The Nameless

Many years ago…what seems like a lifetime ago, I sang in a metal band. One of the last tunes we wrote was a song about homeless people. Very simple, and I called it The Nameless. I chose that title because homeless people often seem like nameless sentient beings, just floating through space. We often don’t recognize them, disregard them. We as a society get so caught up in the fast flow of life, that we don’t even bother to make eye contact with them, pass them by, and will sometimes label them as a nuisance, or a bother , rather than a person in need of help, in need of empathy. Please don’t misinterpret these words in a sense that I haven’t done these things. I have. I try not to, but I get caught up too. But, I’ve had times of sitting with homeless cats on a corner, and just rapping and shooting the shit, hearing their stories. Ultimately, I think that’s what many of us want; to have our story told. To have our voice heard, and to not be…nameless.

These thoughts all came into my head as the woman sat next to me. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Serendipity, my mind was already in a spin. Then the rain drove me to take cover at the bus stop, fearing the inclement weather would put me in a dangerous spot on my bicycle, with slick roads and impaired visibility to motorists.

The bus came by, and after exiting the bus, the woman ambled over to me and took a seat. The air around me immediately took on the scent of alcohol. She was a black woman, older , I’d put her in her 50’s perhaps. Well greyed hair, close cut and under a red baseball cap. Her clothes were dirty. She had a can in a brown paper bag that I later found to be an Icehouse.

She didn’t make eye contact. She just kind of turned her face towards me, but our gazes never met. She was clearly intoxicated. She leaned over and said, “Can I tell you something?”
“Of course” I said.

“I was in the Army.” “I saw things that no one should have to see.”

Her speech wasn’t clear at all times, but she told me how her experiences in the Army messed with her head. She recalled some instances…

“I always did my best…And we never left a man behind. We always brought them back.”

I never interrupted her. Only nodded and offered verbal agreements. She didn’t ‘t know this, but I understood perfectly everything she was saying.

As I looked at her face, listening to her story, tears began running down my cheeks. As I looked in her face, I just could see that her mind was gone. She wasn’t in the same time , or the same place that I was. That thought made my heart ache so badly.

This lady could be my mom. She could be someone’s mom. I looked down at the ground, not wanting her to see me cry. I couldn’t speak, I just listened, staring at her can of Icehouse.

When I was younger, I never could understand why homeless people would turn to vice…drugs and alcohol. I never could understand why you would make a bad situation worse.

I get it now. Not wanting to face life lucidly. Needing something to soften the edges of reality. I know that feeling all too well.

Many years ago, in what seems also, like a different lifetime, I attempted suicide. Very few people in my life know this. I’ve always guarded that secret . It’s something that I’ve always found shame in. But, I now know that it was a wake up call for me to change my life, which I did. I can relate so very well to the feeling of simply not feeling like you can face life. I tried vice too. For me, vice wasn’t even strong enough.

All of these thoughts swirled into my head as I looked into this woman’s face, and so many questions.
“Are you homeless?”
“How will you get out of the rain?”
“Do you have family? Where are they?”

But I didn’t ask. It was time for her to tell her story, as she chose to tell it.

Finally, I spoke up.
“I gotta get going ” was all I could muster, wiping the tears from my cheeks.

As I stood up, and waved goodbye meekly, she made eye contact with me for the first time.
“Bye”
“God Bless You Sister. Bye.

I wanted to do more. I should’ve said more.

And as I rode off, I thought about how appalling it is that we give billions of dollars to other countries, and yet I rode pass people under underpasses, awnings, and alleys trying to find a dry place to sleep. It’s not right. You’ll never be able to rationalize it to me . We could do better. We should do better. She should be enjoying her twilight years in a warm place, surrounded by love, not sitting on a cold bus stop in a rainstorm with me. It infuriates me now just thinking about it.

