Thursday, June 25, 2015

HISTORY MATTERS - HERITAGE MATTERS

A Wednesday night church meeting in South Carolina is taking place.  A young white male sits and studies the Bible with the predominately black members of the church.  There hasn't been a report on how the young man was treated by the black parishioners, but from my experience in similar situations, I imagine the young man was treated well, respectfully and welcomed into the congregations midst, treated as anybody would expect to be treated when visiting or attending a church function.

Suddenly and without provocation, the young man has a gun in his hand and is shooting randomly at the Minister and church members with one intent in his mind.  That intent is to kill.  Not just kill people, but black people.  When he is finished, nine lie dead with many others injured.  It is a nightmare that this country should be far past from having to even think about.  But we must think about it because minds like this are still being taught hate.  The sad part is that it isn't just white minds being taught hate, but black minds are being taught hate.  Hispanic minds are being taught hate.  Not all though.  That is a mistake we should be certain not to make.  A vast majority of the minds, whether they be Black, White, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, are not being taught hate at all but rather tolerance.  It is but a small minority in each of these communities that is being taught the politics and the living of hate towards others.  This is what needs to change.  The teaching of hate needs to stop.
In July 239 years ago, leaders in what has become the United States of America, decided to break from England and it's empire.  They feared for their lives because after all, at that moment in time, each one of them became a traitor to the throne in England.  Each one of them committed treason under English law and could be put to death.  Any of the colonists who joined in the fight to break from the throne also became traitors and could be hung if caught by the British.  The American flag at that time, which were many and varied depending on where it was located, was a flag of treason.  It was a symbol of insurrection against England.  Today, that flag represents a country that gives citizens the right to stomp on it, burn it, rip it to shreds and is known around the world as a symbol of freedom.  It isn't looked upon as a flag of traitors, but a flag that represents a country that, while making mistakes in policy at times, has come to aid those in crisis, to help free those that long to be free, that leads the world with a government that comes about as close to an utopian society as you will find.  After 239 years, it is no longer considered a flag of treason by the British government or the English Throne.  The American flag is flown in England with respect as any sovereign nation's flag is flown.  England and the United States have been allies, strong allies, for a very long time and will continue to be so.

After the shooting and murders in South Carolina, people began looking for answers to all of the "why" questions.  The obvious answer was that this young 21 year old was a racist.  He was a White Supremest who felt that his race was being run over by minorities and that he was losing rights that were guaranteed him by The Constitution.  It had to be more than that though.  He had a diseased mind that had been infected by the politics and the teaching of hate.  That being said, he was not "insane" when he killed those nine innocents who welcomed him into their Bible study.  He knew what he was doing and he knew what the consequences would be. That is what I believe anyway.  I am sure that will be his defense if he decides to present a defense, much like James Holmes in Colorado is doing for killing twelve random people and injuring dozens of others in a movie theater in 2012.  People who do take this kind of action are not of right mind, but they do understand.

April 9th, 1865.  It has been 150 years since General Robert E. Lee representing the Confederate States of America surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant representing the United States of America.  It was a war that was fought for many reasons, among them the right of each individual state to allow or outlaw slavery in that state.  It was about how much control the Federal Government could hold over a state and how the state laws would have to be aligned with The Constitution of the United States.  It was a terrible war in which many brave men lost their lives fighting for something they felt very compassionate about.  The states that joined the Confederacy were labeled as traitors committing treason against the United States.  The Confederacy fought under many flags and each flag was considered as a sign of the treason these men were committing.  The United States won that war and under an act labeled "reconstruction" confederate soldiers were allowed to come home and and the states that succeeded were once again members of the United States. Reconstruction partially involved the taking of land from plantation owners and former slave owners and giving the newly freed slaves of the south a place to settle and begin life as free men.  The ancestors of the Confederate soldiers and supporters grew up still believing in what their for-fathers fought for.   They were, and still are, proud of not necessarily what the Confederacy stood for or believed, but proud of how their ancestors fought for what they believed in.  The south was and is full of proud ancestors of these men and they do consider it part of their heritage, their family history as well as their state history.  Men proud and brave, putting their lives on the line, knowing they could be put to death for treason if captured and knowing that the chances were good they would die in battle for those beliefs.  It is part of their history and to them, that history is important.
After the American Civil War, as a way to honor their heritage, people who had a family history of fighting for the formation of the Confederate States of America, begin to adopt the Confederate Navy Jack flag to display their pride in what their State has attempted and what their ancestors had died for.  It was flown on flag poles at homes, churches and schools.  Confederate Parades were held to honor those that died for the cause they so much believed in.  Soon the Confederate Navy Jack became the symbol of the post war south in the United States

