TALK TO THE DADDY
Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
"Okay, daddy. I've read all your lessons so far. They sound good. That's alright for you counselors. But it hasn't helped me. I'm still angry at my husband for leaving me for a younger woman. After I did for him ( putting him through law school and helping him to get his first job in the law firm where I worked) , he walked out on me and all the promise we had together. So I"m having a hard time laughing at myself or anyone else, and I have definitely lost faith in a lot of people, especially men."
Cheryl, the daddy hears you. Sometimes words, however kind, will not do it. Sometimes going fishing on a Saturday or all weekend will not do. Sometimes, talking to a friend in between gulps of chocolate ice cream will not do it. Sometimes, talking to your minister or Imam or Priest will not do it. Sometimes you need to talk to someone who deals with the type of pain you've been having and and who can help you to explore more deeply the problem and engage fully in solutions that could move you forward.
And the daddy says do this like yesterday. Now, he knows that some some of you have an aversion to getting professional help, like his male friends, for instance. They think seeing a therapist is admitting that you are not "man enough" to handle your own "business." They say "real men" tough it. They say go fishing, hunting or clubbing, you know: go to bars, watch a few women slide down a pole, take one home or to a motel to slide on you, and let all their anger, sadness, or depression out of your system. As for t he next day, they got nothing. But it's not just men.
The daddy has a woman friend who is still angry at her adopted mother for not telling her that she was adopted for her first 20 years. Though her mother has been dead for years, she still harbors angry toward her. And she hates it when I call her mother's name. In fact, far too many black people with whom I've worked feel that depression, a common disease in all cultures, only occurs in rich white Americans. Don't ask the daddy how she came to this incredible conclusion. Regardless, many people don't see professional help as an option. And let's face it: for guys who grew up in a macho culture, or a woman growing in an environment where you don't ask for help outside your family, where professional help is never contemplated, watching a woman slide down a pole or eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream while watching a good late night movie can sound awfully attractive. But, ultimately, a person may need help to deal with some of the underlying issues behind an experience like Cheryl's. Life is just too precious and too short not to say to yourself: "I need to get some professional help now."
Life is precious
In one of his more recent CDs, the great blues guitarist Lowell Fulson sings a song that will stay with you like one of those jingles in a fast- food commercials. But this jingle has a strong vibe and positive message to it. The song "It's a good day" is elegant it its simplicity and profound in its meaning. With the operative phrase "good day" and the operative word "live," Fulson is saying that, to gain a greater appreciation of life, don't let problems get you down. You need to live life to the fullest. By extension, he is saying that, if you're not living life to the fullest, if you're letting problems get you down, you need to do something about it.
To say it's a good day if we live to see it may sound like a cliche to some but not to those teetering on the very edge of life about to succumb to life's problems. And you, like the daddy, know why--that, in practical terms, you have only a short time to live on this earth, to breathe fresh air, to smell the fresh-perked coffee, to eat a fine steak, to feel the cool water beneath your feet us walk along a white, sandy beach.
You have less time than you like to think to spend with your mate, to watch your children grow...to contribute something meaningful to your family, community or nation so that your life here on earth will not have been in vain.
You know it means that you have no time to waste in somehow getting yourself to a point where you stop worrying about problems and start living for today and make plans today to do things that you've been putting off for some years: taking that vacation in the Caribean or to West Africa; taking that second cruise on the same ship to spark up the relationship again; visiting relatives back in the "old country" or "down home." Whatever, start living and planning today, because you don't know what tomorrow will bring.
If life is precious, if it's a good day if we live to see it, surely you need to do everything possible to make it a positive experience, and not one to make cause you to languish in anger, pain and sorrow. That may require that you get help to get you pass the hard times so you can then let the good times can roll-- so you can say, with Lowell Fulson, "It's a good day, if you really live to see it."
In this series on dealing with crisis, the daddy talked about how the mind works, how to gain perspective, how important it is to spend time with family and friends, how it's important to have faith, how it's healthier to forgive, how a sense of humor can get you through the tough times, and how life is too precious not to ask for help. And he believes that, if taken to heart, these lessons will help you get to the other side and sing that gospel song they sing in old gospel churches, "The storm is passing over/Hallelujah!"
Have you ever said to yourself, "I need professional help?"
Sunday, March 29, 2009
" I went to Zimbabwe. I know how white people feel in America now; relaxed! Cause when I heard the police car I knew they weren't coming after me! " Richard Pryor
Listen up. The kids are getting to that age where you don't what they're doing. And in some cases, they've left the nest, and, instead of doing some of the fun things you planned like traveling, you've had to work a little longer, affirming your notion that retirement is not what it used to be.
Maybe you've put the relationship with your former slug, ahh, boyfriend or partner behind you and are now engaged in dating again, a dance fraught with marks and holes on the floor that make you trip at any moment.
In such cases, it may be important for you to keep the one thing you've always had: the ability to laugh at situations, others, and yourself. Yes, now more than ever, it's healthy to keep a sense of humor.
Check this. Everything was going alright for the daddy. He was studying for an exam to get his license as a drug counselor. The daddy had been a drug counselor before, but the state of Minnesota told drug counseling agencies that all counselors had to have certification or the agency could lose its license. So the daddy was ready for the exam and was going to take it the next day; and he had stayed up all night studying to make sure he passed. Then tragedy struck.
The daddy got sharp pains on the left side of his stomach, pains so severe that, instead of driving to the location where his exam was being taken, he went to the emergency ward of a hospital. And like a bartender courting an alcoholic's habit, they gave it to him straight/no chaser: he had an intestinal blockage and, if he wanted to live, needed to have an operation the next day.
The daddy knew that getting an operation the next day was the right thing. But did this dampen his fear of hospitals and knives cutting into his body? Of course not. Let's face it: the daddy was scared as hell!
Luckily, by some weird, unplanned twist of fate, the daddy began to develop a sense of humor about it all. Now, here's the funny part. The daddy, a long- time counselor, was used to telling everyone things to help them feel better during a crisis situation. But when it came to his own health crisis, he couldn't think of a damn thing. Jesus, even that sorry president George Bush could think of something to say during one of his rare press conferences like " The presidency is hard work" or "No new taxes or "Mission accomplished," even if nothing was accomplished. Suddenly, I began to smile at the irony that, when the table was turned on the daddy and he became the client or the patient, he couldn't help himself. I began to smile and then laugh out- loud, as the nurse took me up an elevator, through dark-lit halls and finally to the station, where I would be prepped for surgery.
When we arrived at the u- shaped station, a nurse said:
The daddy was laughing.
" Mr. Walton?"
The daddy was now laughing so hard that he caused the pain in his left side to hurt even more.
"Mr. Walton, are you alright?"
"No," I said. "But I will be. I will be."
In my hospital room at the prepping station, the daddy continued to have a sense of humor. When the all-business nurse showed up, the daddy kept it going (her hair was in a bun and her shoes made her look like she was going bowling). When she pulled out a big bottle of white liquid to clean my system, I told her it was a bottle of my favorite chardonnay. The daddy said we weren't in a hospital but an upscale bar in downtown Minneapolis, sipping wine and listening to classic jazz by a trio, hearing a beautiful woman in front of the group sing, "Summertime/and the living is easy/fish are jumping/and the cotton is high..."
