SACRIFICES OF A GRAD STUDENT

The others are out partying
Cruising in their urban assault vehicles
One night they shot chicks in the ass with a plastic dart gun
Outside the neighborhood convenience store
And a girl panicked and the police showed up
They told them to put their toys away and go to bed
After the bars closed but the night wasn’t done for them
But I stayed home in my apartment reading
That night I heard about, it was Blake
I was deep in the wailing and groaning mythic Giants
And Sunday afternoon I was explaining
An ethics paper I was working on to a girl I picked up Friday night
About love and state public policy, bussing and race
And she asked me how long it took me to write the poem I gave her
It didn’t last because, she said, I wasn’t in business and it was the ‘80’s
We’ve already made terms with living impoverished
And not being able to afford a lot of beers
But there are still ways to get into trouble

The Soul of America

I am worried.  I had this feeling in 2016.  I had a feeling in my gut that it was possible that Trump could be elected.  The polls all had him down significantly.  But I watched what he did in the debates.  And I knew the people he was speaking to, reaching.  And in my gut I had a feeling he could win the presidential election.  I have not as strong a feeling now, but I see he’s up to his old tricks.  The question–and it’s a vital question–is how many people are with him this time?

So much of the US now has witnessed him in action.  We know what he’s all about.  These days we see mass protests all over the world about racial injustice in the US–particularly in regard to police brutality.  Trump is not with this movement.  Trump has ducked out of the COVID-19 pandemic because he embarrassed himself so disgracefully publicly.  But the pandemic rages on anyway.  Racial injustice in the US rages on.  And Trump is fleeing these problems like an ostrich with it’s head in the sand, even as he hid in his bunker at the White house while the voice of America’s conscience rose up en masse.  It is not my intention to list the wrongs I perceive in Trump–they are abundantly clear.  We know who Trump is.  But the question remains, “How many Americans are with him?”

I am an American.  I was born in the US.  I was brought up and educated in the US.  I live in Canada, now, a country that is not favorable to the US; I know this because they tell me this almost daily.  But I never disguise my American heritage.  I love my country.

I do not like what I see Trump standing up for.  I can easily dismiss this man, and say to myself that he does not represent the America I know and love.  However, it’s a different matter if a majority of the American people reelect him.  Then it’s a statement of what the country stands for, not just one man.  That concerns me deeply.  I would be very disappointed in America if the majority of the country sides with Trump and what Trump stands for.  I am putting this all in print.  So I must choose my words carefully.  But I am willing to say this: if Trump is reelected by a majority of the American people, I will have to seriously reconsider my citizenship in the country I was born in, educated in, and still proudly call my homeland.

Tacit Complicity in Racial Injustice

I recently attended the Christian Unity Gathering of the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA.  The theme was “A.C.T. to End Racism—Awaken, Confront, Transform.”  I entered the world of African-American experience from narratives spoken by speakers in seminars.  Being a white, suburban male, I appreciated hearing stories about the African-American experience in the US.  One speaker said that probably every African-American in the audience at one time or another, probably several times, was told to be careful in how they act and respond to white authority figures in public.  One participant who worked at a high-profile financial institution shared an experience in which he was pulled over by police on his way home from work.  He was pulled over for no other reason than the fact that his skin was black.  His race mattered more than his high standing in the financial institution.  We learned that 80% of police are white.  I recalled a story of one African-American man who told us he always has to keep his hands in plain sight whenever he enters a convenience store, so the proprietor would see he isn’t carrying a weapon.

White people like me don’t often hear stories like these.  And I think that it is fair to say that I don’t actively promote racial injustice.  But I am part of a socio-economic structure in which racism is embedded.  Statistics could be produced about income disparity, job disparities, incarceration rates, and silence in educational institutions about racial atrocities like the 1919 Red Summer in Elaine, Arkansas or the 1921 massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I took away from a dinner speech one important idea that I took to heart.  The speaker talked about the silence of white people in the presence of racism.  By keeping silent in the presence of racism, we are tacitly supporting the structural injustices in society.  I thought about a racial slur that a man sitting next to me in a blues club made about another patron down the bar from us.  I said nothing.  I thought about the many disparaging remarks a new acquaintance made about First Nations’ people at a dinner party.  In order to ingratiate myself further in this new friendship, I said nothing.  While we may not actively promote racial inequities, by silence in the face of racism we are complicit in the structural inequities of Western society.  Awaken, Confront, Transform.  In the future, I intend to do just that.  The conference awakened me.  I have the power to confront.  And the hope of transforming.