After the war was over, a group was formed that called themselves the Ku Klux Klan.  Little pockets of these organizations began forming around the south and in 1867 the first meeting was held to establish the Klan as a group under one leader.  As the Klan instituted policies of why they existed it soon grew to be a group that would become a hate group of white individuals who were opposed to the policy of reconstruction and the Federal Government taking of States Rights. It became a violent organization and began harassing and even killing black men and women to send their message of growing hate.  It was long though, before the separate Klan units began fighting among themselves, killing each other and soon the Klan faded away into obscurity although there still existed Klan organizations here and there.  The Klan would be revitalized in 1915 with D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" movie which focused on the Reconstruction policy and the Klan as righting wrongs in the south.  The Klan would never go away again.

It has been 51 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed one of the most important pieces of legislation in the 20th century when he put his signature on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in July of that year.  The hope was that this act would be a giant step forward in erasing the line that divided Black and White Americans.  Theoretically Blacks would be given every right that Whites held in the country.  The right to vote, the right to a sound education, the right and freedom to go and do what they wanted.  It would give blacks access to places that they were barred from earlier.  It wasn't perfect but it was a step in the right direction.   Minorities in the country would still find themselves fighting for basic rights but with the Civil Rights Act in their hand, they had more success than ever before in fighting for those rights.  Three years later in 1967, the Supreme Court would take another giant step in the equality of the races by deciding that interracial marriage could not be hindered under an individual States law prohibiting it.  Loving v Virginia was considered at the time as controversial as same sex marriage is today.  (I am writing this before the Supreme Court rules on  Obergefell v Hodges)
Now the year is 2015.  Over the last 70 years or so, since the mid forties, the Confederate Jack has long been the symbol of southern heritage and pride.  Unfortunately it has also been the symbol of racial hatred and white supremacy.  For many, it is a symbol pride, not of the beliefs necessarily, but of the Confederate soldiers bravery in fighting for something they believed in.  It is a heritage of strength and a heritage of independence.  It is not a symbol of treason to the southern citizen.  It is not a symbol of hatred or bigotry for the majority of southerners.  For many all over the country though, it is indeed a symbol of hate and bigotry and racism.  There is a large portion of Americans who are offended by the flag. Other Americans pledge allegiance to it.  Most of the white Supremacist these days have opted delve into the teachings of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party.  Their flag is not the Confederate Jack, but the Nazi flag which flew over Germany from 1939 to 1945.  Slowly but surely it is the Nazi flag that the race haters and bigots salute.  The Confederate Jack is still there, for sure, but relegated into the background for the most part.  The Confederate Jack is slowly moving back into a symbol of heritage by being replaced by the separatist and white supremacist movements with the Nazi flag.
The "why" questions on the taking of these nine lives in South Carolina turns into an over reactive hunt to find anything that may have influenced this young man's thinking.  The first target that is pointed to is the Confederate Jack.  In South Carolina it is law that the flag be flown on the grounds of the state capitol.  As a target while looking for an answer to "why" the flag is labeled once again as a symbol of hatred, racism and bigotry.  The moment fingers point at the flag it is no longer a symbol of heritage at all and if it is, it is a heritage of hatred, not the personal moral of fighting for something you believe in and a reminder of the history of the state and it's people.
The flag must come down they say and to a degree I do agree with this.  It should not be state law to fly the confederate flag on the grounds of the state house.  I personally believe that only two flags should be flown on any state house in the country.  The State Flag, and the United States Flag.  But now things are getting out of hand.  The Confederate flag should be banned.  As of this morning, Amazon has said it will not sell anything that has a depiction of the confederate flag.  Books could be effected that deal with the history of the war or the south.  The mindset over the last week has become one of get rid of the flag, that symbol of hatred, ban it everywhere and things will be better because that symbol of hate isn't in peoples faces.  That I can not agree with.  The flag, is a part of history, of all the United States History.  Show it.  Respect it's symbolism as a part of a lot of people's heritage and respect it as a symbol of what this country went through and what the outcome was.  No, the Confederate Jack should not be banned and disappear.

Now things are getting even more out of control.  Tear down statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee.  Tear down monuments to confederate soldiers.  Erase any thing that has anything to do with the Civil War or anything that condoned slavery.  Ban the film and the book of "Gone With The Wind". That isn't the answer.  The events and men that these things portray is part of the history of this great nation.  We can't and shouldn't pretend that it never happened.