"I see, Mr. Walton. You must be a writer or something. But we're getting you ready for an operation. You must follow my instructions. Do you understand?"
"So I guess our date at that upscale bar in downtown Minneapolis will have to wait."
"Evidently, Mr. Walton."
It was the end of her shift, but, before leaving, the nurse dropped in to say goodbye. Her hair down , wearing stylish boots and tight-fitting pants and low-neck sweater, wearing tight pants, she looked like a real human being.
"How are you doing, Mr. Walton . How's the chardonnay going?" Wow. A human being with a sense of humor!
And then with a gentle hand on my shoulder, she said words the words that clearly let me know she understood:
"Mr. Walton, the operation will be fine. They'll bring you back here, and I'll be your nurse tomorrow. Try to get some rest."
If a sense of humor can help an average Joe like the daddy, surely it can help destroy the demons in your life. Nothing is easy, but the daddy says a sense of humor can help you get through the hard times.
Have you ever used a sense of humor to get you through a crisis?
Friday, March 27, 2009
most important contribution to the
healing of the world."
"If you wish to travel far and fast,
travel light. Take off all your envies,
jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness
Listen up. To get truly back on track and remain there, you may need to do something that you've been ignoring since you were hurt, since you were pained so deeply that you fight to keep from thinking of it, much less process and go beyond it. You may need to forgive.
Yes, forgive President George Bush for taking your country into a preemptive and illegal and foolish war that killed so many of our brave soldiers, Iraqi men, women and children, and put the American economy into a free fall.
Yes, forgive many of your local politicians for selling their souls to the National Rifle Association and supporting the sale of guns at gun shows and at grocery store parking lots, even though a war is brewing next door in Mexico and spreading into the United States with all sides using our guns. But, most of all, forgive the man or woman who hurt you deeply, leaving a scar inside you that has yet to fully heal.
Okay, the daddy already knows that, when it comes to forgiveness, some of you can get real ghetto:
"So you want me to forgive the man I loaned my last $200 bucks to so he could pay rent and stay in his apartment only to find out later that he spent it all on crack. Man, you crazy!"
"Daddy, let me get this straight. You want me to forgive that skirt-chasing husband for leaving me and running off with his gold-digging secretary who can't type as fast as our 10-year old son. And he's got ADD. Ugh huh. He put you up to this, didn't he?"
"Say what? Forgive this bitch who left me to shack up with my best friend and the best man at my wedding? Wait til I see her. I'll forgive her alright; and when I'm finished with her, I'll call the police myself!"
Yes. Forgive her.
Forgive folks for the pain, injury, sin and all the wrongs they've done to you. The daddy says, if you have to go fishing all weekend, do it. If you have to go to a Freudian psychiatrist and lie on the coach, do it. The daddy says, if you have to break into a bible-thumping church and fall on your knees in a praying position, do it. Seriously, fhis heavy burden you've been carrying may not have changed the wrong- doer, but it has changed you. You've lost trust and faith in those around you and people in general. You no longer believe in the best of humanity; you no longer even believe that there is a better nature in human beings. This lack of faith, this lack of trust, makes you suspicious and cynical of just about everyone, just about everything. It's time to travel light.
Forgiveness is difficult
In German, it's called Vergebung,in In Italian, Perdono, in Latin, Venia, and in Ebonics, "Come to Jesus." But regardless of what it's called, you are reluctant to do it. You are even reluctant to ask your God or Creator to help you forgive. And for good reason: forgiveness is hard.
Author Dale Carnegie ("How to Win Friends and Influence People" and "Stop Worrying and Start Living") understood the difficulty of forgiving when he wrote: "Any man can criticize, condemn and complain, but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving." But it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ("Where do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?") who seemed to understand best how much character it would take for African American to undertake the journey of forgiveness and see it through. "Change," he preached, "does not roll on wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man cannot ride you unless your back is bent."
King understood that, while liberty is a condition of the environment, freedom is the domain of the mind, and that, to be truly free, African Americans must free their minds and hearts of the heavy burdens of anger, guilt, hatred and revenge.
Don't get the daddy wrong. He knows you know that, ideally, forgiveness is the right thing to do. But ideals are one thing, reality another. American society says, right or wrong, forgiveness shouldn't be done. Quite the opposite, it says revenge should be exacted. It's the main theme in violent American movies. It's the main theme of gangbangers on American streets; and it's the main theme that too many of you have against the one(s) who hurt you. Therefore, to forgive is to give up, to no longer be "committed," or to become a "girlie man."
And some of you mistakenly feel that you will forgive only if the wrongdoer apologizes. What if he or she doesn't? Then how will you lift that heaven burden from your heart? Don't you think that, deep down, this is nothing more than another excuse to delay practicing the painstaking but ultimately rewarding art of forgiveness? Yes, it's easier said that done, but don't you think you ought to seriously try?
What it is
To transcend such feelings, the daddy says, to paraphrase poet Queen Mother Audley Moore, ask yourself, "What is the hour of the night?" and recognize that the Watchman's midnight lantern lights brightly for you. The daddy says revisit the act that pained you, examine it, forgive and move on.
The daddy says you have within you the ability and the strength to forgive. Indeed this ability and strength could be the key to your personal and African Americans' collective salvation. Think about it: If Jesus can forgive those who hung him on the cross, if the King family can forgive James Earl Ray, the man who killed their father, and go to a prison and pray with him, don't you think that you can forgive too?
Where to start? With yourself. Though difficult at first, it can happen. Practice the art of forgiveness and let all that emotional baggage of depression, hatred and revenge fall from your mind and your heart like lint from a fabric of clothing.
Dr. King may have summarized it best when he spoke of both the transcending power and urgent need to forgive: "He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love."
Are you man or woman enough to forgive?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
"Look at life through the windshield,
not the rear-view mirror.”
~ Byrd Baggett
Listen up. You're over the hump now. It's like Thursday at work, and you know that tomorrow is Friday and "Let's par-teee!' Yes, you've been through a traumatic experience ( divorce, death in the family, a terrible illness). But you're back on track. Still, there's one something you need to watch out for: living in the past.
For some, living in the past is recalling "the good ole days" in a relationship with "My good man that got away" or "That fine sister I let go." This is the one you still think about at night, even on some nights when you're with someone else. This is the one whose tender, sweet love and understanding haunt you at one in the morning, long past Keith Olberman, John Stewart, Steve Colbert and a host of commercials a bout Viagra and exercise equipment.
Embellishing upon history (if not rewriting it altogether), you recall how her warm smile and sweet demeanor was always there. Or you remember how, when he was away, he remembered to call and never hung up without saying, "I love you, baby."
Now, the daddy hates to say this, but by visiting history's home and staying too long, you could also be leaving the home of reality and heading for a freefall. You could be starting to live in the past and not moving to live for today and all today infolds-- living for history, and not for today and tomorrow. The daddy thinks it's time to sip that second cup of coffee and think of ways to make history today.
