we do this?

We cannot do it by pointing guns at one another.  We cannot do it by screaming and yelling such that our message is lost in the noise.  We can only do it by talking and listening, then seeking common ground for compromise.  We must stop trying to impose our own ideas on everyone else and work on the bigger picture.  What is the bigger picture, you ask?  Ensuring that this nation works for everyone, not just some.  Stepping up to the plate and being a part of the global community.  Working to reverse global warming, to clean up the environment, to find alternatives for plastics, working on ensuring the safety of not just this nation, but of the entire globe.  I could go on, but you get the picture.  On a scale of 1-100, with 100 being truly great, I would rank the U.S. as it stands today in the 30% range.  We can do better … the question is, will we?


A White Woman Listens … Really Listens

We have a serious problem in the U.S.:  we don’t listen to each other.  Okay, yes, we have many serious problems in the U.S. today, but many of them could be solved if we simply took time to listen … really listen … to each other and consider what the other person is saying.  Instead, we have preconceived ideas and, so sure that our own ideas are the right ones, we barely listen to those with opposing viewpoints, or from whom we might learn something.

Yesterday, I came across a Facebook post by a white woman who took the time to listen to a black man, who asked questions and pondered the answers, who learned from someone whose life experiences differ vastly from her own.  Her post has thus far received more than 220,000 views and some 182,000 shares.  I think this piece is well worth sharing, for we can all do a better job listening and learning from others, making the world a little bit better.  This is the sort of civil discourse that will eventually lead the way forward for this nation …

Caroline Crockett Brock

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south, and today was the first time I spoke frankly about racism with a black man.

When Ernest Skelton, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in. As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate. Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?

When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.

What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble?

The answers were illuminating.

Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year. He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another. Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances. They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs. These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way. Everytime he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.

Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore. He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark. He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark”.

Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him. He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth.

A truth that needs to be heard.

When I asked Ernest what ethnic terms he gets offended at, he said that the most offensive term people use is ‘boy’. Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC. He is not a ‘boy’, and the term ‘boy’ in the south implies inferiority in station and status. He came to Myrtle Beach and got a job at Hobart. The supervisor repeatedly used the term ‘boy’. Ernest complained. After several complaints Ernest was fired.

Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.

After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years. He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me. I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.

I asked Ernest what he thought of “black bike week” in Myrtle Beach, where thousands of black people come with bullet bikes and trash our town. He says it hurts black people in our city, and he disagrees with the NAACP coming in to sue businesses that close on black bike week. He hates working that week.

Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is. His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.

When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up. I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today. Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple.

Edit: I asked Ernest if I could take his picture and post our conversation on facebook. He thought it was a great idea. As he left my house an hour later, he looked me in the eye and said, “If you ever march, or have a meeting on this topic, or want to change things in Myrtle Beach, I’ll stand with you.”Ernest-SkeltonWhat a great idea. Let’s begin standing together.
Edit: 1pm EST on 6/1. Ernest just called me and we had one of the sweetest moments, both laughing and crying about the response to this post. He started the conversation by saying, “Caroline, I don’t know if I should kill you or kiss you–my phone is ringing off the hook!”
He doesn’t have a FB profile, so he’s coming over later so I can help him set one up. He’s been absolutely overwhelmed, as have I, with the response. We’re going to be sitting down together to read your comments. They mean so much. In addition, the Myrtle Beach city manager has contacted me and I’m getting all of us together to be sure this doesn’t happen in our city any longer. THANK YOU WORLD.

Edit 6/2 9am. Just got off the phone with Ernest and the local news. They will be interviewing us today, and it will be on the local news in Myrtle beach tonight. I’ll post it on my page later.

Edit 6/7. Ernest and I ended up marching together at a peaceful protest in Myrtle Beach! It was a lovely day and we went out to lunch with our spouses afterwards. What a whirlwind of events! Check out my FB live of the protest!

Edit 6/8: Ernest and I met today with a web designer to make sure his facebook and business pages are linked, so he’s good to go there! I spoke with an investigator at the MB police department who was top notch. More to follow.
This is how we change our country. Normal folks. One town at a time. ❤️
Caroline Crockett Brock

What a difference between this, and the couple in St. Louis pointing guns at people marching peacefully down their street in protest of Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to publish the names and addresses of people in favor of police reform.

