Happy Martin Luther King Day!
I was watching an articulate, persuasive, and obviously awake and aware individual of seeming great understanding speak over a large platform reaching, quite possibly, 10-14 million people the other day. It so impressed me that I have been thinking about it off and on for some time - there are many reasons for this.
Besides being uplifted by what this person communicated, and the connection I felt with them by our obvious shared experience, I was struck with amazement and gratitude by what I had experienced. Over time, this gratitude was less because of what was shared, and more because of WHO this person was, and HOW their predecessors were viewed and treated....and marginalized. This person, 50 yrs ago would have had difficulty getting a platform, and 100 years ago, presumably, would not have, themselves, even considered the possibility of an opportunity of such a platform, or potentially, would not have even desired it for themselves, well, at least, there would have been few that aspired to such, simply because it was so far from the realm of possibility that it would not have pierced through into their desire-consciousness.
BUT I was amazed how I had so much in common with this human voice - it sounded like mine - the voice itself - smooth, calming, beautiful, and eloquent, (actually, more than mine!). What she communicated, much of it, was confirming to me of what I had also felt and learned through my own life's experience - we shared this deep connection of seeing and feeling the same about pertinent things in life - one of the simplest, and yet deepest human connections possible - sharing the "common experience" and arriving at empathy with those different than ourselves. It is this type of connection - seeing important life realities the same - which fashions the foundation supporting deep friendships, and intimate relationships that stand the test of time and hardships. And yet, I did not know, nor had ever met this BLACK WOMAN from the South!
AS I listened to her speak, I was so grateful for what she shared with me, and I was also uplifted and encouraged that we felt the same and had arrived at the same understandings about some important life realities, even with our obvious differences, and with many differences, I am sure, that weren't so obvious! We shared many of the same fears, hopes, and desires. How could this this be....she was a SHE!....and she was BLACK, right?!....and she was from a DIFFERENT place! BUT, what if we were blind - then we would not have these constructed barriers, we would just have consciousness, communication, and shared experience.
I SERVED a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in what is referred to, from a religious perspective, as the Buckle of the Bible Belt, or societally, as the South. It was a quad state region serving parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. I was there from 1996-98, and during my time there, I served communities in three of the four states, never visiting Kansas. I was 19 years old and had grown up in a large family in Spokane, WA. I had never felt racism, from either side of the coin - giving or receiving it. I had Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Scotty Pippen, Karl Malone, etc as a hero's, having a huge passion for basketball! I collected Ken Griffey, Jr, and Rickey Henderson baseball cards. They were people to me, just a different color. It was energizing to watch them play their game.
I FONDLY and distinctly remember a new kid who moved into our school, when I was in 3rd Grade. I don't remember his name - anyone who knows me knows this is a weakness of mine! I have worked on this my whole adult life, but was not aware I wanted/needed to back then, in any case, I remember him as the first black kid I met. We became fast friends and hung out a lot. I remember a talent show held at Progress Elementary. My friend wore his red sunglasses that had window plantation shutter-style shades - seriously hip hop back in the mid-80's! I don't remember the rap music he used to break dance to, but the whole school was bopping with the beat and amazed at his art! We were young and he was the coolest! I felt popular and proud just to be his friend! He moved out the next year. I was sad to see him leave. I wonder where he is at and what his experiences have been....wish I could connect with him again...maybe some day. Point is, people are people and we all have so much to give, AND we all have SO MUCH IN COMMON - hopes, fears, doubts in ourselves, dreams, ambitions. The desire, and need, for love and success, for friendship, and to be understood, listened to, and affirmed. We all need to apologize for many things throughout a lifetime, and, oh, the need to extend forgiveness. Most of us share a love for some or all sports, and even if we don't, those "nerdy bookies" among us benefit from the physical strength needed by those who do hard labor jobs - the same physical abilities shared with athletes. And we physically able folks, even though we may not be able to graph a parabola can sure appreciate the "essential bookies" who have so improved our lives through digital inventions, bringing us ipods and beautiful sounding digital music, as well as mobile phones and cars!
WE NEED each other, as different as we may be. If everyone was like me there would be no fun! Thank goodness for my wife, who, while her weakness is not liking to work - where I am strong - she knows how to have a good time, and this has blessed my life, and our kids, in great ways!
And thank God above, that we have diversity - it is humans that fear diversity, God created diversity, look around - in plant and animal life, sea life, and in humankind! How many different kinds of cows are there? Deer? Cats? Dogs? Etc, etc! Folks, diversity does not mean division - it means fun, variety, perspective, change, elevate, inspire! Are we really going to listen to the messages of those who want to divide, they are echoing the small thinking of the past, it is actually not representative of progress.
