Tag Archives: truth

slavery

There’s been a lot of talk this political season about racism in America, so let’s talk.

“Come now, let us reason.” Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” Isaiah 1:18 (The Message)

It’s been repeated over and over in the media that whites in America are racists, arguing that they will not vote for Barak Obama because he’s black. I agree that any person, white, orange, purple-striped, that says “I will not vote for <whoever> because s/he is black.” is making a racist judgement. But, is it not also true to say that those who say “I am voting for Barak Obama BECAUSE he is black.” are also making a racist judgement?

The fact of the matter is that race has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s ability to serve in government or anywhere else. Honesty, integrity, character, experience, ability…..those are the important qualities.

But, I’m talking about race, because everyone else is, so let’s keep talking.

When you hear the term “African-American” in our country, what does that mean, exactly? The label “African-American” is most often associated with American citizens who are descendents of African slaves brought here by Europeans and others during the 17th – 19th centuries. We all know the history, at least the part about the white Europeans using slave labor to build their wealth in America. But let’s not forget that there were also Africans involved in the capture, buying and selling of their own countrymen. This was not a “white-on-black” crime against humanity, it was a crime against humanity, period. And the slave trade was finally abolished, due in large part to the work of a white Englishman, William Wilburforce, a Christian.

In both the claims of racism in politics, and racism in the persistance of the slave trade, there is guilt on either side.

Barak Obama, if elected, will be the first “African-American” president in U.S. history. His father was Kenyan, his mother a white American. His ancestral heritage, though, is not “African-American” in the way the label is commonly understood, although he portrays himself to be such.

A minor detail, right? Well, maybe, but let’s go back to that word “honesty.” We all know that politics is nasty business, but does that mean that we should give up on our desire for honesty and character in our leadership? I believe not. I’ve read portions of Obama’s “autobiography” Dreams from my Father: A story of race and inheritance, and The Audacity of Hope, and I can say without hesitation that I can’t vote for this man.

Not because he’s black, but because his vision for change in America is, at best, ambiguous. He isn’t who he wants me to believe he is, and if he can’t be honest about his true heritage then I have to wonder what else he is not being honest about.

But, this is so much bigger than politics. The more I learn about Obama, his life experience, background, associations, and ambitions, the clearer it becomes to me that his vision for change in America is to change America from what it was founded to be, a “shining city on a hill”, a place where we all have the freedom to choose to become the best we can be, or to choose to do nothing and suffer the consequences; the freedom to accept personal responsibility for our own destiny…into a country no different than any other, where government rules and the people follow, if not by choice then by “persuasion” that the government knows what’s best for the people and will impose that knowledge, whether the people want it or not.

That sounds like slavery to me.

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the E string

(I’m headed to the mountains tomorrow morning to help chaperone 40 teenagers at camp for a week. Pray for all of us. We do this every year; it’s always a hard week, physically as well as spiritually and emotionally. But the end result is that we all come away better for having been there.)

A funny thing happened Friday evening. I was vegged out, trying out a new sock pattern and watching Turner Classic Movies. Operation Petticoat had just finished and Father Goose was about to start. TCM has this musical ditty that they always play before a movie comes on, when they are showing the rating for said new movie. So I’m sitting there, knitting away, and the little musical ditty comes on, and out of nowhere my brain says “That note is an E. Furthermore, it’s the low E string on a guitar.” Oh, really?

I’m guitar-impaired. I get it in my head, but my fingers aren’t really interested in learning patterns. They wanna know exactly what notes they’re playing. A handicap of growing up as piano-playing fingers. Lately though, the fingers have been branching out some on the keyboard and learning to play by pattern recognition rather by printed note. This makes the ears start paying more attention to what they’re hearing, listening for those patterns and translating them into chords on a keyboard. So maybe that has something to do with why my brain said what it did about the E. Of course I had to put the brain to the test, and yes indeed, the note was the low E.

In college I had to take “Physics of Music and Acoustics”, which was basically a class on how to purchase a killer stereo system. My professor was of the opinion that “perfect pitch” was instinct as opposed to a learned response to stimuli. I disagreed, wholeheartedly, and we had some lively discussions on the topic. I didn’t give the concept much thought after that. I just knew it was something I didn’t have, mainly because I wasn’t a singer.