It's important to live for today and not dwell in the past. Living f or today means living with full awareness of one's environment, immediate and otherwise. it means being knowledgeable, not only of what is happening to ourselves but others around us as well . It means setting and priorities for our own lives and supporting other those goals and priorities of others, especially those of family and friends. It means living in today's world alert, active, and not allowing past experiences-- personal or political, bitter or sweet-- to keep us from being the person we can be i whatever role we play in life: father, mother, brother, sister, friend, citizen, daughter, doctor, nurse, pilot, flight attendant, maintenance, nun.
History is wonderful as a marker of a person, or a people's, evolution or progress, but it is no substitute for living. And while psychiatrists may benefit financially from you continuing to remain stuck in the past, it behooves you-- at some point-- to state calmly and slowly, "I- will not-be controlled-by my past. I- will take control- of my life-and make history today." Of course, if that doesn't do the trick, climb up a mountaintop and shout at the top of your lungs down into valleys, ghettoes, barrios and projects like Moses:
"I WILL NO LONGER BE CONTROLLED BY MY PAST!
I WILL TAKE CONTROL OF MY LIFE AND MAKE HISTORY TODAY!"
Face it: Some of us need to hear this over and over again, because we've allowed ourselves to become stuck. Was it an unworkable relationship and bitter divorce at the end? Domestic violence? An unfair job demotion? Being fired from a job because you spoke up? Denied yet another job because you're African American, Hispanic, a woman, or suspected of being gay? Regardless, dwelling in past experiences that produced such pain, and such raw emotions, can keep you from living today.
This is not only true for individuals but collections of people as well. For example, many African American have overcome obstacles of racism and poverty and excelled in their careers and in life . But many continue to be mired in dire poor, dangerous neighborhoods, with few marketable skills and even less hope. It is difficult not to wonder if this segment of African Americans continue to struggle with the holocaust of slavery and its economically and psychologically shattering political and economic structure of apartheid called sharecropping.
Some African Americans need to be reminded that history is also a part of the present. But some of it need not be our future. As the late great people's historian John Henrik Clarke was fond of saying, "All history if a current event Everything is everything." But he also said that, to survive , take the best from the past and bring it into the present and move forward. That, he said, is the only way to ensure a promising future.
Though Dr. Clarke was speaking to African Americans as a people, his wisdom applies no less to us individuals. He's saying that you should take the best from past relationships and make it work for your relationship today and for your happiness tomorrow. It doesn't mean that you forget the past. On the contrary, it means that you utilize the best of it to carve out a better tomorrow.
Now, the daddy wants to ask you something: are you living in the past or for today?
Monday, March 23, 2009
Albert King"Blues means what milk does to a baby. Blues is what the spirit is to the minister. We sing the blues because our hearts have been hurt, our souls have been disturbed.
-- Alberta Hunter."
Listen up. You've been in a crisis. Having gone through the normal mental process of adjustment (lesson 1), gotten to the point where you can see positives from your situation (lesson 2), developed perspective (lesson 3) begun seeing family and friends (lesson 4), you're beginning to feel better about yourself, your family and friends too. You're beginning to believe and have a little faith in humanity...in yourself (lesson 5). Once in a while you may drink a little too much, and, on occasions, you may need to take a pill to sleep, but, for the most part, you're on pretty much an even keel. Like the great singer/pianist Nina Simone, you can smile broadly and say with passion, "I'm feeling good."
What should you listen to?
What type of music should you listen to? Listen to music that corresponds to the way you're feeling (sad, depressed, lonely, happy, enthused, relaxed). Listen to music to get the feeling you want. Let music get you excited enough to run off to a rock concert or relaxed enough to dream of walking by the ocean. For example, if you want to go to sleep, listen to some cool jazz such as "Kind of blue" or "In a silent way." by Miles Davis. Or listen to a Schubert sonata.
Listen to music to music to shake things up. If you get stuck in a rut, let the revolutionary words and beat of Marley groove you, until you find yourself, patting your feet, and singing, "Get up, stand up/Stand up for your rights." Or continue the protest for civil and human rights with jazz diva Nina and shout, "Mississippi Goddamn!"
What about the blues?
In your selection music, don't forget the blues. And don't listen what some of your friends say: that the blues is just tired ole sad music. The blues is a musical form that encompasses all emotions. Nor is it just old. The blues (and for that matter, gospel music) can found in virtually all forms of contemporary American music: rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz. Yes, some blues is sad. But what's wrong with that? As you will see, by allowing the expression of sadness or loneliness, blues provides a survival framework and healthy outlet for people, especially people in crisis.
What is the blues?
1. Blues music is truth-telling. The form allows, even forces, an artist to sing or play from the heart. " When communicated effectively, it causes the listener to feel the rhythm and the words or ideas deeply. It evokes the truth from both the artist and the listener.
2. The blues is cathartic. Listening to the plight of others can help you to better accept your own, especially when that plight is performed to evoke feelings appropriate to the story.
The positive effects of catharsis
In an article in Mother Jones magazine, author David Jadju talks about the positive effects of catharsis in the blues music:
"The blues was designed to make oppressed people feel better. But the magic of the blues is that it isn't just about African Americans, but about people everywhere. Its tension-and-release form is designed to wring out the emotions, cleanse the soul, and make the audience feel whole-- like gospel music, but without the religion. In the same article, Bruce Iglauer, founder and owner of Alligator Records, states, "As we say in Chicago, you listen to the blues to get rid of the blues."
The healing effects of the blues
Musicologist Marteinn Bjarnar gives even deeper insights into the healing effects of blues music. Bjarnar views music as "folk medicine," especially music which used certain instruments to get certain undertones or "drones." "Such instruments may include," he writes, "jaws harp, bagpipes, didgeridoo, sitar, chiming bowls, mountain horn, various one-string instruments to be struck or bowed, and modern instruments such as pipe organ with pedal point (foot pedal), programmable synthesizers, and even tape loops can give the good effect of undertones, if used in a suitable manner." Of course the blues is sung and played with instruments which enable the musician to skillfully utilize undertones (harmonicas, organs and guitars, etc.).
Beyond blues authors or blues label owners, it's the bluesmen and blueswomen who are best qualified to speak of the healing effect of blues music. Sista Monica, a part of a new generation of blues artists, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called synovial sarcoma and given three months to live without treatment. She underwent eighteen months of chemotherapy that shrunk the tumor so surgeons could remove it. Unfortunately, she was left with damaged nerves on the entire upper right side of her body. She eventually regained mobility on the right side of her body and say she is singing with more passion than ever. In fact, she has written an autobiography of her experience: "Soul, Spirit & Survival."
Sista Monica says the blues was healing for her, because it helped her to deal with the truth about cancer and other life experiences.
Other blues artists
Though he didn't write a book on the subject, the late great blues guitarist/singer Albert King often sang about blues healing. In the song "I'll play the blues for you," he sang with passion about his desire to play the blues and ease worried minds:
“I got no big name/Well, I ain’t no big star/
But I’ll play the blues for you/ on my guitar/
And all your loneliness/ I got to soothe/
I'll play the blues for you."