On Respect and Kindness – Redux #2

This is a post that I first published on November 3, 2016, five days before the presidential election.  It was a plea for people not to let their political differences come between friends and family, not to allow ourselves to devolve into something less than a civil society.  I re-published this post last October, two weeks before the mid-term elections.  Today, I am posting it again, because something specific made me remember it.

Donald Trump bemoans the fact that he is not respected.  In truth, he isn’t even respected by his own followers, though they would likely deny that.  They adore him, they cheer for him, they will gladly rip to shreds his perceived ‘enemies’, but they do not respect him.  What Trump fails to realize, and this is important, is that you cannot dictate respect.  Respect must be earned.  Let me just repeat that, for it is the most relevant sentence in this post.  Respect must be earned.

There are a multitude of ways in which one earns respect.  Being kind and compassionate.  Being intelligent.  Making wise and rational decisions.  Being honest.  Being a person who keeps their word.  Putting the needs of others before one’s own needs.  Being generous.  Caring more about people than money or material possessions.  Donald Trump does none of the above, and thus is neither respectable nor respected.

It is a misconception that being wealthy or powerful automatically entitles a person to respect.  Trump has both wealth and power, but he uses neither wisely, uses neither in such a way as to earn respect.

You do not gain respect by calling people nasty names.  You do not earn respect by screeching foul language.  You do not gain respect by treating children as wild dogs, isolating them in cages without basic necessities.  You don’t deserve respect for referring to anybody who has the temerity to disagree with you as “the enemy”.  You do not get respect by telling lies.  And you do not become respected simply because you demand it.

And so, I have dug up this old post, once again.

“This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. But sometimes criticism can be hurtful. Be respectful. I’m a good piano player, I can sing well, I write good songs. If you don’t like it, fair enough. But give me a break.” – Elton John

sad-turltleI was plugging away, working on the post for runner up Idiot of the Year Ted Nugent, when something went SNAP in my mind and I knew I had to write this post for this afternoon.  No worries, you will read all about Mr. Nugent tomorrow, but for today I need to talk about respect and kindness, or lack of, as it were.

cracked-shellIt is only Thursday, and already this week I have, either directly or indirectly, been called ignorant, thin-skinned, dumb, uneducated, a freak, a f—ing liar, and more.  Now, admittedly I take a strong stand on certain issues, and pull few punches in my writing, so I expect a certain amount of rancor.  I have a pretty tough shell, but there is a straw that breaks even the sturdiest camel’s back, and I am increasingly disturbed by the extent to which some are allowing the rhetoric of this election drive their own behaviour.

At the end of the day on November 8th, long after the votes have been tallied and a winner declared, there will still be life on earth.  Our day-to-day routines will not change, we will still have our families to take care of, jobs to attend to, meals to cook and homes to clean.  We will still need our friends and neighbors.  But at the rate we are going, will we have friends left?  Make no mistake, this election is very important and it is understandable that people are vociferously defending the candidate of their choice.  But I think this can be done without name-calling, without slurs directed toward individuals.  If not then we are less humane than even I thought, and I tend to be cynical about human nature to begin with.

respect-1I know I am not alone in saying that I have lost friends over this election, friends whom I have known for years.  I can say ‘good riddance’, but my heart remains sad.  Are we truly such shallow beings that we are willing to directly insult others just to make our point?  Can we not find ways to explain why we support our candidate without calling the other person ‘stupid’?  Are we truly not the same people we were two years ago, or were these traits always there, merely lying dormant waiting for the right catalyst? If we cannot converse, cannot share ideas without being verbally assaulted, insulted, and screamed at, what does that say about us as human beings?

The ability to have a respectful, engaged, and informed conversation about politics is essential for a society that prizes the ideals of liberty and freedom. It was what the framers of the Constitution intended when they wrote the document to be short and understandable by farmers and tradesmen throughout the thirteen states.  But the conversations I see today, the screeching, name-calling, ugly talk is more reminiscent of 1930s Nazi Germany where neighbor turned on neighbor, friend on friend.

The candidates in this election, one in particular, appear to have ‘inspired’ Americans to act in this manner, to call people names, to insult others and hurt their feelings.  One of my great fears is that long after these candidates have left public office, long after you and I have left this earth, this attitude of cruelty and disrespect will remain, will, in fact, have become the norm.

