Welcome to Silver and Shadow

"Look at that sea, girls--all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds." -L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

This is a blog I will be using for topics other than food. Politics, religion, spirituality, humor, green living, anything that I want to talk about that doesn't fall under the food/cooking category.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

White Privilege and Helplessness

Each morning at my bus stop, a young man on his way to high school, talks to me. He jokes that I'm his therapist. We talk about school, college, and working, so he can get an idea of what's to come for his life. He talks about his family, classes, and friends. I think he likes having an older person outside of his family, who has nothing to gain or lose from hearing what's going on in his life, that he can turn to. I'm a safe person, I suppose. It felt awkward at first, since I don't have kids of my own, but now, it feels like an honor and a privilege that he trusts me enough to talk to me. I won't reveal his name or anything about him, except to say that he is a young black(his preferred adjective) man.

Today, though, he told me something that I had no idea how to respond to. He told me that he'd been feeling a little down lately, the last few months or so. I thought maybe it was a typical teenager depression issue, like I had, or maybe seasonal related, since we're just coming out of winter. But he told me that he'd been experiencing a level of something he couldn't really define, until I told him the word. He said that when he was younger, he thought everybody was the same, and fine with one another and that he had a future as bright as anybody else. But lately he'd heard statistics from somewhere that said white people preferred the company of their own kind most. As a young black man who had almost always been the only black kid in his class, this seemed to fill him with uncertainty. I imagine he was now thinking, were people only putting up with him and not really liking him? Add to this all the news we see lately of violence against African Americans, particularly men, in this country, and I think it sent him into a tailspin. I told him that I thought the word he was thinking of, was "disillusionment". When he asked me what that meant, I said it meant that he was seeing the world for the first time for how it really is, and was leaving him sad and disappointed. He agreed with that assessment. He looked at me with such helplessness, wanting advice for how to handle this tough situation, and all I could do was shrug my shoulders and say, "I am so sorry I can't give you any advice about this. This has not been my life experience..." My white privilege slapped me in the face and I had never before felt more unable to help somebody.

Once we get on the bus, we part ways, I get off sooner to transfer to my other bus, and he stays on to go to his school. But our conversation stayed with me all day today. I realized that there are two levels of tolerance and acceptance in this country. There's the governmental level. The level that makes rules that says we have to hire people based on their abilities, not the color of their skin. Laws and regulations that make it more fair for everybody to find employment or education opportunities. But there is another level: a personal level. This is when two people openly and honestly talk about race, and issues that affect us, and what we're trying to do to stop hate. This is the more important level, really, and often overlooked, I think. Because if a person gets a job they fought hard to get, what does it matter if everybody they work with resents them and makes it really difficult for them to feel included and welcomed and able to do their job well? The government can force open doors, but it cannot force the people already inside those doors to love and accept the people coming through them. That is up to us.

Today's experience was eye-opening to me, because I never knew there was an added level of anxiety and sadness that a teenager could experience when he realizes that the idyllic world he imagined he would come of age into, doesn't exist at all. But I get to go on with my life as it is, it's not affected by this young man's sadness. I could just go on and pretend it's not my problem. I can't do that though. The problem is, I'm not really sure what to do. All I can do, I suppose, is continue to open my heart and mind to others, listen to what they say, and incorporate it into my life. Now I have a story I can tell others to hopefully help open their hearts and minds. That way, one day, when the young men and women of color today get through those doors, they'll be met with people eagerly looking forward to them. It's literally the least I can do.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Have Courage and Be Kind

I'm starting to see a lot of open letters to Donald Trump and have been trying to think of the words to pen my own. But none of our words will get to him. A narcissist such as himself will never hear anything but what he wants to hear. I won't waste my effort. The best way to combat a narcissist, is to ignore him. Change the channel whenever his face comes on the tv. Skip reading the articles online. Scroll past the clever memes. Even negative attention is still attention, and he'll take whatever he can get. 

We cannot get through to him, but maybe we can get through to his followers. Rather than call them names and roll our eyes at what we think is their stupidity, maybe we can try to hear them, for once. What are they so scared of? What do they really want? Many of them just want jobs and are willing to put up with Trump's garbage to get one. Many of them just want to be heard. I know from my own experience that once I have been heard, I am able to let go of whatever I've been holding onto. Maybe listening to these people's anger, fear, and frustration will help them to move on from it. Maybe it will open hearts and minds, our own included. 

The 2015 Disney live-action version of Cinderella includes a catchphrase used several times throughout the movie. "Have courage, and be kind." It takes courage for us to stand up for what's right. It takes courage to choose not to respond in kind when people are being hateful, racist, hurtful, and divisive. It takes courage to extend a hand in friendship when you would rather extend a fist in anger. Being kind is hard. Being kind is a choice that we have to make every day. It's so easy to give into anger and hate. Kindness is optional in life. Some see it as a weakness to be use against others, but I see it as a strength. Why give somebody the power to take kindness and happiness away from you? 