The late great blues guitarist Son Seals, who was once a drummer for Albert King, was adamant in advice to live audience to partake in some blues healing because, as he loved to say, "They're good for you." In a live album made in Chicago, he told fellow Chicagoans at the end of his last set: "Don't for about these damn blues!" he said.
"When you go home, get in bed and close your eyes,
dream about these damn blues. Don't forget about 'em.
When you get up in the morning, you say blues!
I said, when you get in the morning, you say blues!"
Whatever the genre, play music to lift your spirt and soothe your soul. So go ahead: Rise to R&B and shout "I feel good!" At work, groove with Smoke Robinson on the easy-listening radio station and sing, "You really got a hold on me!" Listen to Mozart and doze off to sleep. But don't forget the blues. They're good for you.
Have you forgotten about the blues?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"To believe with all our heart in our people,
our parents, our teachers. our leaders, and the
righteousness and victory of our struggle."
--The Seventh Nguzo Saba principle
"The language of faith is crucial because it
affords human beings the privilege of intimacy
with the ultimate." --Michael Eric Dyson
Listen up. When you're in a crisis, oftentimes you don't act normal. Your mind is going through the mental process of adjusting to the crisis ( lesson 1). Your body feels like every cell is wired, and a spark from one of those cells can set your entire body, house and home ablaze. But as you begin to come out on the other side, you begin to look for positives and not just the negatives (lesson 3), and you begin to gain a greater distance from it all so that you not only better understand and move forward, but indeed become a wiser and, in a way, a better person. This about the time that you are looking at no longer drinking too much alcohol or too many pills; no longer taking risks with your body and life by driving while drinking or having unprotected sex or getting into unnecessary arguments.
It's about this time that you begin to feel that you need to stop thinking only of yourself-- you need something to keep you from venturing farther out into troubled waters, and some value to keep you from going under next time. That something is family and friends (lesson 4), and that value is faith. The daddy says you got to have you some faith.
You've heard it said many times: "You got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything." This saying suggest that you need to believe in something and have faith that it's true. And you've probably heard that you can't live on faith, but, then again, you can't survive too long without it. That's why the daddy likes it when English rocker George Michael gets all into it and sounds so adamant, when he sings "You gotta have faith!"
Faith is nothing more than your conviction that something is true. Some say whether you need to have it is debatable. What is not to debatable is that that having it helps you to better deal with a crisis: that death in the family, the lost job, the lost love, the new-found disease, the unwanted pregnancy, divorce, etc. But Michael wasn't the only one to sing the praises of faith.
Mother Theresa taught nuns to "do little things with love" and to have faith that those little things would bare fruit in the end. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-- despite being stabbed , arrested more than 33 times, beaten by white mobs and police, wiretapped by FBI (who tried to get him to commit suicide), receiving death threats constantly-- never wavered in his faith that the United States would become a just society, nor in his faith in those of us left behind to make his undying faith a living reality for all Americans. Small wonder, then, that he would die in support of striking garbage workers or that he would make this prophetic statement of faith at a church just before he died:
"I may not get there with you. But we, as a people, will get to the promise land."
If Mother Theresa can role model the power of faith by doing the "little things" like washing the feet of the poor in India, if Dr. King can demonstrate the power of faith by dying for garbage workers in Memphis, maybe you can demonstrate the power of faith by standing up family, friends, community, and, above all, yourself. where you live.
Now, the daddy's got a question for you: What do you believe in with all your heart? What do you stand for?
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Listen up. How much time do you spend with friends and family? And when you do, do you focus on them and how they are doing, or do you just talk about yourself? Okay. Stay with me. It's confession time: the bad, the ugly, and the good.
The daddy used to spend very little time with his family and friends. He was a workaholic. He has had two jobs as long as he can remember. In the early 90's, he started his own consulting business, and here is how it worked. From 8:00 to 4:30 p.m., the daddy worked as a manager of a semi-governmental agency and from 5:00 to 10 p.m., he worked his own business. He did this 4 to 5 days a week. And once a month, he worked for his business, giving 4-5 hour workshops on violence prevention. Obviously, this gave the daddy little time for family and friends.
Not only did the daddy not take time for family and friends; he didn't take time for himself either. Other than an annual check up and visits to the dentist, he basically disregarded his health. He just about swallowed whole donuts from Super America in the morning, threw food in his mouth at his desk at lunch, and chased cheeseburgers with beer for dinner. Not only did the daddy not take to smell the roses; he didn't take time to smell the coffee either. He just gulped it down on the way to work.
But while in the hospital recovering from an intestinal blockage (Could it have been from all the cheeseburgers?) the daddy began to think about his crazy, workaholic lifestyle. He had all the nice things: a big "manly" SUV, a big warm home and stylish clothes. However, when he looked more closely, he had something far more valuable: friends and family who adored him, bragged about his service to the community, and told stories about the wonderful things he did-- friends he rarely saw. Sure, he would be there for them during a crisis. But at other times (children's birthdays, wedding anniversaries, occasional house parties, often the daddy did not arrive until late, if at all.
Looking more closely, the daddy discovered that he was not as kind to his friends and family as they were to him. Did he bring them soup when they were sick? Did he just "drop by" to say hello to see how they were doing? Of course not. Like a hunter collecting trophies, he was too busy chasing money and buying things.
Looking even closer, the daddy realized that, when he was with them, often he talked about himself. you know, his work with violent men, his work with local celebrities, his understanding of what he now realizes were weird subjects to them like outcome evaluations and community policing. He rarely asked his friends about what was up with them, what were their hopes and dreams, either as an individual or a family.
After leaving the hospital, the daddy changed his ways. First, he spent time working on himself. He ate a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of protein. He cooked at home and invited friends over to share; and while focusing on listening to them for the first time (it seemed), sipped good wine and ate slowly. He gets meditates by listening either to cool jazz from Sirius on his satellite disk or listening to a CD with the sound of Ocean waves. And, as much as possible, he walks by the Mississippi River or the Ocean in Naples, Florida.
And now the daddy does something he thought he would never do, something he never viewed as very manly: he visits his friends and family and, before walking away, hugs them (male or female) and says, "I love you." He might be going soft, but there is something about hugging my friends and family and telling them he loves them loves that makes the daddy feel he has rejoined the human race.
Do you take time for friends and family? And when you do, do you talk about yourself or focus on them?
Friday, March 20, 2009
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
--Carl Gustav Jung quotes (Swiss psychiatrist, Psychologist and Founder of the Analytic Psychology, 1875-1961)
Listen up. The daddy talked about going through the normal mental process of adjusting to a crisis (Lesson I) and, as a part of coming out on the other side of it, coming to see that there are positives and negatives to a crisis situation (Lesson II). Today, the daddy is feeling the idea of developing perspective on a crisis.