Also, as I rode home, I recognized how that experience served as a reminder. I was at a place today where I was beginning to feel bad for myself. At this point, I’m technically unemployed. Hustling up money to pay bills. Dealing with issues with my daughters…

…and I’ve been reminded that I’m ok. I have my mind, and my health. If I keep my head up, I’ll figure it out, and I’ll be ok. In the grand scheme of life, my problems are minuscule, and I feel ashamed for even being so self indulgent.

And so here I sit. I feel emotionally drained. I’m gonna go lie down, and I know that the sun will bring a brighter day. The woman will be on my mind. I hope she is ok.

Life is strange sometimes.

Martin & Zimmerman

One of my favorite Jiu jitsu professors will often say in class,

“I know this isn’t on the syllabus, but I feel I would be remiss if I failed to mention this…”

That’s how I feel about this topic. As a Social Scientist, I feel the need to at least mention my thoughts on this pivotal case. Not that my opinion matters at all, but it is mine.

So, unless you’ve been under a rock, or in a foreign country, you are undoubtedly familiar with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. If not, Google it. It’s quite interesting from a law perspective, as well as a social one.

So, it seemed that a lot of people were shocked by the verdict. I, however, was not. While every fabric of my being tells me that in a court of reason, Zimmerman was undoubtedly guilty.

For the sake of discussion, let us for the moment forget the situation of race as it pertains to this situation.

An adult male viewed, and then began following a teenage male. The adult male, also armed, confronted the teenage boy. A physical altercation then ensued, resulting in the teenager being shot and dying.

And the person who instigated the situation, even after being told to cease and desist said activity by a 911 operator, is innocent?

Oh yes….Stand your ground. The stand your ground law was what allowed Zimmerman to be declared not guilty.

A stand-your-ground law is a type of self-defense law that gives individuals the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. It is law in certain jurisdictions within the United States. The basis may lie in either statutory law and or common law precedents. One key distinction is whether the concept only applies to defending a home or vehicle, or whether it applies to all lawfully occupied locations. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “stand your ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense, such as an affirmative defense, permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction but may offer mitigating circumstances that justify the accused’s conduct
More than half of the states in the United States have adopted the Castle doctrine, that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. Some states go a step further, removing the duty of retreat from other locations. “Stand Your Ground”, “Line in the Sand” or “No Duty to Retreat” laws thus state that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he has a right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. Under such laws, there is no duty to retreat from anywhere the defender may legally be.[1] Other restrictions may still exist; such as when in public, a person must be carrying firearms in a legal manner, whether concealed or openly.

While in my mind, Zimmerman was the assailant, the jury didn’t see it that way, and he thus had “no duty to retreat” when the teenager allegedly attacked him.

And yet I think.. How would I react if a guy was following me, and then confronted me about where I was going and what I was doing.

My initial thought, I assume, is that I would fear for my safety. If the guy isn’t wearing a badge, he’s obviously got some problems..and at that point, I truly believe that I would make a reasonable verbal effort to make him leave me alone, and if ignored, would make a concerted effort to knock his dick in the dirt.

And if he then shot me dead… He’s in the right?

Wow.

And so, let’s throw race back in the mix.

So many people can attempt to live a pipe dream, but the fact of the matter is that race relations in America are still not what I would call good. It’s still a very volatile topic.

Racism is still alive and well in 2013 America, and the fact that so many people want to believe it isn’t an issue is what makes it such a treacherous time for race relations.

How does the saying go, “The greatest trick the Devil ever did was convincing people that he doesn’t exist,” or something like that.

But let’s think about it from a historical perspective:

The Atlantic Slave Trade ran for approximately 400 years

We are only 148 or so years removed from the American Civil War, as well as the abolition of slavery.

The last anti-miscegenation law( ban on interracial marriage) was struck down 48 years ago.

56 years removed from school racial integration.

57 years removed from Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus…and Emmett Till was murdered for reportedly whistling at a white woman only a few months earlier

50 years since the racially motivated church bombing that killed 4 little girls.

Ad Nauseum…

60 years ago, blacks in America were oppressed, terrorized, and subjugated at every twist and turn.