Well, so what?

Maybe this: I think the professor and I were both right. I was right in that perfect pitch is a learned response to stimuli. He was right in that it’s more than just an learned response to stimuli.

As my kids like to say, “What that even mean?”

When I heard that note and my brain said “that’s the E string”, I first noticed a feeling in my chest, a specific sort of vibration that touched me in a very visceral, emotional way. Then I noticed that the pitch sounded like the low E string, and because I do at least know how to tune a guitar, I knew to call the pitch “the E string.” Even if I didn’t know what to call the pitch, I recognized it as the low string on a guitar because I enjoy listening to someone playing the guitar.

Another thing I’ve noticed about myself recently is that I can hear a piece of music and immediately know that it’s in the same key as some other piece of music. And I’m not necessarily talking about music I’ve studied in the past. I hear it in my head, and in my heart if you will, and I know immediately how to identify what I’m hearing in relationship to something else I’ve heard before. How? Don’t know for sure, other than my knowing that music affects me in a very profound, emotional way. It’s something primitive, visceral, instinctive…

I haven’t always been able to do this. Maybe it’s a product of maturity?

And why am I even thinking about this anyway?

Sometimes, when something is true, you know it is so because that truth touches you in both an intellectual and an emotional, or spiritual, way. You hear something, or see something, or maybe even touch or smell something, and a universal truth makes itself known to you. Every time I smell slightly scorched scrambled eggs, I am taken back to my first baby sitter’s house, Mrs. Easter. Her house always smelled like scrambled eggs in the mornings. The truth of what scrambled eggs smell like transcends time and space, taking me from almost-50 back to almost-5, across the state line to the house that, back then, seemed a mansion to me. We drove past that house last week on our trip up the mountain to the funeral home. While it is still standing, the house suffers from serious neglect. There are posted No Trespassing signs. The playroom that used to house a pool table and a ping-pong table is falling down and looks barely large enough to hold one of those itty-bitty smart cars.

There are lots of people who say that what is true for one person may not be true for another. That truth is relative. That all truth is relative. Those folks may or may not be able to identify the E string when they hear it, but if they can then they know that the pitch of the E string doesn’t change.

I wonder, whose house does their mind travel to when they smell scrambled eggs? I’ll bet there is one.

the final revelation

I’ve been thinking about how to tell the rest of this story. These events occured prior to Martha’s death; I didn’t learn of them until twenty years later.

(taking a deep breath…)

Remember Martha’s sister Mary? Well, Mary came down one evening and asked my mom to help her with a problem. There’s no good way to say this: Mary came home from work that day to discover a baby boy in their garbage can. He was Martha’s and he was dead. Martha had delivered him that morning, by herself. She them smothered him to death, wrapped him up and put him in the garbage can. Mary wanted my mom to help her clean him up and bury him on the hillside behind their house, and it needed to be done quickly before Mrs. West came home.

So that’s what they did.

I can’t begin to imagine what this was like for my mom. She was thirty years old, plus or minus a year. She had been dragged to this God-forsaken place in the middle of nowhere, plunked down next door to these crazy women, caught up in their nightmare of a world. When she confided in her husband, he didn’t believe her. She told him she and Mary had buried the baby’s body behind the West’s house. I think he may have suggested she get some therapy.

Remember Rex the german shepherd?

(It’s not what you’re thinking…)

A short time later mom and dad were in the front yard when Rex trotted down the hill carrying a very large bone in his mouth. It was probably a beef bone. But seeing that dog carrying a bone finally made my dad see the light, so to speak. Mama said he blanched and practically passed out.

Later, on a Saturday morning, Mama piled me in the car and we headed to town. She bought me a piano of my own so I wouldn’t go next door to practice anymore.

When she told me the rest of the story, she asked, “Don’t you remember all of the strange out-of-state vehicles coming in and out at all hours? There were always strangers at the West’s. They were most likely into prostitution and drug and gun distribution.” I vaguely remembered, but mostly I remembered playing the piano for Mrs. West in her living room, with Martha there listening. Both of them would gush over me and ask to hear more. I was happy to oblige. They were there. They were listening.

We moved away in June, 1974. To this day, my mother has never been back.

Can’t say as I blame her.