Let's say you have just broken up with your boyfriend. In the midst of the confusion from this sudden situation, in the midst of trying to grapple with the implications of living without him, without the fond memories, without the excited anticipation of seeing him, without the loving idea of having a loving, understanding soul-mate for the rest of your life, you find it difficult to rationally deal with what this all means. What should you be doing, sitting around waiting for him to call? What should you be thinking, that he'll come back begging and pleading, saying he'll do anything to be back into your arms (or bed) again? Here's what the daddy says:
1. Know that, no matter how grave, no matter how anxious you may be right now, that there are positive as well as negative ways to view a situation. Yes, the daddy said that before, but this time the daddy is saying "know" it as in believe it with all your heart. And, yes, the daddy knows it is easy to SAY it but much more difficult to do. But you must know it deep in your heart.
2. Figure out a way to step back from the site of the "drama," the final incident or episode that caused either you or he to leave, and the mind-shattering confusion that ensued thereafter and now keeps you from thinking rationally. Yes, this is easy for the daddy SAY but much more difficult for someone to DO in real life.
So you're saying, "Daddy, this is just counselor talk! When I had a tough break-up with my man, I was too mad to think rationally or get some kind of perspective. I just wanted to get back at him!" Well, that's why you need to figure out a way to get perspective. How do you do it? Here are few tips that might help:
1. If possible, get away from the scene of the drama. Can you get out of the house for the weekend? Go on an early vacation? Stay overnight at a friend or relative's house (one who will not pestering you with questions about him)? Take a long ride out in the country and sit by a lake to think? Walk along a beach?
2. Once you get alone and where you will not be interrupted, use imagery. Imagine yourself slowly moving out of your own body, rising slowly and steadily until you are finally above yourself.
3. Speak in third person to yourself. Words are important. Speaking in third person to yourself, coupled with the image that you are speaking outside you could help you to feel that you are thinking and speaking to yourself but as a third person, like an elder or wise woman.
4. Now do some self-talk. Imagine a third person, say, a wise woman, saying something to you like this. "Chile, I know you're in a tough spot right now. You must be feeling real bad thinking that, after all this time, after all you did for him, he treated you this way. But I want you to know that you come from a strong stock. Honey, the women in your family been through times so bad we can't even give names to em. But thanks to Jesus and our strong constitution, we came out on the other side. You're strong one; and you got a good mind. Some men don't like that. But believe me when I tells ya: you're gonna make it to the other side." Okay, substitute your own words, but you get the idea.
Note that, through speaking third person, you are already beginning to analyze your situation more rationally. Though this idea may appear unnecessary, even silly to others, it can enable you to relax a little, step back and gain a better perspective on your situation-- see this relationship in a more balanced manner: see the good that was there, see the bad that was there, and begin to come to grips with the implications of getting back with him or staying away from him, at least for now.
Note too that the daddy is not saying try these four things as a substitute for counseling. He is only saying these types can be an invaluable aide to help you gain a better perspective on your relationship in the midst of a crisis.
Have you ever used imagery and self-talk to help you get a better hold of a crisis situation?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"There must be a positive and negative in
everything in the universe in order to complete
a circuit or circle, without which there would
no activity, no motion." --John McDonald
Listen up. Last time we talked about how the mind works during a crisis: how it goes from denial, confusion, anger, grudging acceptance. Today, the daddy is feeling what happens after we come to slowly accept our fate. Unfortunately, many of us fall into a period of feeling sorry for ourselves, saying "Bad things always happen to me." If we continue to think this way, we may lapse into a prolonged funk, a period of thinking and feeling negative about ones yourself and life in general. That's a depression.
Let's say you find out you have cancer. After going through the normal mental process of denial, confusion, anger, and grudging acceptance, you may continue to think negative; and, if you aren't careful, you will think that everything is bad and you're going to die next week.
Of course, hidden in this negative thinking are some positive facts:
1. First, getting cancer is not a metaphor for death. We're living in a time when much research has already been done on cancer, and the medical profession has learned quite a bit about how to deal with this disease;
2. Far from immediate death, cancer can now be treated by a number of therapies which were not available only a few years ago, therapies that can allow you or your family member to live much longer.
3. In addition, there are alternative therapies from acupuncture to Chinese herbs dating back thousands of years that can work with western therapies and help you live longer and more comfortably with cancer.
4. Unlike times in the past, you won't necessarily have to travel great distances in great pain to get help. Speedy cars, paved roads and increased medical assistance now makes it easier to get medical help in a timely manner.
5. You are not going through this alone. Besides a knowledgeable, competent medical staff with modern equipment, you also have family members, and even other cancer patients to support you.
Due to your emotional state, you may be unable to see that your cancer can lead you to travel new roads that will help you to not only live with cancer but to live life more fully. However, the fact that you may not may be due to a combination of the stage of your mind in its process of adjustment and to your lack of knowledge about the disease, especially the research that makes it possible for you to live with the disease.
Check this. The daddy had the pleasure of seeing the great blues guitarist Albert Collins (who taught Jimi Hendrix a thing or two about feedback) several times before he died of cancer a few years ago. In this last show the daddy saw, Collins played a slow blues ballad at the end of the set; and just before the end of the song, just before he tore it up on his Fender Telecaster, he had the band drop the low. And as the drums, bass and the rhythm guitar played ever so softly, this is what he said:
But I want you to know one thing.
Though the night may be dark and long,
Daylight will find us with our head up,
Shoulders back, Walking tall,
Living strong, moving on."
Once your mind gets to the point where it can see the positives as well as the negatives, the good as well as the bad, you will be on your way to living "strong," living life to the fullest-- moving on to an even better you.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
You go from denial to confusion to grudging acceptance, to unfocused anger (saying to "Why did this have to happen to me?") to a kind of hell-with-it-all state of resignation. And, as if that’s not enough, you may go through the entire process all over again.
As you go through this mental process, your body basically acts out your emotions. When you're confused, your body movements coincide with your emotions. When you're angry, your head and eyes move from one side of the room to the other as you question doctors or police or the insurance person in rapid succession. And, as you begin to accept your fate, you sit still, head bowed.
When under stress, you're not a woman who's just "emotional" or a "girlie man' who's weak. Far from it. In fact, you're acting out a process which countless number of people go through, as they try to come to term with a tragic injury of catastrophic illness. Actually, it's a normal process of the mind adjusting to a crisis situation.
Today, tragedy has fallen upon many Americans due to the recent economic crisis. Many Americans lost their jobs. Many lost their homes. Many have homes in foreclosure and may lose their homes soon. Many (47 million) don't have medical insurance and can only get assistance by going to the emergency wards at a hospital.
This economic crisis is real, and its affect on the individuals and families are real as well. Like a person going through a personal tragedy, Americans are collectively going through the mental process of denial, grudging acceptance, anger and resignation, as they try to come to grasp with the economic crisis that has befallen them and what it means for their future. Like any other tragedy, it will not be an easy one to conquer.
There were signs of this economic crisis coming, but Americans remained in denial. They continued to live off rip-off credit cards and the equity from their homes. Government refused to see it, saying the economy was essentially sound. And while some say things are not so bad and the government needs to stay out of it and let the capitalist free market work its "magic" (Republicans), most Americans have come to grudgingly accept the market's free-fall and their personal fate: this is a terrible economic crisis, and it's going to be terrible, and it could last for years.