I cherish my friends and family, and do not take them lightly.  That said, I have a greater need for self-respect than I do the respect of others. You do not have to agree with me for me to like you.  You do not have to vote as I do, like the same foods as I do, or even put your socks on the same way I do.  But the one thing you must do is treat me with respect, for when you call me ignorant, my self-respect will no longer allow me to be your friend.  It’s as simple as that.  And you know the funny thing about self-respect?  We each have to live with ourselves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We have to listen to ourselves, our consciences, at 2:00 a.m. when we cannot sleep, and we need to be able to like and trust ourselves all day, every day.  Others, we only have to deal with for short periods of time.  So in the long run, our self-respect is more important than whether others respect us or not.  Think about it.


An Update and a Question …

Good morning afternoon friends!  I have been meaning to give you this update for a week or so now, and I am also seeking your opinions on a question that has arisen this week …

The Update:

Some of you may have wondered just what became of Lisa Jensen and the project we were planning to engage in civil discourse about issues, starting with guns, gun regulation, etc.  Well, the project is temporarily on hold, but I hope to be able to jump start it soon.  Lisa and her husband are in the process of a major lifestyle change, you see.  They bought a sailboat, and are planning to live on the boat!  So, as she tells me, they are busy from sunup to sundown every day trying to divest themselves of a lifetime of detritus, as well as get their house ready to rent.  They will be sailing around in the Chesapeake Bay, and Lisa will be doing her work from ‘home’ (assuming she can get a WiFi signal).

It is quite a change, and she sounds excited and happy.  I am happy for her, though I don’t think it would be a move I would like, for I am a creature of routine, not very adventurous and am always a bit ‘off’ when my schedule or venue changes, even briefly.  Lisa assures me that she does still want to engage in our discussions and we have the beginnings of one started via email, but I don’t know quite when we will be able to proceed.

 The Question:

You may remember the post I did a few days ago about Jeff Amyx, the man who owns a hardware store and has a sign stating “No Gays Allowed” on his front door.  I have been engaged in a discussion with rawgod, who I can always trust to hold my feet to the fire when they need it, about the necessity or appropriateness of posts like this.  I have always thought it was important to bring people like this into the open, to shine a light on them and their bigotry, to show them to the world as they really are.  Rawgod, however, states his case …

“I am certainly all in favour of fighting bigotry, etc. But, IMO, while you are spreading the word of a bigot, you are also helping that bigot have his 15 minutes of fame. It’s just the other side of looking at the coin.”

I acknowledge that there is some truth to what he says … the ‘other side of the coin’, as it were … and yet I have mixed thoughts.  So, he suggested that I put the question to you all, and that is what I am doing.  What are your thoughts on this?  I know that I sometimes chastise the mainstream media for giving too much attention to people who thrive on that attention, and it seems to legitimize those people.  Am I doing the same?  Or do we need to keep these people out front for all to see?

I look forward to your opinions on this!

Now go forth and have a great rest-of-the-day!

Let’s Talk!

It’s hard to believe it has been nearly two weeks already since I wrote the post Give-and-Take.  That post was the experiment I tried in response to a challenge by Lisa Jensen writing as The Snarky Activist, where we each tried to find one good thing to say about Donald Trump.  My goal was to try to start a conversation between right and left, conservative and liberal, republican and democrat.  A conversation where we listen … actually listen to the other side, and respond with respect, yet without sacrificing our own views.  The post was enormously successful, beyond my wildest imaginings, and the feedback (140 comments) was beyond encouraging.  Lisa and I discussed it and decided to try to turn this into a multi-post, joint effort project.

civil-discourse.jpgOne thing we decided was that the conversation would be more meaningful if we limited it to a single topic at a time, and get everyone on the same page.  I suggested, and Lisa concurred, that we would put it to my readers to choose the topic.  I initially put together a list of about 30 topics, looked at it, set it aside, and then tonight I pulled it up and looked at it again and just shook my head and started cutting.  I narrowed the field to six of the ones I think are high priorities.  You will note that there is an elephant in the room.  I have intentionally NOT put issues related to guns on the list at this time.  The Santa Fe school shooting has, I think, left us all too raw for the moment and I fear we could not calmly discuss anything related to gun regulation.  I know I couldn’t … not yet.  Soon, however, I do want to open this topic, most specifically a ban on assault-style weapons.  But not just yet.

purpose of disagreementWe have had a lull in this project, partly because Lisa was on a business trip all last week, and I have been battling a respiratory infection all week.  But I don’t want to lose the momentum, so I hope that by mid-week, we can open a new discussion on the topic you guys choose.  Please select two choices from the following topics.  If there are other topics you would like us to discuss either now or in the future, please let me know in the comments.  I am thinking one discussion every 10 days or so, and the format is still being considered.  All ideas are welcome … you guys are part of this project too!!!