So where does it stop?  Where does all of this revisionist history lead to?  That is what it is you know, revisionists history.  Rewriting history so it makes you feel good instead of learning from the past and the mistakes and the damage that some policies did to society and to individuals.  Do we go to Stone Mountain, Georgia and dynamite that huge piece of rock that depicts the great Generals of the Confederacy?  Do we simply erase that part of our collective history and the heritage of millions so we can pretend as if these men did not have an impact on our history and our country?

President Washington and President Jefferson both owned slaves.  They condoned slavery and practiced it.  Raze Mount Vernon and Monticello?  Destroy the Washington and Jefferson Monuments in The District?  Do we remove Washington from the dollar bill and quarter and replace Jefferson on the nickel and two dollar bill?  Do we strip them of credit for serving terms as President because of their actions at their homes?

No is the answer to all of these.  Any kind of censorship or banning is a dangerous thing as we step out on slippery slopes.  I would think we would have learned this by now.  We have, for the most part, taken that first step onto the slope by virtually banning the Confederate Jack from ever seeing light of day again.  Will we slide onto destroying any representation of General Lee?  Will Art museums be banned from painting of the General? What about the next slip when all of a sudden Jefferson Davis is gone?  Where is the line drawn?  We have learned that it is very difficult to redraw a line once it has been crossed.

History is important.  It is important as a learning tool so that mistakes are not repeated.  It is important to know history so that progress can continue to be made.  It is important to know who Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis or even George Wallas and Lester Maddox were so we can study the thinking process and the strength and weaknesses of these men.  Robert E. Lee was a great patriot.  He loved the United States, he believed in the United States.  He believed in the Constitution.  He also loved his state of Virginia and the people who made up his neighbors and his kinsmen.  He had a choice to make and it is important for history to be able to tell us what the choice was and why he made it.
Heritage is important.  I have read many writings as of late indicating that the Confederate Jack does not represent heritage, but only hate and bigotry.  I don't buy that.  I believe that there is a heritage in the Confederate states.  I believe that everyone has a heritage that they believe in and are proud of.  These citizens who look upon the Confederate Jack as a symbol of heritage should be allowed to do so.  It shows a heritage of ancestors who truly believed in something, who believed in it so strongly that they risked their lives and fought for what they thought was right.  It is a heritage of pride and they should be able to use that flag to represent their heritage.  It does not mean hate to them.  It does not mean supremacy to them.  To them it means that my ancestors were proud and fought for what they believed in.
The Star Spangled banner was a flag of treason.  It was, indeed, a flag of hate.  It was flag that represented a heritage that included men who believed in something.  It included a heritage of men who risked their very lives for those principles.  It is a symbol of a heritage where ancestors went to war to fight for what they believed in.
Don't re-write history.  Don't control others heritage.  Don't erase things because they make us think of unpleasant parts of our history.  We are who we are because of who they were for better ot worse.  We have progressed and continue to progress.  We take lessons from the past and use them to come up with better ways to accomplish things.

History is too important to be revised or forgotten.  Grasp it.  Claim it.  Teach it.  Learn from it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

UNFAIRNESS OF LIFE

This is a difficult subject that has been  in and out of my brain many times and causes me confusion.  I think we all can agree that life is not fair.  In one way or another, one situation or another life just does not seem to play out fairly.

Life is unfair sometimes when it comes to wealth.  Life can be unfair when it comes to being able to be mentally healthy.  Life can be unfair with just about any situation you can think of.  The part of life that I want to address is the unfairness of life when it comes to health and unfair with the issue of life and death.

To begin with I think I need to state a few things.  I do believe in God.  I believe that we can be saved by God through belief in His Son and that eternal life through this salvation is true.  I am not sure how it all works, however, but I am sure it does.  For example, does God really decides when your time has come?  If He does does this make him a terribly unfair God?  Is there a reason for things that happen, or do we, our human selves, find a reason for things that happen and attribute it to Providence.  I simply have not come to a conclusive realization as to what really happens.  I realize that many of the readers of my blog do not believe the same way I do and so they may look at this subject from a different perspective.