Other Americans are in a state of depression. They demonstrate by expressing anger at politicians (first, the Bush administration and, increasingly, the Obama administration) that bailed out gigantic financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and AIG on Wall Street while their situation remained dire at home. They still can't find a job. They have lost their home or their home is still in foreclosure. This, too, is a normal mental process as Americans come to terms with a bad economy and begin to ponder what it means for their future.
Some already know that they can no longer live the way off their homes and credit cards as before. Some already realize that they will have to sell some of the things they cherish in order to survive. Some already realize that they may have to forego that vacation abroad and take a trip closer to home in the United States.
Getting past this economic crisis and its negative affect on our lives will not be easy, but it may be comforting to know the following:
1. As a country, we have a blueprint for dealing with getting out of this deep recession. Though there are some differences in circumstances (for example, less manufacturing in America today), the solutions Roosevelt used in the 30's are still applicable today. By focusing on infrastructure, the Obama administration is utilizing many of Roosevelt's prescriptions. At the same time, he has provided quite a bit of funding to low-income people for a safety net.
2. Despite the negative talk on cable news, the Obama administration has put in place a plan to help banks provide loans to small businesses at extremely low interest rates. This money provided to banks (43 billion) is for small businesses only. In addition, the Obama administration has provided funds to assist many homeowners to, in fact, stay in their homes.
3. That said, many Americans have moved past grudging acceptance and even anger to personal empowerment. Some are eating out less and cooking more at home. Some have taken up gardening and canning to save money and to relieve stress. Some are driving their gas-guzzling SUVS less and biking more, discovering biking paths along the way. Some are having their college daughter or son live at home rather than on campus. Some are still angry but are channeling that anger in protest against the government and the financial institutions, demonstrating that anger in itself is not bad, if one doesn't get angry too often and if one channels anger in positive action.
The point here is that, like many families facing tragic or catastrophic illnesses, many Americans have already gone through the normal mental process of confusion, anger, grudging acceptance and anger. In fact, they have moved to a point where they are thinking rationally about surviving and living tolerably in today's changing economy.
Have you had a devastating personal crisis that you threatened to drive you crazy but got pass it?
Despite an ailing economy, have you moved on and can now rationally figure out ways to personally survive?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Listen up. The daddy has friends who knows he was a counselor or therapist for years. Lately, they've been emailing him about their problems. He's sure you can guess what they are:
*Our bad economy;
*Their personal financial crises and the affect it is having on their families and personal relationships:
*Having to sell their home at a price beneath its real value;
*Wanting to leave and divorce their husbands but unable to do so due to poor finances;
* Moving their college son or daughter back into the home, because they can no longer pay for him or her to live in college dorms.
But some are also lamenting the disruption of retirement plans, because they have to take care of their grandsons and granddaughters. The daughter is hooked up with some guy, and they think she's on crack. And they never had any idea where the kid's father is. But most are writing about the fact that their paycheck is decreasing as everything from groceries to gas is increasing.
Yes, times are hard, but America has seen hard times before. But this seems like more than hard times, at least for the daddy's friends. It seems that they have lost confidence in the government to get them out of this economic crisis as well as confidence in themselves.
Rather than keep responding to them on an individual basis, the daddy is going to offer some life lesson he has learned.
Now don't worry. These lessons won't be written in academese, big words but small ideas designed more to get credentials than to educate or connect. No, they will be general lessons that hit home and, hopefully, make you say, -- "Yeah that makes sense" or, "Yeah, maybe I outta look at it that way more often." The daddy wants to rock the truth and not continue confusion.
Hopefully, these truths-- this motherwit as Aunt Bess used to say-- will hit home and move my friends in Minneapolis and you who come to this blog to take a second look at America and, but most of all, look at yourself-- at the way you approach to problems as much as the problems themselves.
And the daddy wants you to share the lessons you've learned either after a crisis or before one.
The daddy will get this party started tomorrow and rock it til a few mornings come. See you then.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Why some U.S. senators will not support the Big 3? to protect foreign auto companies in their own states
Listen up. You want to know why Republican Senators McConnell (Kentucky), Sen. Shelby (Alabama), and Corker (Tennessee) are constantly on tv saying they are against the government bailing out Ford, GM, and Chrysler? Because they want to eliminate the competition and because they don't want unions to come South to their neck of the woods. It would upset the applecart of cheap labor in the Japanese, German and Korean auto industries they lured to their respective states by subsidizing them with American tax dollars.
This is all spelled out in a brilliant article written for Progressive Populist (http://www.populist.com/) by Joseph Atkins, veteran journalist and professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi. Check it out.
Even more than race, the South is about Exploiting Workers
Cheap labor. Even more than race, it’s the thread that connects all of Southern history—from the ante-bellum South of John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis to Tennessee’s Bob Corker, Alabama’s Richard Shelby and the other anti-union Southerners in today’s U.S. Senate.
It’s at the epicenter of a sad class divide between a desperate, poorly educated workforce and a demagogic oligarchy, and it has been a demarcation line stronger than the Mason-Dixon in separating the region from the rest of the nation.
The recent spectacle of Corker, Shelby and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky leading the GOP attack on the proposed $14 billion loan to the domestic auto industry—with 11 other Southern senators marching dutifully behind—made it crystal clear. The heart of Southern conservatism is the preservation of a status quo that serves elite interests.
Expect these same senators and their colleagues in the US House to wage a similar war in the coming months against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act authorizing so-called “card check” union elections nationwide.
“Dinosaurs,” Shelby of Alabama called General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler as he maneuvered to bolster the nonunion Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and other foreign-owned plants in his home state by sabotaging as many as three million jobs nationwide.
Corker, a multi-millionaire who won his seat in a mud-slinging, race-tinged election in 2006, was fairly transparent in his goal to expunge what he considers the real evil in the Big Three and US industry in general: unions. When the concession-weary United Auto Workers balked at GOP demands for a near-immediate reduction in worker wages and benefits, Corker urged President Bush to force-feed wage cuts to UAW workers in any White House-sponsored bailout.
If Shelby, Corker, and McConnell figured they were helping the Japanese, German and Korean-owned plants in their home states, they were seriously misguided. The failure of the domestic auto industry would inflict a deep wound on the same supplier-dealer network that the foreign plants use. The already existing woes of the foreign-owned industry were clearly demonstrated in December when Toyota announced its decision to put on indefinite hold the opening of its $1.3 billion plant near Blue Springs in northeast Mississippi.
The Southern Republicans are full of contradictions. Downright hypocrisy might be a better description. Shelby staunchly opposes universal health care—a major factor in the Big Three’s financial troubles since they operate company plans—yet the foreign automakers he defends benefit greatly from the government-run health care programs in their countries.
These same senators gave their blessing to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to the foreign automakers to open plants in their states, yet they were willing to let the US auto industry fall into bankruptcy.