I’m looking forward to hearing your suggestions, and also to engaging with everybody, doing our small part to try to narrow the gap that is tearing this country apart.  Thanks to all for your interest, enthusiasm and participation!

Many, Many Thanks, Dear Friends!!!

Dear Friends and Readers …

I was truly amazed and thrilled by the interactions generated by the post “Give-and-Take”.  This, my friends, is what civil discourse looks like.  Nobody likely changed their minds, their opinions or their ideologies based on the discussion, but … we talked to each other respectfully and more importantly we listened to each other!  I thank you, Lisa Jensen, for bringing this idea to Filosofa’s Word, and I look forward to more interactions, more meaningful dialogues where, perhaps we don’t change our minds, but perhaps we at least begin to understand one another.  I am so chuffed, for this far exceeded my expectations when I first seized upon the idea.

And I thank you all, my wonderful friends and readers, for your participation, for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments, and your willingness to listen.  You guys are wonderful!

Lisa and I will be communicating about ways in which we might carry on with this sort of dialogue, and I will keep you all posted.  Imagine what this country might look like if everyone took part in these sort of dialogues, keeping an open mind, finding common ground, even if only small specks of it!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am still trying to read and respond to the comments, so please bear with me … I am old, slow, and somewhat over-extended in terms of time & energy at the moment, but I will respond to those I haven’t yet.

Love ‘n Hugs to all of you!

Civil-Discourse 1


Recently a new reader began following this blog, Lisa Jensen, blogging as The Snarky Activist.  Almost all of my readers lean toward the liberal-left, as do I, and none of us have a love of anything even remotely attributable to Donald Trump.  Lisa is different, in that she supports Trump and defends his policies.  For the past year, I have been hoping that somebody from the conservative-right, a Trump supporter, would join our conversations so that we could begin to understand, and perhaps be understood as well.  The few that did, were quickly shown the door because they could not seem to speak to us respectfully, but instead simply wanted to engage in name-calling and putting down our views without even listening.  I have no use for such and will not tolerate it.  But Lisa is different.  Her comments over the past several days have been well thought-out and respectful, and she has answered my questions regarding her views, and asked me questions as well.  This, folks, is how civil discourse works.  Lisa and I even found common ground … we both love wolves, and I suspect most other critters!

In a comment yesterday, Lisa gave us all a challenge:

Lisa-Jensen-2“I’ll leave you with this: Dems and Repubs won’t agree on everything but there has to be some give. I’d challenge you and your followers to find just ONE thing you can agree on that Trump has done for the betterment of America or the World. That of course means you have to accept he is instrumental in the good things that have happened. Be well today!”

Now, I gave this some thought and I would like us to try to rise to the challenge.  For most of my regular readers, as well as for myself, this will not be easy.  I strongly disapprove of nearly everything Donald Trump has done in his 15 months in office, and I can support my views with facts, as I frequently do.  But, admittedly, I have not looked to see if there was something … anything … he has done of which I could approve.  Since I would really like to try to gain some insight, some understanding, to do my very small part toward finding common ground, I would like to pick up the gauntlet that Lisa threw down for us and accept the challenge.  But I cannot do this alone, and I am asking you, dear friends, to join me in this.  I think that it can result in an educational experience for us all, and might even be fun.  But Lisa isn’t getting off the hook here, for I am laying down a gauntlet of my own, and asking her to find just ONE thing that President Obama did that was for the betterment of the U.S. or the World and should not be reversed.

None of us are likely to change our ideologies … there are significant differences between republicans and democrats, conservative-thinkers and liberal-thinkers.  But somewhere, we need to find a bit of middle ground, a place where we can at least respectfully ‘agree to disagree’. I hope at least some of you will help me out here, for I think we have an opportunity to engage in some meaningful discussion and perhaps, if nothing else, come to understand each other just a little better, find a small piece of common ground.

Thanks in advance to all who are willing to comment and participate in this experiment!

