You Catch More Flies …

My mother had an expression I heard often as a child:  “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  As a child, it made no sense to me, for who wants to catch flies anyway?  However, as I grew older, it came to make a great deal of sense, although I don’t always heed the wisdom.  In 2017, I wrote a post about a man named Daryl Davis , a Black man who reached out to KKK members, who won over people with dialogue, compassion, and understanding rather than fighting hate with hate.  This morning, I came across another such story, one of a man filled with hate who learned to love instead, thanks to a group of Muslims in Muncie, Indiana.


A stranger planned to bomb my mosque. He became a member instead.

By Bibi Bahrami

25 January 2023

Several years ago, an unfamiliar man showed up at my little mosque, a squat brick building on the side of a four-lane highway in Muncie, Ind. He had a large U.S. Marine Corps logo and a sketch of a small skull with a lightning bolt tattooed on his right arm. His face was flush, he barely made eye contact, and his fists were clenched. He seemed angry.

Naturally, we saw potential danger. In these days of intense cultural division, hatred against Muslims is palpable, and our places of worship have been the targets of terrible crimes. But we also sensed vulnerability in this stranger. My husband, an Afghan refugee and a gentle physician, welcomed the man with a heartfelt hug. Later, I sat alone with him in our mosque library — to share a smile and ask his name, to offer comfort and show him respect.

Why, you might ask, would I put myself in this position? When I was a young girl growing up in Afghanistan, I met troubled men like this at the homeless shelter run by my father. And when I fled the war in Afghanistan to a refugee camp in Pakistan as a teenager, I cared for many needy people. I have always believed in the idea that we must welcome the stranger, the person in need. And that if we search for common ground with all those we meet, we will discover our shared humanity, and we will all be better for it.

As the stranger and I sat on a green vinyl couch, surrounded by leather-bound books, he finally started to make eye contact. I learned that his name was Richard “Mac” McKinney, that he had served 25 years in the military, and that he had a wife and daughter. Over the next few weeks, Mac began making regular visits to the mosque, joining us for meals and sharing stories about his family and his time in the military.

I continually looked for ways to help him feel valued by entrusting him with responsibilities around the mosque: leading meetings, participating in prayers, even standing by the door as our resident security guard. I could tell this gave him a sense of purpose. Not long after that, he joined our community of about 200 by becoming a member of the mosque.

It wasn’t until months later that I heard unsettling rumors. Some congregants claimed they’d heard that when Mac first came to the mosque, he was on a reconnaissance mission. That he’d built a bomb to blow up the mosque and murder us.

I knew immediately what I needed to do. I invited Mac to my house for a meal of traditional Afghan food: homemade bread, chicken, kebabs, rice, eggplant, a green yogurt dip seasoned with cilantro and lime. He devoured the food. When he was done, I looked him in the eye.

“Is it true, Richard?” I asked. “Were you planning to kill us?”

He looked down. He was ashamed but answered honestly. He confessed that when he had first arrived at the mosque, he had planned to murder us by blowing up the building with an IED he had built himself.

“What were you thinking, Brother Richard?”

He explained that in the military, he had been at war with Muslims for years, and that he had developed a deep hatred in his heart. But he went on to say that the way we had treated him, with compassion and kindness, had changed his mind. He said we had given him a place to belong. We had shown him what true humanity is about.

From left, Richard “Mac” McKinney, Jomo Williams, Saber Bahrami and Bibi Bahrami. (David Herbert)

Of course, these stories don’t always go this way. In 2015, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., Dylann Roof entered a Bible study as a seemingly curious participant but quickly transformed into a terrifying mass murderer, killing nine church members. Events like this are horrifying. But I refuse to give up hope.

We live in a time in which people have stopped talking to those who don’t share their views. It’s easy to despair. But I believe that if we continue down this road, we will never understand one another, never find our shared humanity, never have peace. If we truly want to heal our society, we need to find forgiveness in our hearts.

That’s why, in the end, our community chose to forgive Richard and allow him to remain. In fact, he not only stayed with us but also became president of our little brick mosque on the edge of the highway.

I realize that not everyone will be faced with a situation as extreme as ours. But today, tomorrow or next week, you might meet a stranger, someone who looks or thinks differently from you. It might be easy to ignore this person, to look the other way. Instead, I challenge you to smile. Ask their name. Learn a little about them. You might be surprised at what can happen.

