A story that needs telling

I’ve been reading The 1619 Project. It’s an enlightening book. The author describes plantations as work camps. I’ve never thought of Monticello, Mount Vernon and the like in the same light as Ravensbruck and Birkenau but they were. Enslaved African Americans were forced to work, brutally treated and in many cases killed to keep them towing the line. They were bred like livestock and treated the same or worse.

I learned in school that Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation but it took the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendment to codify that into United States law. A new era emerged after the Civil War until the the end of the Reconstruction era when federal troops were withdrawn from the southern states. Then all hell broke loose as vigilante rule took over and Blacks and other people of color were systematically subjugated. Voter suppression and intimidation was the norm. Four thousand blacks were lynched between 1880 and 1940. Teenage Emmet Till was brutally murdered in 1955 for smiling at a white woman. People of color really weren’t free until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1965.

Native Americans were forced off their lands and put on reservations. Schools were created to forcibly destroy their culture and they the original owners of the Americas were not granted the right to vote in the United States until 1925. Following World War 2 white American servicemen and women qualified for the GI Bill which helped many including my father to attend college and pursue professional lives. The GI Bill was denied to soldiers of color. There is so much that is not understood by whites about people of color and how our society is not color blind at all. Our lives as white people is skewed to benefit us while disenfranchising our brothers and sisters who are darker.

I don’t like the term racist as there is no such thing as race. It is a social construct that was created to justify the repression of people of color. We are all the same race, the human race. Paradoxically we are all prejudiced. It is normal and natural to feel more at home with those that look like us.

I know I’m prejudiced. I don’t want to be prejudiced but I am. I work to overcome that on a daily basis. What’s most distressing in this country is that we have systemic prejudice that many fail to recognize and accept. Many of our presidents owned slaves. When our founding documents were written in the 18th century Black people were enslaved, Native Americans had their land stolen and were routinely murdered.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to truly become the United States of America.

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Soft and Supple

Acceptance is the key to life. Those who cannot change cannot survive. Those who can wear masks and get vaccinated are likely to flourish in our new environment. As I sat watching a basketball game at St. Bonaventure University’s Reilly Center I was surrounded by people. Young and old alike. Some wore masks as requested by the university to keep us all safe while others were wearing chin straps or at least that’s what they looked like. Last week parents in Franklinville had an impromptu protest in front of the school that was anti-mask.

Everyday we read the news of angry folks decrying mask and vaccine requests and mandates. We read too of those whose inflexible reaction has cost them their health and in some cases their lives. Wearing a mask is annoying especially when one has hearing aids and glasses too. I’ve been contemplating a response and today I’m reminded of the wisdom of the Tao that was written twenty-five-hundred years ago.

The living are soft and supple;the dead are rigid and stiff.In life, plants are flexible and tender;in death, they are brittle and dry.Stiffness is thus a companion of death;flexibility a companion of life.An army that cannot yield will be defeated.A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind.The hard and stiff will be broken.The soft and supple will prevail.

Chapter 76 Tao te Ching

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Thank you for your service

Today is Veterans Day! It started out as Armistice Day. The holiday started from a decree from Woodrow Wilson in 1919. It was the day to celebrate the end of World War I, the war to end all wars. Veterans Day day began in 1954 by an act of Congress as a way to honor all veterans.

I’m a veteran. I had two uncles a number of cousins and my father who served during World War II. My service was during the Vietnam Era. I have a nephew, niece and another niece’s husband who are more recent veterans. I’m grateful that I got a chance to serve. I was a reluctant draftee during the Vietnam war. I was frightened. War can be fatal. I had thought of being a conscientious objector. Some in my generation fled to Canada. That option wasn’t realistic for me. I didn’t want to risk never seeing my family again.

National service in the United States Navy was an important part of my development as person. I served as a Hospital Corpsman. I earned 13 college credits which were later applied to a bachelors degree. I met wonderful people in recruit training, hospital corps school and the numerous duty stations where I served. I abhor war and do what I can to prevent future wars by writing our elected representatives to encourage them to find peaceful solutions to problems.

I am a proponent of compulsory national service. I think it would be a great idea if our country’s leaders initiated a program of service. We need more teachers, firemen, policemen, nurses, doctors and others who could serve for a couple of years to benefit our country. I believe that being part of group like I was in the Navy helped me to have a much wider world view. That would be beneficial.

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If you are wondering…

I first saw this quote from a framed poster at Mount Irenaeus over twenty years ago. It’s as meaningful now as it was then. In fact I find myself more and more attracted to solitude the older I get. Sitting in church or anywhere for that matter never really turned me on. I find God or if you will the higher power in the silence of the woods, the babbling of a brook, the gentle lapping of waves along a lake shore or anywhere that silence abounds.

If you are wondering what God may be,
Looking for a purpose in life,
Craving company, or seeking solitude,
Come to our Meeting for worship.
We shall not ask you to speak or sing,
We shall not ask you what you believe,
We shall simply offer you our friendship,
And a chance to sit quietly and think.
And perhaps somebody will speak,

And perhaps somebody might read,
And perhaps somebody might pray,
And perhaps you will find here
That what you are seeking.
We are not saints,
We are not cranks,
We are not different-
Except that we believe
That God’s light is in all persons,
Waiting to be discovered… Author Unknown

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Meaning

“How do you tell your all-white mother that your all-white “friends” just dragged you into their big all-white house in all-white Southampton, past an untouchable all-white room, just to corner you and call you the dirtiest thing in their all-white world? Nigger.”