Note to Readers: I have purposely not answered comments on this post yet, for I wanted to give Lisa an opportunity to do so first, if she chose. However, she is currently dealing with a personal situation and it may be a day or two before she is able to get back to this. I will try to respond to comments on this post in the morning. Thanks to all who commented!!!

The New Normal …

We are all aware that class is not Donald Trump’s strong suit.  In fact, I think it’s a fair statement to say that the man has none at all.  But in today’s administration, there appear to be many more who have no class, no dignity, no sense of propriety.  Perhaps the ‘man’ at the top has set the tone for all, or perhaps it is simply that he has surrounded himself with people just like himself – crass and vulgar.McCain Holds Townhall Meeting In York, PennsylvaniaSenator John McCain is dying of a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer.  For his entire life, he has served his country well.  McCain is a genuine American hero – one who fought and suffered for his country in the theater of war and has dedicated the better part of the last four decades of his life to public service as a House member, a senator and a two-time presidential candidate.  He is not a man who deserves to be derided, and this certainly is not the time for derision.

McCain has not been able to return to Washington for several months, but nonetheless on Wednesday, he felt compelled to issue a statement calling on his fellow-senators to reject Trump’s nominee for Director of the CIA, Gina Haspel.  Haspel, as an undercover operative, was directly responsible for much of the torture that took place in the years following 9/11, and during her confirmation hearings, she refused to admit that such torture methods are inhumane and morally wrong.   McCain was captured, held and tortured for years (1967-1973) during the Vietnam War.mccain-pow

“However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”

The next day, special assistant Kelly Sadler made the derisive comments during a closed-door White House meeting of about two-dozen communications staffers.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”

Ms. Sadler wasn’t the only one who had something snide and rude to say.  Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, appearing on a Fox Business program, said …

“Well she can’t use it anymore because we have determined in Congress that it’s not legal. The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John,’”

McInerney’s comment is false.

McCain has already begun planning his funeral and has requested both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush to give eulogies, but has indicated that he does not wish Donald Trump to be at his funeral.  This is understandable in light of an ongoing contentious relationship between the two, starting in 2016 during the presidential campaign when Trump claimed that in his book, McCain was not a hero because he was captured.  I would not, under any circumstances, want Trump within 5,000 miles of my funeral!  But Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had to say …

“I think that’s ridiculous. He’s the President of the United States. He’s a very good man. But it’s up to John. I think John should have his wishes fulfilled with regard to who attends his funeral.”

A ‘good man’?  Seriously???  I think not.

I concur fully with former Vice President Joe Biden, who said …

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday. Given this White House’s trail of disrespect toward John and others, this staffer is not the exception to the rule; she is the epitome of it.”

And there were others who shared his outrage:

“Our nation should be grateful for the exemplary service and sacrifice of [McCain], and treat this war hero and his family with the civility and respect they deserve.” – Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa

“It’s a sad day in this country when White House officials are mocking a man who was tortured as a prisoner of war. He’s more than earned the right to speak out on these matters. A public apology should be issued immediately.” – Representative Walter Jones, North Carolina

“Whatever one’s differences with John, he’s a patriot who has served our nation selflessly and honorably and deserves our respect.” – Senator Jerry Moran, Kansas

“Look, John McCain is a hero. No two ways about it. John McCain, I mean he gave his entire adult life for this country. John McCain fought for us in Vietnam, was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, came home and dedicated his life to public service. His vocation in life was making life better for people and better for the country. There are so many accolades I could heap on a John McCain.” – Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan

“I spend a lot of time trashing politicians. This [John McCain]  is about the one I’ve admired above all others over the last quarter century.” – Dana Milbank, OpEd columnist, The Washington Post

mccain-2There have been many times that I disagreed with John McCain’s position on certain issues, but he has, I have always believed, had the best interest of the nation and the people in mind.  I have never heard him speak disrespectfully to anyone.  I have the utmost respect for this man.  Perhaps he is among the last of a dying breed, people who believe in dignity, in civil discourse, and in respect for others.  I’m sorry to say that those things have gone by the wayside in our government since January 20, 2017.

