Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Musings on a holiday weekend

which I found myself writing late morning yesterday, sitting in my local Starbucks, when perhaps I should have been doing other things.

I claim no great insight for the words in it, which appear below the fold.

At least part of it reminds me that despite the occasional difficulties of stretching our pay to the end of the month, especially with the nearly 10,000 pay cut I have received from my school system this year (and the prospects of the current low levels or worse continuing for another year or two) I am actually quite rich.

I invite you to what was a Saturday morning meditation.

thankfulness = mindfulness = thankfulness

It is good that many will today reflect on things - and persons - for which they are thankful.  

Might I offer a suggestion, one I think particular relevant for those of us who are hypervigilant on the wrongs we think need to be addressed?  That is that we find some time, every day, to stop and reflect on the blessings we do have.  It may help us keep our sanity.

Yes, we need to remind ourselves and others of what still needs to be addressed.  Perhaps we may be the ones who bring an important issue to the attention of the person who can do most to address it - Wendell Potter thanked nyceve for doing that for him.

But it is more than that.  This is something I set before myself as a task, and I will, below the jump, attempt to explain why and to illustrate.

Feel free to continue reading if it suits you.

August 28, 1963 – memories and reflections

I spent the night in Harlem, with Willie Blackmon, a young man I had met while we both protested at the White Castle on Boston Post Road in the Bronx, because the chain would not hire blacks.  I was 17, newly out of high school, about to head off to Haverford College in a few weeks.

Before we headed up to Willie's apartment, we wandered around Greenwich Village.  We listened to speeches, heard musicians, talked with other people, most of whom would not be heading to Washington the next morning.

I had trouble sleeping.  I was excited, eager with anticipation.

Shortly after 5 we got on the bus.  Some of the people were those we knew from the protests, others were activists in the Bronx chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, then headed nationally by James Farmer of Marshall Texas (also the home town of Bill Moyer, something I would not know until years later), knowing he would not be there because he refused to be bailed out from his incarceration in Placquemines Parish Louisiana.

Some, including me had guitars.  We sang, we dozed, we nibbled, we chatted, as the hours passed on our journey southward.

This could be a very sad day – I choose differently

1890  the birth of Adolph Hilter
1999  the shootings at Columbine High School

Either could be an occasion to look back - in horror or in sadness.

Instead I look ahead. To the words of a man born around this time - we do not know for sure when, only that he was baptized on April 26.

And for this day, one set of his words seems appropriate, at least in my mind:

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon my self and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate,
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

The rest of this diary will be a meditation on this, one of my most cherished poems.

the violence of Patriots’ Day

in 1775, the outbreak of the American Revolution.  The British marched  from Boston to seize arms accumulated by Americans.  The 1st shots were fired at Lexington, the badly outnumbered Americans fell back. The next engagement was at Concord. By then several hundred Americans had gathered, At North Bridge they drove the British back, and as the Redcoats retreated towards Boston, continued to fire upon them from behind rocks and trees.  More troops marched from Boston to rescue the endangered column. they retreated to Boston, where the colonists cut them off and began the siege of Boston.

This is an important day in Beantown, one experienced as a Marine '66.  The Post band at Quantico, came up, playing at a gathering the night before. We were near Concord Bridge for the ceremonies the next morning (only 20 feet  from the cannon firing every minute), finishing the day at the end of the Marathon on a day when the Japanese finished 1-2-3-4.

Like other Americans, my memories of the date are clouded by violence of a different kind -  the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, and two the terrorism of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols at the Alfred P. Murrah Building.

Today I reflect upon violence.

Violence

from Dictionary.reference.com:  

1.  swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
2.  rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
3.  an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
4.  a violent act or proceeding.
5.  rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.
6.  damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration: to do editorial violence to a text.

I have been thinking about this word for several days.  So today let me non-violently meditate upon its meanings as I perceive them.

Appomattox

Men, we have fought through the war together. I have done the best that I could for you.
Gen. Robert E. Lee spoke those words when he returned to his men, from the home of Wilmer McLean, where on this morning he surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses Grant. Officially our nation's bloody, internecine conflict was over. Lee's troops were paroled by Grant. When Lee asked for help feeding his nearly starving men, Grant responded with generosity, using the food that the men of George Armstrong Custer had seized on a train before Lee's men could get there.

Allow me to offer a few reflections on Appomattox Court House, the site of both the final battle early that morning, and of Lee's surrender. I think there are lessons that are relevant today.

. . . for the sake of the institution . ....

It takes many forms:

The Blue Wall of Silence

We must protect the church

We clean up our own messes

You will weaken the Presidency/administration in a time of war/crisis/national emergency

An outsider cannot understand

You will take away the motivation to take risks

... and you can offer your own version . . .

It is the excuse not to public identify wrongdoers or to be subject to outside oversight or to allow criminal investigation and prosecution

The claim is that to do so will weaken the Police Force / Church / Military / Business / Organization

The claim is wrong.  And failure to fully investigate and expose weakens the institution, because it inevitably leads to an arrogance and the same or similar behavior continues, or happens again. . . and again . . . and again. . .