Good People Doing Good Things — Here & There

Helping Ukrainian refugees

Brian and Sharon Holowaychuks live on Vancouver Island in Canada.  Brian’s grandparents came to Canada from Ukraine, so as you can imagine, the Russian invasion of that nation has been very personal for the couple.  Well … they decided to do something to help.  The Holowaychuks are converting their 15,000-square-foot resort property into a Ukrainian refugee home, called the Ukrainian Safe Haven.  Says Brian …

“We’re in a position, in a place, in a time where we could help make a bit of a difference. And I thought, you know, it’s time to stand up and be counted.”

The Holowaychuks bought the resort in East Sooke, known as the Grouse Nest, last year. It sits on a 33-hectare (about 81.5 acres) property surrounded by trees, wildlife and overlooking the ocean waterfront.

Originally, they were going to convert it into an art gallery and events centre, which they’d already started remodeling to do. But Brian said those plans can now wait.

“I’m calling the plumber saying ‘Okay, all that stuff we took out, we gotta put it all back’.”

Brian hopes that for Ukrainians coming to Canada they can find the Ukrainian Safe Haven as a place to rest and feel safe and that they can stay as long as they need to.

So far, the local community has shown a flood of support for the project, with volunteers and supporters coming in to help or donate, Brian said. Stewart Johnston, a Victoria-based lawyer, decided he wanted to help out by registering the project as a non-profit at no cost …

“This is an extremely important cause and I’m really impressed with what they’re doing to help. I wanted to help out.”

With help from volunteers, they’ve completed enough of their remodeling to host the refugees who should be arriving within the month.


A young person with a heart of gold

Maria Balboa is a college student who also works as a bagger at the H-E-B in Corpus Christi, Texas.  On Monday, April 4th, she was bagging for a woman who had two little boys with her. When it was time to pay, Maria said the woman only had $19 left on her SNAP card and couldn’t afford the rest of the total.

“She was going to put back the groceries instead of a couple of items that she needed for dinner that night. I asked the cashier what the remaining total was and she said it was $137. Immediately I heard a voice inside my head saying, ‘pay for the groceries’. I stopped to think for a second but then I heard again, ‘Pay for the groceries Maria!'”

The woman tried to refuse the generous offer but Maria insisted. She paid the bill.

“$137 was quite a bit of money for me that day, but still I knew that I would get it back on payday and maybe she wouldn’t.”

On her next shift, Maria was called into the manager’s office. She thought she was in trouble.  It turns out the woman whose groceries she paid for filled out a survey …

In the survey, the woman explained her financial struggles. She is providing for her two grandchildren on her own and working a low-paying job to keep the siblings out of foster care.

“I was ashamed not having enough money and she insisted to pay for them. Today she made me cry but happy tears. Thank you from the heart for [your] kindness. My grandkids and I have managed to pull through since January it’s been very tough but God put this young lady at the bagging area for us. I wish I could have gotten her name.”

Maria said she was brought to tears from the kind words.  The store’s manager, Mark Moeller, ended up reimbursing Maria for her good deed. She also received a goody basket with groceries.


Lending humans???

I found the concept behind the following story intriguing and wondered if this might not be one way we humans could better understand each other.  It’s called the Human Library and it’s located in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Instead of reading a book, you spend 30 minutes learning about the person, or the “human book”.  The goal of the Human Library Organization is to address people’s prejudices by helping them to talk to those they would not normally meet or speak with.

“The Human Library Organization is a global movement working to build spaces in the community for personal dialogue about issues that are often difficult, challenging and stigmatizing.”

The Human Library was created by Ronni Abergel, a Danish human rights activist and journalist who became interested in non-violence activism after a friend he describes as a “troubled youth” survived a stabbing in Copenhagen. He wondered if a human library could bring people together peacefully like a traditional one.  He launched the first Human Library at the Roskilde Festival in Copenhagen in 2000. It ran for four days with eight hours of conversations each day. More than 1,000 people took part.

The next Human Library was hosted in Oslo, Norway, by Abergel for the Nordic Minister Councils youth assembly. The first permanent Human Library was established in Lismore, Australia, in 2006. As of 2022, the project has grown to have partners in more than 80 countries across the world. Most happen as events, although there are a few permanent Human Libraries.