There are so many different starting points on this subject, it is difficult to know where to start.  I suppose the one place to start is to look at a few people who have passed through no fault of their own or others for that matter.  Death visited and took them when they had so much more to give to the world.  I have written about a few of these.  I have written about Alesia Dawn who died in her mid teens of heart failure after being declared healthy and set for a normal life two weeks prior by her doctor.  I have written about Rachel, a young lady in her early twenties who had a tumor in her brain steal her from a world that needs more people as she was.  Both of these young ladies had so much to give, were so loved by families, friends and communities that the logic of losing them seems totally unfair.  I read about teenagers who kill younger children and yet they are allowed to live out a normal life, albeit under capture and in prison, but they are still living while Alesia and Rachel are gone.Is this really fair?  For it to even come close to being fair, there must be a message, a reason for Alesia and Rachel passing and a message or reason for the killer kids to be allowed to live a full life.  While I can look and see a few good things to come about after Alesia and Rachel died, it is difficult for me to see that these things outweigh the impact they would have had on people if they had lived.  Both of them were so special and loving and just plain good.

Another friend I wrote about was Laurie.  She was coming up on middle age when while on a business trip, she died during the night by herself in a hotel room in a strange city.  It was a natural death and made no sense at all.  Laurie was a person who had a great sense of humor and could put a smile on anyone's face.  She loved people and she loved life, yet it was taken from her for reasons that no one knows.  She was just gone.  Meanwhile so many people her same age that cause pain and hurt on humanity continue to go from day to day, out on the streets spreading hate and hurt wherever they go.  It was not fair to Laurie, or the rest of the world to lose her.

I have watched as two of my co-workers lost battles with cancer over the years.  Both of them were my age.  Both of them were very good responsible people who were liked, if not loved, by most people in the office and in their lives.  Why?  They each left a spouse and children behind.

Now I hear of another friend who is apparently entering her final battle with a cancer that she has fought for years.  She spreads love and kindness wherever she goes.  She is an inspiration to those that know her.  She is a helper to members of her family that need her.  She guides nieces and nephews as they try to make their way through life.  And now it looks as though the battle is coming to an end. Someone who has worked so hard to help is rewarded by taking the life they love away.

Stopping a moment to make it clear, I do believe all of these people have been given eternal life by He who promised it to them.  It doesn't ease the pain or the feeling of loss or what they meant to the world to make any sense though,  Not to me.  It is hard for me to understand.

Even when elderly people die, there seems to be an unfairness to it.  We can look at someone who has lived a long life and be thankful that we had them for so long.  The pain and loss is still there but we can look at their lives as a whole and see a whole library of things that they had accomplished and the differences they made.  Then my mind shifts to one man.  One man who is still alive in California and living off of the government and shows no sign of dying.  Charles Manson.  Is it fair that my Uncles have died while Manson continues to thrive and be taken care of and not making any contribution to society or to humankind whatsoever?  There are lots of Mansons out there who continue to make their way through life while others have passed and I am sorry but I would much rather have my aunts and uncles alive and teaching me rather than see a news report on Manson every six months.  Fairness is not present even when an elderly person passes.

Finally, what about the fairness to those who are left behind after the death of a loved one?  I am not sure how I would be able to see others complain about kids or friends or family members when I have lost mine.  I am pretty sure I would feel frustrated, hurt, angry ... all kinds of emotions.

What about a mother who loses her father, has her son take his own life because of bullying, and loses her husband when they have only had thirty years or so together?  Then her daughter and another son fall ill while she tries to continue on and keep the family together?  It isn't her fault to have all these things befall her and it certainly isn't fair when looking at other families around who cause trouble and are what some would describe as pure evil.

Life is not fair when it comes to matters of life and death.  I am not sure why I felt compelled to write this other than to express my own confusion at the seemingly randomness of it all, and the random feeling makes it feel so unfair.

This is a confusing writing I know.  It is just thoughts flying off the top of my head and going down to the keys.  More or less, I think this is to serve me as a starting point in which to be able to think about these things and try to come to an understanding.  I am not sure if understanding it is possible though.

I don't care so much for my life.  It is something in my head that makes me feel that I would be happy to trade places with Alesia or Rachel or Laurie or anybody I know that is being taken unfairly.  Each time I hear of someone and my head says "that is SO unfair" the next thought is immediately "Let me take their place".  Let the world receive all that they have to give.  It is much more than I have to give.

This is just a starting off point, I think, in my quest to make sense of things.  To understand.  I know it doesn't make sense, but then again, you all get a first hand look into my mind and the way it thinks.

Maybe this will help me.  Maybe it will help you.  Maybe it will make us all just stop and think a little.  I don't know.