In their zeal to destroy unions and their hard-fought wage-and-benefits packages, the Southern senators could not care less that workers in their home states are among the lowest paid in the nation. Ever wonder why the South remains the nation’s poorest region despite generations of seniority-laden senators and representatives in Congress?
Why weren’t these same senators protesting the high salaries in the financial sector when the Congress approved the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street? Why pick on blue-collar workers at the Big Three who last year agreed to huge concessions expected to save the companies an estimated $4 billion a year by 2010? These concessions have already helped lower union wages to non-union levels at some auto plants.
The idea of working people joining together to have a united voice across the table from management scares most Southern politicians to death. After all, they go to the same country clubs as management. When Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker warned of Democratic opponent Ronnie Musgrove’s ties to the “Big Labor Bosses” in this year’s US Senate race, he was protecting the “Big Corporate Bosses” who are his benefactors.
The South today may be more racially enlightened than ever in its history. However, it is still a society in which the ruling class—the chambers of commerce that have taken over from yesterday’s plantation owners and textile barons—uses politics to maintain control over a vast, jobs-hungry workforce. After the oligarchy lost its war for slavery—the cheapest labor of all—it secured the next best thing in Jim Crow and the indentured servitude known as sharecropping and tenant farming. It still sees cheap, pliable, docile labor as the linchpin of the Southern economy.
In 1948, when the so-called “Dixiecrats” rebelled against the national Democratic Party, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina declared war on “the radicals, subversives, and the Reds” who want to upset the Southern way of life.
Seven years later, Mississippi’s political godfather, the late US Sen. James O. Eastland, told other prominent Southern pols during a meeting at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis that the South will “fight the CIO” (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and unionism with just as much vehemence and determination as it fights racial integration.
Eastland, Thurmond and their friends lost the integration battle. Their successors are still fighting the other enemy.
Atkins is the author of the book Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press (University Press of Mississippi, 2008), a book that details the Southern labor movement and its treatment in the press.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Locklin's and King's death (Only one day apart. Locklin died on Saturday, March 7, and King on Sunday, March 8) provide southerners, especially Alabamians, an opportunity to brag about the numerous great musicians that have come out of Alabama. They will bring up the Muscle Shoals musicians (the ones who backed up Aretha Franklin, among others), Hank Locklin and Willie King. And they will end up by saying in no uncertain terms, "Not all the great ones came from Mississippi and Tennessee you know!"
The following is an editorial from the Anniston Star, a newspaper out of Anniston, Alabama (http://www.annistonstar.com/as-index.htm) that does a little bragging of its own. Check it out.
The loss of Locklin, King
In Our Opinion
The silence that comes when famed musicians pass away is a shock to those who treasure such glorious work. This week, that silence is being felt all across Alabama. The deaths of Hank Locklin and Willie King, immortal musicians both, have left a gaping hole in the decorated list of legendary Alabama performers. Neither men, nor their work, can be replaced.Locklin, of Brewton, was the oldest member of the Grand Ole Opry, where he performed for nearly five decades and became a cornerstone performer of old-time country music. With the God-given talent of his famed tenor voice, Locklin recorded 65 albums, charted 70 singles and sold more than 15 million records worldwide. His status is secure Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, described Locklin's death in the New York Times as the loss of country music's "fourth Hank." The other three were Hank Williams, Hank Snow and Hank Thompson.
No less important was the Alabama blues of King, whose voice and guitar work were heralded for setting the standard for what he called the "struggling blues" of Deep South juke joints. Once named the male artist of the year by Living Blues magazine, King's never-bending style and rigorous touring schedule made him an international star.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Listen up. Some of my friends, who know the daddy's history as a counselor, asked his opinion about Michael McClendon, the man who killed his family members and others in Alabama. Here is a description of what occurred from Hulig News, a daily newspaper in Hickory, North Carolina:
"Among the dead were several relatives of Michael McClendon, including his mother and McClendon himself, but authorities still no motive for the seeming rampage that spread across the small towns of Kinston, Samson and Geneva.
The spree first began in late afternoon in Kinston. Michael McClendon burned down his mother's home, where his mother's body was eventually found. At that point McClendon then went to nearby Samson and shot both his grandparents, aunt and uncle.
The wife and 18-month-old child of a Geneva County sheriff's deputy were then killed; the two had reportedly stopped to visit a neighbor.
Michael McClendon then got into his car and began driving around the tiny town, randomly shooting through the car window. Three more people were shot in this manner.
McLendon ended up at Reliable Metal Products factory in Geneva, where he exchanged shots with police before killing himself."Background
First, this is a story about guns. When are we going to stop allowing the NRA (the National Rifle Association) to keep guns accessible in this country? When is our federal government going stop enabling the proliferation by allowing guns to be purchased on the spot at gun shows and in parking lots in metropolitan areas all across the country? If you ask them, they say they don't have the personnel, but the real deal is that NRA lobbists have paid off politicians so that they don't make dealing in death a priority. We should not support politicians that get a penny from the NRA or sit silently while people in our communities die from handguns.
Second, this is a story about people. People with guns kill people, usually the people closest to them. When Americans kill, they kill their wives, their best friends (sometimes over things that are trivial or meaningless), and thier "homies" with whom they play ball or hang out.
They kill coworkers, people with whom they spend 8 hours almost every day. And they kill those with whom they have attached so much love, so much companionship, so many hopes and dreams. That's why this is not just a gun issue. It's also about the dynamics of trying to survive or thrive in a country where those with wealth or riches, however ruthlessly acquired, are viewed primarily as winners and those who are not are viewed primarily as losers, however moral, hardworking, and honest they may be.
The rich, the poor
This is a story about how the rich treats the poor. Today, greedy and immoral bankers and mortgage insurers, who are mostly responsible for creating this bad economy, get more money to visit fancy resorts and health spas as many hard working, honest and community-loving Americans struggle. And those under severe stress, those who have lost jobs and homes, or who are about to, are viewed as "losers" unable to take care of family and home-- people not smart (or ruthless) enough to succeed. So the financial crisis on Wall Street hits main street, causing working people to pay more for health insurance, food, clothing, gas-- causing many to lose their jobs and their homes. And guess who is blamed for it? The poor and those made poor by bankers and mortgage insurers. So while the paycheck gets smaller and smaller and the bills get larger and larger, the idea persists in America that, if you cannot keep your head above, if you cannot "swim with the sharks," it's not the deepness of the ocean or the toxidity of the water. You're just unable to swim with the big white boys.
McClendon and the rest of us
This is story about the rich and the poor in Amrica. It is the story of Michael McClendon. Some say his actions were senseless, but I'm not so sure. You see, just because you or the daddy can't fathom committing such acts does not in itself mean that those acts were senseless, at least from McClendon's point of view. He tried to be a cop, but for whatever reason, that didn't work out. So he found a job. He got in trouble with his supervisor and perhps others on the job. He tried to move on.
But what if this "loser" found no job to move on to? What if he realized that, in the very near future, he would not be able to take care of his family? What if the very thought of being a "loser" meant that he may have to humiliate himself and his family by going on welfare?