Check out their website   … I’ll be curious to get your take on this one.  I see it as maybe a way for people of different backgrounds, religious beliefs, gender identification, and more to learn about others, people who aren’t just like them.  It may be a way of promoting understanding, something along the lines of what Daryl Davis did when he opened lines of communications with members of the KKK and converted many.

Daryl Davis Is Still Going Strong

In 2017, Keith and I both wrote about a man named Daryl Davis, a Black man who is doing more than his share to help white supremacists stop being white supremacists, one at a time.  If you’re interested, here are links to Keith’s post and mine.  Last weekend, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristof’s column looked to Davis and his technique in hopes of taking a page from Davis’ playbook to find ways to deal with people on the other side of the many divisive issues we are confronted with today. I think it is well worth considering …


‘How Can You Hate Me When You Don’t Even Know Me?’

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

One of the questions I’m asked most is: How do I talk to those on the other side of America’s political and cultural abyss? What can I say to my brother/aunt/friend who thinks Joe Biden is a socialist with dementia who stole the election?

I’ve wondered about persuasion strategies, too, because I have friends who have their pro-Trump or anti-vaccine biases validated every evening by Tucker Carlson. So I reached out to an expert at changing minds.

Daryl Davis, 63, is a Black musician with an unusual calling: He hangs out with Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis and chips away at their racism. He has evidence of great success: a collection of K.K.K. robes and hoods given him by people whom he persuaded to abandon the Klan.

His odyssey arose from curiosity about racism, including about an attack he suffered. When Davis was 10 years old, he says, a group of white people hurled bottles, soda cans and rocks at him.

“I was incredulous,” Davis recalled. “My 10-year-old brain could not process the idea that someone who had never seen me, who had never spoken to me, who knew nothing about me, would want to inflict pain upon me for no other reason than the color of my skin.”

“How can you hate me,” he remembers wondering, “when you don’t even know me?”

Davis began to work on answers after he graduated from Howard University and joined a band that sometimes played in a Maryland bar that attracted white racists. Davis struck up a friendship with a K.K.K. member, each fascinated by the other, and the man eventually left the K.K.K., Davis said.

One of Davis’s methods — and there’s research from social psychology to confirm the effectiveness of this approach — is not to confront antagonists and denounce their bigotry but rather to start in listening mode. Once people feel they are being listened to, he says, it is easier to plant a seed of doubt.

In one case, Davis said, he listened as a K.K.K. district leader brought up crime by African Americans and told him that Black people are genetically wired to be violent. Davis responded by acknowledging that many crimes are committed by Black people but then noted that almost all well-known serial killers have been white and mused that white people must have a gene to be serial killers.

When the K.K.K. leader sputtered that this was ridiculous, Davis agreed: It’s silly to say that white people are predisposed to be serial killers, just as it’s ridiculous to say that Black people have crime genes.

The man went silent, Davis said, and about five months later quit the K.K.K.

Davis claims to have persuaded some 200 white supremacists to leave the Klan and other extremist groups. It’s impossible to confirm that number, but his work has been well documented for decades in articles, videos, books and a TED Talk. He also has a podcast called “Changing Minds With Daryl Davis.”

“Daryl saved my life,” said Scott Shepherd, a former grand dragon of the K.K.K. “Daryl extended his hand and actually just extended his heart, too, and we became brothers.” Shepherd ended up leaving the Klan and gave his robes to Davis.

Davis’s approach seems out of step with modern sensibilities. Today the more common impulse is to decry from a distance.

The preference for safe spaces over dialogue arises in part from a reasonable concern that engaging extremists legitimizes them. In any case, society can hardly ask Black people to reach out to racists, gay people to sit down with homophobes, immigrants to win over xenophobes, women to try to reform misogynists, and so on. Victims of discrimination have endured enough without being called upon to redeem their tormentors.

Yet I do think that we Americans don’t engage enough with people we fundamentally disagree with. There’s something to be said for the basic Davis inclination toward dialogue even with unreasonable antagonists. If we’re all stuck in the same boat, we should talk to each other.

“Daryl Davis demonstrates that talking face-to-face with your ideological opponents can motivate them to rethink their views,” said Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “He’s an extraordinary example of what psychologists have repeatedly shown with evidence: In over 500 studies, interacting face-to-face with an out-group reduced prejudice 94 percent of the time.

“You won’t get through to people until you’ve earned their trust,” Grant added. “You’re not likely to earn their trust until you’ve met them face-to-face and listened to their stories.”