— The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey
https://a.co/4I4AaQ6

I’ve long been a fan of Mariah Carey. I remember I was driving home from graduate school when I first heard “Vision of Love” on one of the local radio stations. There was a unique quality to her voice and reading this book about her life has that same spark. She is a great communicator. The book provides evidence of the ever present racism that pervades our culture even today. The debate in our nation rages over how to honor our past without glorifying the scourge of racism and misogyny.

Recently there has been discussion of removing the statue of Thomas Jefferson from the legislative chamber of New York City. Does the removal of the statue solve the problem. How about saving the statue but sharing the history of Jefferson and others who raped their slave mistresses and fathered children whom they also enslaved?

Our one dollar, two dollar and twenty dollar bills bear the images of men who supported the institution of slavery. Both Jefferson and Washington had biracial children. There is no evidence of Jackson fathering any children with his slaves but he was a slave master nonetheless. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that we are a less than perfect nation?

Can we get past the meanness of our past and provide some real meaning for our future? Can we heal the wounds of racism by acknowledging their presence in our present and past?

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Colin Powell

This week’s passing of Colin Powell invited me to reflect on the impact of him as an American icon. I strongly disagreed with the decision of the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq and I was sorry that General Powell gave testimony in the United Nations that provided the cover for that war. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein did not pose a credible threat to the integrity of the United States. I wrote letters to the Bush Administration at the time and at one point received a nice reply from the oval office.

Colin Powell became the first black Secretary of State on the United States on January 20, 2001. He became the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 1, 1989. Prior to that he was Deputy National Security advisor in the Reagan Administration. General Powell’s life was full of firsts. That’s wonderful to be sure. The larger question for me is why did it take so long for America to put a black person in those positions? Africans came to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. It took three-hundred and seventy years for one to ascend to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Surely General Powell was not the first African American to serve in our military. Why did it take so long for Black Americans to rise to general officer ranks? Who were the Buffalo Soldiers? Who were the Tuskegee Airmen?

Jackie Robinson broke the ‘color line’ in 1947. Why were there ‘Negro Leagues’? Why are there no women’s faces on our currency? Why were the original owners of the America’s denied citizenship until 1925? Why did we need a Fourteenth Amendment? Why no people of color on currency, stamps and national emblems. Slaves built the White House. Is that fact taught in our schools?

Lately there’s been lots of discussion of ‘Critical Race Theory‘ and the ‘1619 Project‘. There are folks in this country that still have a problem acknowledging our history as en-slavers and murderers of Africans and Native Americans. Those are not pleasant memories nor should they be. Acknowledging and accepting our past is the pathway to a hopeful future.

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Untold history

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Well written and read. This puts flesh and bone on American history. The Underground Railroad is as much a metaphor to me as it is to Colson Whitehead. His use of metaphor in the novel had me seeing the ‘railroad’ from a different perspective. His metaphor was well constructed and brought the horror of the real ‘railroad’ to life. So little is known and learned by the average white American about the horrible institution of slavery and the suffering of our black sisters and brothers. Not knowing our history and theirs too is an epic crime.



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Windows 11 is not for me

Today I decided to give Windows 11 a try. I downloaded the ‘iso’ from Microsoft onto my Linux laptop. My System76 Darter Pro is an i7 with 16 GB of RAM. I decided to try to run the new operating system in Virtualbox. I gave it a 64GB disk and 8 GB of RAM. I got a message that the configuration wasn’t going to work. I have an extra Dell Vostro 3560 with i5-3230m and 8GB RAM. I created a USB boot drive with WoeUSB and the Vostro booted okay and I began the installation but it halted and gave me the message that my computer didn’t meet the requirements for Windows 11. I was merely curious about the new iteration of Windows. I have virtualized Windows 10 on the Darter Pro before and have installed Windows 10 in Virtualbox on that same Dell Vostro before. Windows 11 is different and it’s a difference I’m not prepared to take. I’m glad I use Linux Mint. I don’t see any good reason to change.

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Free Software is Freedom

I’m blogging tonight using my System76 Darter Pro which is now nearly three years old. The laptop came with Pop!_OS installed on it and I kept using that Linux distribution for much of the first two years. Last year I made the switch to Linux Mint and I enjoy that very much. Whether I’m running Pop!_OS or Linux Mint my computer runs as well as it did when it was new nearly three years ago. Linux and free software provide the best value for most users and yet daily I encounter folks who have never heard of Linux or free software. Last week I helped a friend access their inaccessible Microsoft Word and Excel files by installing LibreOffice 7.2 on their Windows laptop. I hoped to encourage this person to upgrade their Windows 7 operating system which is out of date with the Linux option. Their computer which is a Hewlett-Packard DM4-2070us is an excellent candidate. It has an i5 processor and six GB RAM. One of the impediments for my friend is the need to edit PES files for a Brother embroidery machine. I found an open source workaround using the Inkstitch extension with Inkscape. I wish I was more proficient with that application than I am.

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End of the republic averted

Peril by Bob Woodward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Excellent book with lots of keen insights and interviews with individuals involved in presidential politics in the past five years. The book confirmed for me the grave danger our republic is in from the forces of evil that have come to dominate the Republican party in the United States. I wasn’t initially in favor of a Joe Biden presidency. I didn’t think he was progressive enough to lead the country forward. Now, however after seeing him in action of the past nine months and learning much more about his history and character through this book I am convinced that he is the right person for the job.



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