Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Power Undeserved

It has occurred to me that power comes in all manner of disguises.  The President of the United States is the most powerful person in this country and, perhaps, even the world.  This would be an example of earned power.  How much it is deserved, especially to the rest of the world, is debatable, but there it is.  No arguing with the truth of it.

There is the power of parents over children, police officers over citizens, the written word of the law over all of us.  There is the power of education, an earned and deserved power to change lives.  There is the power of money – sometimes earned, sometimes not.

But there is one kind of power which has been extant in the United States since its founding. It accrues to the holder through DNA at birth. It is a power that is unearned.  It is a power that is undeserved.  And it is a power that should never be exercised except in an effort to neutralize it.  And yet, throughout the history of this nation, it has been used as a whip to demoralize, humble, cow, silence, frighten, and otherwise control those without it.  Sometimes it is used to take the lives of those without it.

I’m speaking, of course, of the power that comes to every White baby the day he/she is born.  How this power will be used – if it is used at all – will depend upon the upbringing the baby experiences at the hands of parents who are certainly aware that it exists.  We all know how this has worked out during our short 200+ year history.

“Whites Only!”
“No Coloreds Allowed!”

Even young children have been aware of this power. 
As a very young girl, I was aware of it as I put my dime in and watched it catapult down to the bottom of the little glass box on the city bus and then turned to choose any seat I wanted.  From that seat I watched old black men and women enter and move to the back to take the least prestigious seats into which they would lower work-weary bodies to rest aching bones and feet.

I, a 10-year-old girl who had accomplished absolutely nothing – who had contributed absolutely nothing – could enter by the front passenger door and could elect to sit anywhere at all – because my skin was white.  And, as surprising as it seems, I was not unaware of this.  I knew I had that power.  And I knew it was wrong.  I knew it and I was embarrassed by it.  And, if a 10-year-old can be said to be ashamed of something they had no part in creating, I was ashamed of it.

Those were the days when a person with black skin could not talk back to one with white skin without risking a beating – the loss of a job (which was most likely shamefully underpaid) – and, sometimes, even death.

We have come a long way since those days – but we have not come the whole way.  Not even close.
Today people stand on the border and scream at little dark-skinned children to go home – back to where they came from – We’ve got ours – F-You!  We don’t want you here!  And they screw up their faces into incredibly ugly masks of hate and hold up their misspelled signs all the while believing themselves to be superior.  These are the people on the left side of the photo below.  The ones on the right side were screaming obscenities at a young black girl for the unforgivable crime of wanting to go to school.

Today a black man exercising his right to open-carry a weapon (in states stupid enough to pass such laws) is stopped at gunpoint by police and forced to the ground while a half-dozen police cars come to the scene with lights flashing.

Across town (figuratively) an entire group of white “boys” with rifles slung over their shoulders are approached by a police officer who is laughing and joking with them about “you boys out here scaring people again?”

Latin American boys win a contest within which they built a robot that, shockingly, took a victory from a group of moneyed, privileged boys from MIT.  Later, you find the boys from MIT all have cushy jobs while the young Latin American boys can’t find the money to further their educations – and no job offers were forthcoming – so they turned to cooking, mechanics, whatever they could find.

There is power in the color of white skin.  Unearned power.  Undeserved power.   Power that should NEVER exist.  And certainly power that should NEVER be used for anything but setting things right - fighting for equality for all people until that undeserved and unearned power no longer exists at all.

Thanks for your time.

~ AngelMay ~

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Fourth-of-July Rant

What is it with the Pledge of Allegiance, anyway?  Why can't adults congregate in any capacity without everyone being asked to stand, place hands over hearts, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag?  Yet again.  As though they haven't pledged eighty-two thousand, four hundred, and ninety-seven times already?  Even naturalized citizens are only asked to swear an oath to the nation once.  We take them at their word the first time.  The Pledge of Allegiance is the only oath we are expected to take repeatedly.

Somehow, no one believes we meant it the last time we recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  No.  We have to repeat it - ad infinitum/ad nauseum - to prove our loyalty to this piece of cloth.   Democrats and Republicans alike stand at every meeting and recite it - as though terrified someone from the other party might be watching through the windows and will report our lack of patriotism in the local newspapers if we fail to, once again, mindlessly recite the words.

We've said the words so many times they don't even have meaning any longer.  We've recited it until we've cheapened it.  We've made it some kind of religious chant.  Especially with the words "under God" - inserted years after it was written: words which were supposed to banish the pinko commie boogie-man and which exclude non-believers who are just as patriotic as everyone else but who, now, cannot recite the Pledge without either leaving out the words or being a complete hypocrite.  But who cares about them, right?

And so we stand with hands over hearts - that organ that pumps blood and keeps us alive but cannot feel loyalty and cannot think at all - and say the words:

                 "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Fascist Oligarchy for which" .... er.... "and to the Republic..." (and if you can say THAT with a straight face you will win first prize of a little hand-held American flag on a chopstick that you can wave so all will see that you - YOU - are a great patriot.  (They will also check to be sure you are wearing a flag in your lapel or pinned to your motorcycle jacket.)

Yes.  We stand and recite the words - yet again - as though they somehow wore off since the last time we recited them.  As though we didn't mean it the first eighty-two thousand, four hundred, and ninety-seven times.  We recite the words while all over town there are flags flying unlit at night, faded from the sun, ripped to little shreds by the wind, and completely ignored by us as we hurry to the grocery store to pick up that loaf of bread.  And we pat ourselves on the backs for being such good patriots.

We mindlessly recite the words by rote with hands over that blood-pumping organ when the hand ought to be on our heads.  You know, that rock-hard shell that houses the only part of us capable of patriotism and loyalty - our brains.

Don't misunderstand.  The heart keeps us alive.  But it's the brain that forms our thoughts.  It's the brain that houses our emotions. You cannot live without your heart but you can, apparently, live without your brain.  We have a congress full of brain-dead people who prove my point.  But that's another rant.

We stand and we say the words over and over.  The young in school.  The middle-aged adults in meetings.  And even the old are expected to rise from comfortable chairs to stand on aching feet and joints to pledge again and again - or be ostracized and shunned as some kind of unpatriotic muslim terrorist out to destroy the great nation of the United States.

Don't believe me?  Try not standing next time.  Try just sitting there while everyone else, (without thinking, of course), rises like mindless automatons to go through the motions yet again.

I have pledged literally thousands of times in my long life.  I meant it almost every time.  I say "almost" because somewhere along the line my brain actually began to kick in and I asked myself, "Why am I doing this? I've already done it!  I did it.  I meant it.  And now I'm done.  And I don't have to prove my patriotism to anybody.  It's not a feakin' contest!"

If anyone doesn't believe I meant it, then it's their problem - not mine.  They can do whatever they like.  They can wear the flag - wave the flag - fly the flag.  But only they know if it actually means anything to them.  Only they know if they truly feel that patriotism or if they just use it as a bludgeon against those "others" - easily recognizable as they attempt to cross our borders for a better life - by blocking their path and screaming epithets and waving signs - and the flag - in their faces.

And so, thus endeth the Fourth-of-July rant.  Will you go away shooting daggers at me and those like me who have had enough of this insanity?  Will you go away with a new enemy?  Or will you go away with synapses lighting up new paths of actual productive thought about what it all actually means?  And next time you are asked to stand and - for the hundred thousandth time - recite the Pledge of Allegiance as though you forgot that you already did it - or didn't mean it the last time --, what will you do?  And why?

To quote a dear friend on these blogs:  Thanks for your time.

~ AngelMay ~