There’s a reason we try to solve even intractable wars by getting the parties to sit in the same room: It beats war. If we believe in engagement with North Koreans and Iranians, then why not with fellow Americans?

At a time when America is so polarized and political space is so toxic, we, of course, have to stand up for what we think is right. But it may also help to sit down with those we believe are wrong.

“If I can sit down and talk to K.K.K. members and neo-Nazis and get them to give me their robes and hoods and swastika flags and all that kind of crazy stuff,” Davis said, “there’s no reason why somebody can’t sit down at a dinner table and talk to their family member.”

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.

She looked the hater in the eyes

There is a right way and a wrong way to make a point … our friend Keith writes of a young woman who made her point the right way … take a look! Thanks, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

Peaceful protests are happening in huge numbers around the country regarding Black Lives Matter. There is danger from both the COVID-19 virus as well as counter protestors. From what I have seen, most of the protestors are wearing masks and they are outside, but they still need to be very careful.

As for the other risk of counter protestors, here is what one young black woman named Samantha Francine did. Her actions are captured in an article written by Asta Bowen in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on June 10 called “Looking hate in the eye in Whitefish.” Here are few paragraphs. A link to the article is below.

“What happened here was much less dramatic. On a fine afternoon in the pretty ski town of Whitefish, a group was gathered to raise signs of support for Black Lives Matter. One large, angry man descended on the scene, cursing…

View original post 462 more words

Discord & Dissension — Part III — Where Do We Go From Here?

Where do we go from here?

Last week Jeff did a marvelous job explaining much of what has led us to where we are today, a place I call The Great Divide.  This nation is divided more than at any other time since the end of the Civil War in 1865.  The divide is complex … not just white vs non-white, but Christian vs women, LGBTQ, & non-Christian, even once again male vs female.  And perhaps most notably, conservative vs liberal.  Those who are for smaller governments with fewer powers, for unlimited wealth, for uber-capitalism, versus those whose values are all about people, about using tax monies to help those in need, to reduce the ever-widening income disparity, to educate the nation’s youth, to provide such things as health care, housing and food for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Trump was able to rise to power largely because of those divisions.  He played them, he pitted one against the other, he instilled in his supporters a ‘fear of other’.  Since 9/11, people in this nation have worked to quell their fear of Middle-Easterners, and then along came Trump and fanned the flames of fear.

Today we stand at a crossroads, a place where we must decide to either accept the rifts, to allow a madman to divide and conquer, or to move past the things that divide us and search for common ground, to find ways to heal this nation.

So, Jeff answered the question, “How did we get here?”, and I must attempt to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  My inclination is to answer with three words:  to the polls.  But, while that is obviously the short answer, there must be more.  We must find ways to reach out to that 40% I mentioned in our introduction two weeks ago … the 40% who did not bother to vote in 2016.  We must find ways to remind ourselves that we are all in this together and that if we don’t make some serious changes, we will all go down … together.

To those of us who are displeased with the corruption, greed, and lack of integrity in Trump’s administration, it is clear that we must vote him out of office.  No doubts there.  But, my friends, that is not the end of it, for Trump is not the entirety of the problem.  I have long said, and I still believe, that Trump is but a symbol of a greater problem.  Some 40% of the people in this country still, despite massive corruption and ineptitude among Trump and his cohorts, support him.  Even if Trump leaves the White House on January 20th 2021, those 40% are still out there, and they are going to be mightily displeased.

So, the problem is multi-fold.  First, we need to vote Trump out of office, for it is the opinion of this writer that he presents, as our friend Keith has often said, a clear and present danger to the future of this nation.  But then what?  How do we heal the ‘great divide’?  How do we find a middle ground, some common cause?  When I was doing graduate work back in the 1980s, one of my jobs was as a research assistant for a professor of Political Science, Joe Scolnick.  At the time, Joe was writing a paper on conflict management, and I well remember the theme.  According to his research, when the people of a nation are so seriously divided, often a threat from outside the nation is the only thing that will bring them together.

In our lifetime, we have seen how this works, albeit briefly.  Remember in the days and weeks following 11 September 2001, aka 9/11?  New Yorkers, notorious for their callousness and stand-offish personas (which is somewhat of a myth anyway) came together, they helped their neighbors, they volunteered both time and resources.  All around the nation, people were kinder, more human.  It didn’t last for long, but it was there … it was palpable.