I think we simply haven’t had enough time to move ourselves away from those cultural norms, particularly in the south, where that animosity and hatred ran so deep, on both sides of the fence…and Florida is still the south…and chest deep in racism.

A dear friend of mine who lives in Cocoa, Florida recently had a woman tell her that her interracial daughters made her sick.

Post-racial America?

I wasn’t surprised over what happened in Florida, because the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I was dismayed, and slightly horrified…but not surprised. Hopefully, this case will have some positive results, in causing good discussion and debate, and further understanding about America…as it truly is, and about how we someday hope it will be.

“How is that even possible?”

The title of this entry is the question that laid before me.

I was sitting in an Argo Tea, one that I actually frequent.  I like the atmosphere, the drinks aren’t too expensive, and I can get work done, or thinking done, it’s an all around good place to be in my opinion.

I was sitting with an acquaintance, sipping my Green Tea Ginger Twist, talking about my joys of teaching when I expressed a sentiment that has gained traction in my mind in the last few days,

“I’ve worked for a plethora of companies and employers, and CPS is probably the most f***ed up boss I’ve ever had!”

and my acquaintance, Jules, whom I was actually on a date with, asked me, “Why is that the case?”

to which I replied, “because the school system is ran by people who have no background in education.”

“How is that even possible…Arne Duncan was in charge at one point right?”

Oh yeah, that’s right….Arne Duncan, the current Secretary of Education under Barack Obama.  Right…surely he has a background in education.

Well, before we address Arne Duncan, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane that will help us better understand the now…

Dystopian Calling

This is an entry in today’s Daily Writing Challenge:  You can get in on the fun here: Daily Post Writing Challenge: Dystopia

I saw it coming years ago.  I suppose the inevitable became evident years before I noticed.  However, it wasn’t until I became an adult, of sorts, and became interested in politics that I began to see the tell-tale signs.

I think the period of time that made my mind absolutely shift towards the path I walk now was during the second presidency of Barack Obama.

While he stood as a symbol of hope, and new horizons for so many, the in-step march of a new regime was on the horizon. The Republican party, as it was then known, working in conjunction with this new, fledgling Tea Party wouldn’t give him the time of day.  They were so staunchly opposed to anything he would say or attempt to do.

People called it ‘political differences’, but it was fairly obvious to anyone with open eyes what was really going on.

If I really think about it though, it’s easy to look back to 2001, and Sept. 11th to see that this wasn’t a new development, but simply a growing wave that  already had firm footholds in the dominant psyche.

I recalled the first time I heard someone suggest “Mulim-only lines” in airports to ensure security…I thought the idea was preposterous, and was sure it would be met with a groundswell of outrage and indignation…but it wasn’t.

That flipped over to the constant questioning and badgering of the idea that Barack Obama was really Muslim, and not Christian, to which I vehemently replied

“So what????”

But it was obvious that being Muslim was not appropriate for the highest office in the United States, although no one was willing to come out and just say it.

And then, someone was.

Bill Bradley.  Tea Party superstar.  Rose out of nowhere.  Young, fire-brand clean cut white kid who came out to knock down a Democratic incumbent Senator. From there, he became the crown jewel of his party, and public sentiment just seemed to become more resolute.

“An America for real Americans!”

“Close the borders and let America become America again!”

While I remembered Angela Merkel, German chancellor,  once saying that multiculturalism in Germany was an absolute failure, I never dreamed such a sentiment would be spoken by an American politician…not a mainstream one.

…and then it was…

…and suddenly it seemed that civil rights for all those not in the Tea Party…started to erode.

You either rolled with the train, or got ran over by it.

Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Mexicans, Liberals, Democrats…

…it seemed each new law proposed and passed overwhelmingly was another step to making us all second class citizens.  Second to the Tea Party.  Which even over time became smaller, more elite, and yet vested with so much power.

The 1%  versus the 99% no longer existed over economy.  It was now 1% of the population having power and rule over the 99% percent, and that 1% was the power elite now known as the Tea Party.