What if he were so angry at the way he was treated on the job he left a few days earlier, and the previous jobs he had, that it placed him in a psychological state of depression where he fluctuated between anger and sadness? And what if no amount of alcohol or drugs from a pharmacy could adequately medicate this overwhelming pain?
The point here is not to make a victim of McClendon but understand his actions, however painful that may be for us to do. The point is not to make excuses but to seek explanations with an eye toward lessening the the chances that such a tragedy will occur again.
The daddy says we have two choices: We can ignore McClendon's actions as nothing than an aberration from a man who "lost it" or challenge ourselves to better understand how certain populations or classes respond to stress, especially during times of economic crises.
The daddy says, ultimately, we need to ask: Is there a bit of Michael McClendon in all of us?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
"When you look at a fellow, if you taught yourself to look for it, you can see his song written on him. Tell you what kind of man he is in the world."
- Bynum, from August Wilson's play, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," 1988
Listen up. The music took him from the juke joints of Alabama to big concerts "up North" in the United States and to huge crowds in Europe. Yes, the sad news came out of dusty roads of Montgomery, Alabama. Willie King, another great black blues guitarist, is gone. Debbie Bond, one of his band members, said King, 65, died of a heart attack on his way to the hospital. Did you know him. If not, why didn't you?
Why is it that we pay so little attention to our great musicians until they are past their prime , if then?
Why is it that oftentimes we don't know, or don't hear of, our own artists who have given such great gospel, blues, and Jazz to us and the world? Ever thought about how the white media, electronic and paper, keep us from the real deal, especially when the real deal is black?
He was born in Prairie Point, Mississippi soon moved to be with his sharecropping grandparents in West Alabama. When he was 9, he began doing what a number of would-be-great blues guitarist did-- begin playing a one-string guitar. The string is usually nailed against a wall with a tin can at the top or put on a stick and cigar box. But it wouldn't take long for King to get a six-string guitar and begin playing. Soon, he would be playing in juke joints all around West Alabama.
King played around West Alabama for years and didn't become known elsewhere until 2000, the year his album"Freedom Creek" was released. The songs were strong with a drive and a tone that reminded the listener of the voice of the late great Howlin Wolf and the guitar sound of Hubert Sumlin, the Wolf's lead guitarist for years. And the entire album had that down-home, Mississippi-Texas feel; and, when it was over, the listener could not help but say, "Now that was the blues!"
Released on the Rooster Blues record label, Freedom Creek received universal rave reviews. Soon, King would record several more albums and tour The United States and Europe, giving the fans what they wanted: good down-home blues. Along the way, King received several awards, including the "Best Blues Album" and "Best Contemporary Blues Album" by Living Blues magazine. And Living Blues named him Blues Artist of the Year in 2004.
"Willie once described his type of blues, which deal with things a lot of blues don't deal with, as ‘struggling blues,' and by that he didn't mean the usual things. He meant struggling with the injustices in life in the rural South." Peter Guralnick, author of two books about Elvis Presley, said that, in songs like "Last Train to Memphis" and "Careless Love," King "...combined the standard blues elements, but he sang about more than the standard blues subjects." He said he saw King perform live in juke joints and was surprised to see dancers and non-dancers alike singing political songs along with him, something almost unheard of in the blues.
King also visited schools. He felt a deep responsibility to make the younger generation more aware of their musical history. He would talk about the blues and demonstrate it on his guitar. In fact, the annual Freedom Creek Festival that King organized grew out of his work with youth in his community.
King's music and organizing work in his community inspired Dutch filmmakers Saskia Rietmeijer and Bart Drolenga do a documentary on him called "Down in the Woods." The DVD captures King not only in concert but in his community and on his farm.
He also appeared in the Martin Scorsese film "Feel Like Going Home."
Al Head, director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts and friend of King for more than 20 years, said King played the blues the way it is supposed to be played, "the right way." "When King played," he said, "...You can see on his face and hear in his guitar and you say, 'Hey man, that's what blues is all about.'"
A great bluesman died today. Did you know him? If not, why didn't you?
Listen up. On Monday, March 9, 2009, The Prez did something exceedingly important to all of us. He lifted the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. He left no doubt in the purpose of this order. "The purpose of this order," The Prez states, " is to remove these limitations on scientific inquiry, to expand NIH support for the exploration of human stem cell research, and in so doing to enhance the contribution of America's scientists to important new discoveries and new therapies for the benefit of humankind."
This order speaks of the funding for such important research going through the channels of the NIH (National Institute of Health) and monitored by HHS (Health and Human Services). Section 2 and 3 read:
"Sec. 2. Research. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.
Sec. 3. Guidance. Within 120 days from the date of this order, the Secretary, through the Director of NIH, shall review existing NIH guidance and other widely recognized guidelines on human stem cell research, including provisions establishing appropriate safeguards, and issue new NIH guidance on such research that is consistent with this order. The Secretary, through NIH, shall review and update such guidance periodically, as appropriate."
But this order does something more. While acknowledging other views and saying those views should be respected, The Prez nonetheless puts folks like right-wing Republicans on notice that his administration will be guided by science and its potential for the American people and the rest of the world.
To further support his Executive Order, The Prez issued his "Memorandum for Heads of Departments and Agencies." The memorandum expounds on his administration's reliance on science:
"Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security."
The Prez Executive Order lifting the ban on funding research and his concomitant memorandum on his administration's support of science is not just good for the scientific research community. It is good for our country. Yes, it allows scientists to catch on stem cell research, but, more importantly, it places the Obama administration's policies and actions on a sound footing with science and not religious and political rhetoric. And in practical terms, it means that our nation is getting closer to solving health problems like diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, paralysis, autism, cancer, alzheimers, and other illnesses.
This is change the scientific community and most Americans can believe in.
Below is The Prez's Executive Order
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 9, 2009
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REMOVING BARRIERS TO RESPONSIBLE SCIENTIFIC
RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN STEM CELLS
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. Research involving human embryonic stem cells and human non-embryonic stem cells has the potential to lead to better understanding and treatment of many disabling diseases and conditions. Advances over the past decade in this promising scientific field have been encouraging, leading to broad agreement in the scientific community that the research should be supported by Federal funds.
For the past 8 years, the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to fund and conduct human embryonic stem cell research has been limited by Presidential actions. The purpose of this order is to remove these limitations on scientific inquiry, to expand NIH support for the exploration of human stem cell research, and in so doing to enhance the contribution of America's scientists to important new discoveries and new therapies for the benefit of humankind.
Sec. 2. Research. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.
Sec. 3. Guidance. Within 120 days from the date of this order, the Secretary, through the Director of NIH, shall review existing NIH guidance and other widely recognized guidelines on human stem cell research, including provisions establishing appropriate safeguards, and issue new NIH guidance on such research that is consistent with this order. The Secretary, through NIH, shall review and update such guidance periodically, as appropriate.
Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Sec. 5. Revocations. (a) The Presidential statement of August 9, 2001, limiting Federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells, shall have no further effect as a statement of governmental policy.
(b) Executive Order 13435 of June 20, 2007, which supplements the August 9, 2001, statement on human embryonic stem cell research, is revoked.