I experienced this on a personal level.  I live in a neighborhood that is comprised of about 30% Middle-Eastern refugees.  They are all truly wonderful people, generous to a fault, kind and caring.  A couple of days after 9/11, a woman from down the street, a Pakistani woman, brought me flowers, a card, and said that she just wanted me to know how sorry she was.

But back to my point.  Governments have, at some points throughout history, created an external threat to bring about internal cohesion.  Think about that one for a minute.  Do we really need to have a threat from outside, whether real or perceived, to bring the people of this country together for the common good?  I don’t think so, but if we don’t find ways to heal ourselves, we leave ourselves open to that very real possibility.

I like to think there are more things that we have in common than there are things that divide us, though sometimes it certainly doesn’t seem that way.  For one thing, we are all humans with shared needs of family, food, clothing, shelter, jobs, friends … and love.  This is our country, our home.  All of those are basic human needs, far more substantial and important than the things that divide us.  Among those things that divide us, I think there are three that rank at the top of the list:  religious beliefs, income disparity, and bigotry.

So, our first goal must be the November elections, not only the presidential, but also the congressional and gubernatorial elections.  And, in the interest of staying focused, keeping our eye on that ball, we will focus most of our attention in this project toward that end, but keep in the back of your mind, that the problem does not end when Donald Trump walks out of the White House.

Now, beyond going to the polls on November 3rd, we have other things we need to do.

Every day, states are working on ways to disenfranchise minority and lower income voters.  Some of their tools are gerrymandering, voter ID laws, closing or reducing the hours of polling stations, purging voter registration rolls, making registration harder, and the list goes on.  Most of this we have little voice in, but there are things we can do.  The most important thing, I think, is … talk.  We need to work toward convincing people how imperative it is for them to vote.  And, we need to have conversations about the reasons Trump must be voted out of office.  This is the tough one, folks, but … we have been going about it all wrong, I think.  A few of you may remember my post from August 2017 about Daryl Davis,  a black man who befriended members of the KKK by listening to them, talking to them, reasoning with them, and had convinced more than 200 KKK members to lay down their robes.  He didn’t call them names, didn’t belittle them … he tried to understand them, and to help them to understand him.  This, I think, is the approach we must take, this is how we will help some Trump supporters understand what it is we want for this nation.

We have our work cut out for us, my friends.  There are just under 10 months until election day, just 286 days.  Right now, if I had to lay odds, I would say that if the election were held tomorrow, Donald Trump would get another 4-year term, for he has played the victim card on the impeachment issue, and played it well.  His fan base are typically single-issue voters, and the two most important issues to them are immigration and religious ‘rights’, including an abortion ban.  Let’s put our heads together, let’s try to find common ground with those who view the world through a different lens than we do.  In the long run, it will be worth our effort.

*Note to Readers:  This project will be ongoing for … some time, we’re not sure how long yet, but we would like to keep up the momentum through election day, at least.  In keeping with that, we will cover various topics once a week for (with an occasional break) the next ten months, including how to motivate voters, the lifetime appointments of the judiciary, where we go from here, the role of the U.S. in the larger, global world, and more.  After the Democratic National Convention, when there is a final Democratic nominee, we will move more into the area of platforms and ideologies.  We hope you’re enjoying this project as much as we are and really would welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have.


Table of Contents to Project Discord & Dissension

Discord & Dissension — Part I — Introduction

Discord & Dissension – Part ll – “How did we get here? – Part 1”  

Discord & Dissension – Part ll – “How did we get here? – Part 2”

A Renewed Call For Hate???

I was working on an environmental post when this headline crossed my radar … TWICE!

Editor of Alabama newspaper calls for the Ku Klux Klan to ‘night ride again’

Say WHAT???  And then again …

Alabama newspaper editor calls on KKK to lynch Democrats

Deep breathes … in … out … in … out …

WHAT the Sam HELL is wrong with these damn people???Goodloe SuttonThe editor is Goodloe Sutton and the newspaper is the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama.  He said Democrats were going to raise taxes and that the KKK should hang them and raid Washington DC.  This, my friends, is the depth to which this nation has sunk.

“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again. Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama… This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple-minded people. Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there.”kkk-article.jpg

Asked to elaborate what he meant by “cleaning up D.C.,” Sutton suggested lynching.

