Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Civil Rights

I've had Civil Rights on the brain for a few days.
Yesteday I heard a nice little kid on my Lacrosse team make the most horrible race joke I've ever heard. He ran for a very long time.
Racism is still alive and well and living in my town. That is sad.
I heard something a few days ago on NPR that might be sadder.
Apparently, the Martin Luther King memorial center has fallen badly into disrepair. The area run by the National Park Service is still well maintained, but the portion which is still run by the family has not. The maintenance staff has been fired and the operators (MLK's sons) are drawing six figure salaries. The fountain is chipped and there is mold.
I think this might be an analogy for the Civil Rights movement of today.
To be clear, the Civil Rights movement that began somewhere around the 1930s and culminated with the world change for the 1960s is one of the best examples of prophetic vision yielding social change which history has ever offered. My mom heard dogs and felt hoses in the South. My dad (a moderate skinned Arab who tanned well) spent some summers in the south, where he was called nigger and told to ride the back of the bus. She got to watch the news about the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and feel a part of it. He got to go to to an Ivy League School. The expansion of humanity within American Civic Life was beautiful.
Then some guys got shot.
There was no Joshua to the Moses of MLK, and nobody to pick up the gauntlet of angry struggle from Malcolm X. Kwase Mfume went from brilliant & angry to older and bitter. We got...Jesse Jackson. No fair.
I'm reminded of a comment Tom Friedman made about Beirut during the wars. There were more than two sides to the conflict--which made it complex, but that wasn't what made resolution so difficult. The problem was that one of the stakeholders in the conflict had an interest not in a safe outcome, but rather in the continuance of the conflict itself.
Ultimately the best people fight for the right kinds of things, and social justice is right. Therefore I see hope on the horizon--but not on the news.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Four Easy Steps

Yesterday a friend was sad because her father had died in a sudden and catastophic aneurysm. I've known people who died, so she called me in for advice. She wanted me to fix her.
I would have loved that, but there are not simple answers.

However I've been asked this question more than once--so here is my best shot:
Four Easy Steps to Dismantle the Crazy:
1) Write down a list of everything important that you know is true. I had the ironically beneficial situation of an AP Reporter asking for comment within seconds of learning my folks were dead. My response "God is still God and I'm still not" was no theological masterpiece but it laid the groundwork for me not turning into a wack-job. Make a list of 5 true things, for five days live exclusively from that list. You are in about seven types of pain right now and you can't live from emotions or you'll be literally fetal.
2) During tragedy, particularly if it involves parent-type figures your brain is backpeddling in spite of you and it is dying to settle in at about age seven. You will have a temptation to think of your parent/guardian/friend as you did when you were little. Resist that temptation in every way possible. He's not daddy this week, because daddy had a little kid and you can't be a little kid right now.
3) Don't ditch humanity. In other words tragedy tends to do one of three things: 1)Make people better; 2) make people worse; 3)make people begin to fake life. Door #1 is the best--you allow God to surgically remove weakness, fight hard that justic and redemption become the theme of the sad story you're in, and then rest for some time to heal. If you follow route #2 and become a nut job hopefully enough people love you that you can get out of that and eventually become better. Door #3 will kill you. . If you truly just fake it and invent a pretend version of you that will do life in your place than you died in the tragedy too.
4) There will be a story. Whether it's a story of national significance (e.g. 911) a story that gets picked up because it's a slow news week (e.g Tornado in Cincinnati) or a story that only personal friends know about this story will exist in your personal narrative. The main character is God. The supporting role is you. Your job is to make sure the story is not just sadness, but rather hope in despair. There will be a story--you write it to a larger extent than you think.

Number 5 is more nuanced so it doesn't make the big 4 list:
Don't Make a Single Excuse-- Schedule your life with time to mourn, but do NOT let "I'm sad" be an answer to any question that begins with "Why didn't you..." Becoming a victim is a waste of your time, don't try to pull that crap. If you were a POW, or Dave Pelzer than you're a victim. If not, shit happens--now go live.
This doesn't mean ignore the pain--you probably want to get counseling, you need time alone, you need to do all of the smart things that every book says, but DO NOT let the tragedy become your identity. It's a piece of the bigger story.