It was so gradual, so subtle, and now.  Now, even the things you say may be punishable in a court of law, because you are threatening the life of a government official.

Once successful Tea Party presidents began placing Tea Party conservatives on the Supreme Court, it only took so long for interpretations to change on the 1st Amendment…then the 2nd Amendment…even the 5th Amendment was augmented.  Now, refusal to self-incriminate is obviously an admission of guilt. No one seemed to find the sudden deaths of Supreme Court Justice’s suspicious.  2 car accidents and 1 downed plane.  3 Justices in 8 years?  I suppose it doesn’t matter now.

Things which seemed unthinkable: secret agents raiding homes, torture, overt religious and racial pandering to a national audience…
…it all seems so commonplace now.

And so here I am.  No one would suspect an old man like me would be possible of this action.  No one would guess that I would be the man willing to sacrifice so much to see this all take place. I guess that’s what made it easy.

And the sacrifices I’ve had to make.

And now, I will make the ultimate sacrifice.  It all seems so surreal. In only a few moments, the motorcade will pull up. The Tea Party President, William Bradley, will exit his vehicle…

…and with the simple pull of a trigger I will begin a new world.  I hope.  I hope this moment ignites people to rise up and take back what has fallen to the wayside.

Justice.  Hope. Peace. Equality.  Brotherhood.

Freedom.

Perhaps it will be all for nothing.  Perhaps the few seconds of satisfaction I feel will be the only positive to come from this moment.

At least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I got the best of them.  1 bullet for him, 1 for myself. They won’t get the best of me.

The years of training, and research…

…it all comes to this.

Fiat justita ruat caelum.

Say What???

So my friend Vince dropped a link on Facebook with the comment:

“Hello everyone, please respond and share:
Most of you know that I write a blog called Third Coast | Third World. It’s on ChicagoNow, a site that is owned by the Chicago Tribune. I came across this article earlier today and since I think it’s pretty overtly racist I asked the staff to remove the post. Please take 2 minutes to look at the article and send a quick email to staff@chicagonow.com to let them know I’m not the only one who thinks the site and the Trib should not be associated with this.”

and the article he was referring to:

Why Blacks Kill Each Other & How to Cease Ire (Part 3) – False Solutions

Say what?  Come again?

So, when I got home, I knew I had to check this out.  After reading the opening paragraph:

“It is an observable fact and intuitively obvious to those within the inner circle of esoteric wisdom that 99% of the difficulties and problems experienced by African-Americans are a direct result of the misuse of their own minds and their own faulty thinking.”

I knew this one was headed on a downward spiral.  Now, allow me to first address this in an academic manner.  I know we’re living in a “post-racial America” where we have a black president, and black men can walk down the street, sit at the front of the bus, and marry white women.  I also know that whenever someone makes claims of “racism” everyone else wants to assume that they’re jumping to conclusions.

However, you gotta admit…that’s some bulls**t!

So, I sent the following email to the staff of the Chicago Now blog:

“I am an occasional reader of Chicago Now, and enjoy checking it out when time allows.  I however, came across what I felt was a rather disconcerting blog post:

http://www.chicagonow.com/unreserved-candor/2013/02/why-blacks-kill-each-other-how-to-cease-ire-part-3-false-solutions/#comment-7

While I am a firm believer in the first amendment rights of all, those rights do not guarantee that your words will be proliferated and celebrated.  I feel this blog drips in racist disdain, as well as pretentious, misguided condescending bombast.
I would humbly ask that this post be removed.  If Chicago Now associates itself with such attitudes, and I do not think that I will be frequenting your website in the future.
Thank you for your time. “
~No ID
and as for the not so academic manner…
Kiss my black a** you racist piece of s**t.  I’ll show you the love in my heart as I’m cackling in glee while bouncing your head of f the bumper of some rusted out ’89 Cadillac Brougham (pronounced Bro-Ham). “
If you’re so inclined, feel free to email the staff at Chicago Now at the address above and express your opinion on the aforementioned blog.  I think it’s utter trash.