“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.

When asked if he felt it was appropriate for the publisher of a newspaper to call for the lynching of Americans, Sutton doubled down on his position.

“… It’s not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we’re talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?”

When asked if he recognized the KKK as a racist and violent organization, Sutton disagreed, comparing the Klan to the NAACP.

“A violent organization? Well, they didn’t kill but a few people. The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”

Say WHAT???  What planet does this man hail from???  Sutton is 79-years-old and surely remembers the dark days before the Civil Rights movement?  But wait … he said they “didn’t kill but a few people” … perhaps he doesn’t consider African-Americans to be ‘people’?

Sutton and his paper haven’t always been on the wrong side …

  • Sutton and the newspaper received national acclaim in the 1990s for their reporting on a corrupt local sheriff. Sutton and his wife, Jane, reported a series of stories of misused funds and abuse of power.
  • The New York Times in 1998 reported Sutton and the Democrat-Reporter lost advertising dollars and subscribers over their reporting.
  • In 2007, Sutton was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Communication Hall of Fame for the couple’s anti-corruption articles and editorials.

After his aforementioned editorial, the University of Southern Mississippi appropriately removed him from the Hall of Fame, saying …

“Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments. The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication. Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.”

A bit late, I think.  A few of the paper’s past headlines …

  • Homosexuals take black spotlight
  • Slavery was a good lesson for Jews
  • Selma black thugs murder Demopolite Saturday night

Some days I wonder if perhaps we should have just let the South secede?

But to the point …

My friends … this is what is happening today in our nation.  Now, some people will say that the United States, or ‘America’, was once the greatest nation on earth.  Not so, but still, it was pretty good.  We overcame many of our stumbling blocks, we were learning to be kind, to be tolerant, to accept people for what they were, the good the bad and the ugly, so to speak.

I could go back to the origins of the hate and divisiveness we see today, but I’ve said it all before and what’s the point?  Better, I think, to look ahead and discuss the damage that is being done today by the likes of Goodloe Sutton, David Duke, Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer, and ask ourselves how we fix this.  How do we put paid to this “Us” vs “Them” mentality?  Quite honestly, the combination of this hatred and the open gun culture in this nation is lethal.

Daryl-Davis

Daryl Davis (left) with Klansman

A few people have made inroads, most notably Daryl Davis, the man I wrote about in August 2017 who for the past 30 years has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan, forming friendships and listening as well as talking. He had, as of my original post, convinced some 200 klansmen to give up their robes.    Two hundred out of approximately 248 million adults in the U.S. may not sound like much, but it’s a start.

Remember back in May/June of last year, when I tried a project involving Lisa Jensen of The Snarky Activist, where we shared opinions, ideas, and tried to find common ground?  It went well for a bit, but then Lisa had some personal issues, needed some time, and it just sort of fizzled.  I think I will get in touch with her this week and see if she has any interest in picking it up again.  And then there was my friend Brian who was willing to participate for a time, but last time I sent him a message, he didn’t respond.  Perhaps I will try again.

We cannot legislate kindness and understanding, so I think it is up to us, the average citizen both republican and democrat, religious and non-religious, black and white, to start the conversation, for the only answer I can see begins with two things:  communication and kindness, being a role model.  I have a short fuse these days, as I’m sure many of you do, but perhaps we need to tamp down our tempers and act more kindly toward other humans, share more smiles, give more hugs.

And with that, I put the ball in your court, dear readers.  Does anybody have any ideas how we can begin to make a difference in our own little corners of the world?  Does anybody have a friend who might be interested in participating in another series of ‘give-and-take’ posts?  February 17th was National Acts of Random Kindness Day.  Maybe the answer starts with making every day a day in which we do a random act of kindness.  I don’t know the answer, but we simply must combat the sort of hate that allows a newspaper editor to call for a resurgence of the KKK night riders to murder democrats!  This cannot go unnoticed or be ignored!


About an hour after I thought I had finished this post, breaking news crossed my radar about a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and white supremacist, Christopher Paul Hasson, who was found with a cache of weapons and ammunition and documents stating …

“I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.”  

Stay tuned …

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

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 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 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?

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 today.

I cannot include the entire interview with Mr. Davis here, but it is well worth the 7 minutes to listen.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/544861933/544891980

Conversely, you can read the interview transcript if you prefer.

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.