In the future, I will try not to post too much stuff on my social media regarding that man. In an effort to diminish his power, I will try to be more mindful of what I share and respond to online. Paying him no mind is the best way to take away his power. At the same time, I will try to listen to what people are saying. I'd be willing to bet, when you strip away the anger, hatred, and vitriol, we all have a lot of the same goals in life. Safety, security, comfort, feeling like you have control over your own life. We all want these things. Maybe we can find a way to come together to help us all achieve them. Moving forward, together. It takes both courage, and kindness.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why I detest "#FeeltheBern"

Bernie Sanders fans have selected the most unfortunate catch phrase of "Feel the Bern" to express their love/hysteria/passion for the candidate of their choice. I have to wonder, though, if any of them has ever experienced the pain of a burn. I have, and I can assure you that it is not a fun experience, or something I would wish other people to experience.

When I was ten, I fell on an overturned grate that had been over a campfire all day. I ended up with grill marks across my left hand and a giant blister that forced my hand into a curved position. The only thing that brought any level of relief was to keep my hand on a block of ice all night long, but I cannot explain in words the pain I felt. It was excruciating and after a while you started to hope for unconsciousness to put you out of your misery. The next day, I went to the doctor to see what could be done. The doctor drained the blister, which they don't normally do, but the way it had forced my hand into a curved position was worrisome that it would do permanent muscle damage if it stayed in that position for too long. Next came the scrubbing. With a hard bristle brush. Right on the burned skin. After that came the cutting of the dead skin. Just enough to cut what would pull away on its own. Never forcing it. Then they slathered it in salve and wrapped it in gauze. My mother was trained in how to do this for me and ended up having to continue this for the next week or so. I cannot fathom my mother's strength as she did this for me. It was painful, but it had to be done. It's not a memory she likes to talk about very much, even now. But she did it, because she had to help her child get better.

My burned hand probably doesn't sound like it has much to do with politics, and maybe it doesn't. But it's what the phrase "#FeeltheBern" invokes in me. And don't get me wrong, I am happy that so many people are getting involved in politics and the political process. People are excited and enthusiastic. I am reminded of what Barack Obama's campaign felt like in its infancy. What I don't remember about the Obama campaign, though, was what I refer to as "Bernie Bullies." These are Bernie Sanders fans who are very excited about the idea of a Sanders presidency, but cross a line in the way they go about expressing it. People who bully others. People who call names and make fun of people who are supporting other candidates. The unfortunate result of Bernie Bullies, is the exact opposite of what they are hoping for. Instead of bringing people together and helping to convince people that Sanders is the candidate for them, they are pushing them away, making them cling even harder to the candidate of their choice. Hearing these people say things like, "If Sanders isn't nominated, I'm writing him in/not voting at all/voting for Donald Trump just to spite people," doesn't make me respect them. It makes me question their motives. I think a lot of these people look at Sanders for "What can I get out of him?" instead of "What can he do for all of us?" It's a very selfish point of view.

The worst part of the phrase #FeeltheBern, is that burns fade in time. The pain subsides, and after the scrubbing, cutting, and wrapping, new skin begins to grow and the burn becomes a painful memory. My biggest concern about a Sanders nomination, a Sanders presidency, and his fan base, is the idea that he might not achieve his many, lofty goals. With politics, I am a "slow and steady wins the race" person. When you push people too far, too soon, you end up with a civil war, or a Donald Trump phenomenon. The pendulum always swings back the other way before balancing out again. Unless Sanders comes into a presidency with a brand new "Will do" Congress, pretty much none of his goals will be achieved, through no fault of his own. But, as with what happened with Obama, when people realized he really couldn't walk on water, when people realize that Sanders isn't the Messiah they are praying for, they will begin to turn on him like a pack of rabid dogs. But we're not just electing a new president for the next four years, we are of course hoping to elect them for the next eight. With the majority of his fan base disappointed and disillusioned, it will be up to people like me, people who will vote for the Democrat whoever they are, and keep their eyes on the greater goals and needs of our nation, to get him reelected.

For all the people currently "feeling the Bern," I wonder how many will be left four years from now. How many of his fans are merely fair weather fans, only looking at him to get some cool stuff out of him, who will turn against him when they see how long it takes to achieve his goals? I can guarantee you, if he is elected president and inaugurated next January, you will not have "free" college that February. It's gonna take time. Just like all burns take to heal properly. Do you have that patience? Do you have that stamina? Because I can tell you, with personal experience, that the scrubbing, cutting, wrapping, and regrowth of burned skin is excruciating. But it's worth it. My hand healed and there was no lasting muscle damage. But it's a pretty painful memory for both me and my mom. Will Bernie Sanders end up being a painful memory for his most ardent fans? Possibly. But if he's elected president, hopefully he'll be given the time to move this country to a place where we can handle the dreams he has for us all.