The Congressional Bubble …

More than once I have bemoaned the lack of our ability in this, the Trumpian era, to have civil discourse, to discuss issues calmly, reasonably, and with mutual respect. I have a couple of friends and an occasional reader with whom an exchange of ideas without rancor is possible, but overall, I find that the divide between Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative, is simply too wide and issues too fraught with emotion on both sides for meaningful conversation that might begin to build a bridge between right and left.  I’ve long wondered why, and it is one of the great questions of life about which I ponder when my head hits the pillow at night.  I think I have hit on the answer …

Our very ‘leaders’, those we have shown enough respect to support with our votes, our work to help them get elected, and our campaign contributions, are driving the wedge ever deeper between the two sides and seem to have an agenda for doing so.  Take, for example, Representative Mary Franson, a Minnesotan Republican.  A group of high school students very respectfully reached out to this woman to request a meeting in order to express their concerns and give her an opportunity to explain her stances to them.  Here is how it went down …

In a tweet from a group of students at Alexandria Area High School

“We’ve made some calls to your office, and haven’t recieved [sic] a response, but as politically active, community centered students we’d love to have a meeting with you soon to address our concerns, and have a respectful productive talk.”

The group went on to propose a meeting at Franson’s official legislative office.

“I don’t meet with partisan groups in my office — besides, isn’t your group actively campaigning against me? One of your members is soliciting funds for my opponent.”

The student group responded …

“Just because we are of different parties doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet and talk out our differences. We actually think that’s necessary, regardless of what campaign some of our members are on! We are constituents who have concerns.”

And Hanson’s curt reply …

“AAHS Dems is a partisan group. Thanks for playing.”

FransonIs it the case, then, that our elected officials believe they represent only the ones who voted for them?  In my book, this is unconscionable behavior for more reasons than one.  First is the obvious, that while I may not have voted for a specific public servant, as a taxpayer, I am still paying his/her salary, therefore I am still his/her employer.  They represent all of the people, not only the ones who voted them into office! Second, how are we to ever understand the reason behind the choices and decisions of our elected representatives if they refuse to speak to us?  There is little benefit to speaking only to those who already agree with them.

Apparently I am not alone in my thinking, as Franson came under intense criticism for her treatment of the student group.  Franson shut down her official Twitter account over the weekend and claimed there was some legal reason that she was unable to meet with the group, as they are minors and it would appear to be ‘bullying’. But the founder of the student group, Jack Ballou, disputes any such notion:

“I was in the high school page program at the state House and I was able to meet with her one on one, and I was a minor back then. We’re still constituents and I’m not sure what legal issue would arise.”

Since then, Franson has blocked every member of the high school group from her Twitter account! The bottom line, it would appear, is that Franson simply does not wish to be called to answer the questions, to be forced to account for her actions as an elected official.  This is a blow to the democratic process in no uncertain terms.  And it certainly sends the wrong message to these young students who are becoming politically aware and who are trying to understand, trying to take their place in the process as informed and involved citizens.

Increasingly this year, members of Congress have been unwilling to hold their usual Town Hall meetings when they return to their home states, and there are other reports of those who have refused to meet with citizens’ groups.  They are hearing the voices of only those who agree with them, and as long as they continue receiving their pats on the head from Trump and from their mega-donors, they are content.

Town Hall meetings are the people’s opportunity to meet with their elected representatives, to ask questions, and to make their voices heard.  Yet in August, The Washington Post reported that less than a third of representatives held the traditional meetings during their month-long break.  With so much unpopular legislation in the works, wouldn’t it have made sense for them to reach out to us, to try to explain why they were voting as they were, and to listen to our concerns? Instead, they are operating in a bubble that isolates them from the voices of the very people they have sworn to represent.

Why do our elected representatives not wish to have a two-way dialogue with us?  They have voted to strip us of affordable healthcare, to bring about the ruination of our environment, and to increase our taxes while reducing our benefits, in order to cut taxes on the wealthy.  Surely they are aware that We The People are not happy, and apparently they do not wish to discuss it with us.  Could it be they feel guilty, or do they simply believe that they should not be held accountable to the very people who elected them, who gave them their jobs?

This is not the way a democracy works, or at least not the way it is supposed to work.  We write letters and emails, we call and leave messages, but there is no two-way dialogue.  In fact, we do not know whether our letters were read, our voice mails heard. I ask you, readers, how do we force our way through their bubble … and do so civilly, without violence?  Truly, I do not know the answer, but I do know that those who will not even speak to us and listen to us in return should not be re-elected next year, for they are not doing their jobs, they are not representing We The People.