THE ATTEMPTED current sales pitch is quite alluring - to fix the mistakes of the past we must hate and belittle a race or gender, religious belief or culture, shame another, instead of lifting everyone. It is all too easy to hate - it's for the creative-challenged, those who decide to limit their possibilities, or, at worst, have ulterior motive. To love, requires respect, creative thinking, a willingness to see the joy in anothers success - yes, there is more required of us to LOVE.....but, then again, it is always work and real soul stretching that makes life so much better! What is being sold to us right now, is a mirror image of the past and it equals regression! The way forward is not to reverse engineer the past...it is to live in the present, the way forward is LOVE. Nelson Mandela knew this, Martin Luther King knew this, why are we being fed the opposite ideas right now? So, what is love in this instance, as it relates to the past inequalities between any faction or difference within society, be it gender, races, religion, culture, etc? Love is shown in APOLOGY, and FORGIVENESS, and move on....move forward, together, into a bright future. Those who love one another don't want any more suffering to be carried forward. This is especially true, with regards to race or gender. You and I were not around, nor did we decide to bring slavery into existence, nor did we decide to keep women from voting. Some say society must pay, but we would be paying people who have not suffered those atrocities. Some will say life is not fair, and I would completely agree with this, I too know. I was discriminated against in New Zealand. I didn't get a contract even though the board deciding who would get the contract loved my offerings and many board members said there was no other offering even approaching what I offered, but when coming close to resting on my offering, one brought up - "But are we going to give this to an American?" Whoever this person was successfully tanked my contract. I know what it feels like to be discriminated against. It is part of life, unfortunately, why? Because we are all learning, learning to live with love for one another, and unfortunately, but in reality, we fail many times! If we always dealt with others failures by demanding reparations, our society would fail in litigation, blood payments, anger, cynicism, and sadness. It is forgiveness, let live and let go, apology, move on, that gives life, both to the offender and the offended! Further, can we legislate morals? Can we legislate that we treat one another good? This is a question that Lon Fuller in "The Morality of Law" deal with in his book, and concluded that:
"Those whom we regard as being unpleasantly - or, at least, inconveniently - moralistic are forever trying to inch the pointer upward so as to expand the area of duty, instead of inviting us to join them in realizing this pattern of life they consider worthy of human nature, they try to bludgeon us into a belief we are duty bound to embrace [their] pattern." 1
. Still further, we who live in the present, did not participate in, nor create the past, we are all blessed recipients of the mistakes and victories of the past - all races, genders, religions, and cultures have been shaped by many deep past mistakes and victories. And, sadly, some of these were not mistakes, but sinister, intentional manipulations by very few influential people, to gain advantage. But we can stop living as victims and SHAPE a new future, one that is not a mirror image, (White hating black skin, turned to black hating white skin or male belittling woman, turned to woman belittling man), but a real, substantive, and actual change! NOW is the time to smash the rear view mirror and look forward with faith and hope! Love is the way forward - hate does not squash hate. Human emotions are not the same as multiplying negatives in mathematics: -1 x-1 = +2....No, Human emotions are more like addition: -1+-1 = -2. Fighting hate with hate deepens hatred. But LOVE is like a magical exponential number that has the power to completely swallow up hate and brighten our experience with one another to levels we could scarcely imagine! I was fortunate enough to hold a podcast on Apology and Forgiveness, last year, (https://www.lifecastpod.com/podcast/episode/482a98e3/the-power-of-and-pathway-to-reconciliation), This real life story of a once crooked and now changed white cop, and a tragically victimized, now healed and powerful black man is so amazing, it will change you forever! They both show us how to choose LOVE over hate!
BACK to the beginning, as I sat listening to this black woman give her speech the other day, I couldn't help but think what if we were all blind....what a different world it would be, then we could not see differences. Do we really have to lose our eyesight to see deeper than our skin, our gender, or our culture? And would be have to stoop even lower by demanding reparations and perpetuate divisions or do reach for the higher moral ground - LOVE...FORGIVENESS...APOLOGY? We get to choose. After hearing this woman speak, I also went away feeling encouraged for the future, seeing this individuals great capacity and love for others! LOVE is the way forward for those who have hated in the past, or for those who have suffered at the hands of hatred - whether it be another gender, religion, race, whatever....LOVE is the way forward, not the mirror image of prior hate, the reflection of hatred! I hope we all see how similar we are. We would never believe that giving hate to our spouse would create love, goodness, and reconciliation...nope, it would never work. I am trying to give love more in my life....LOVE is the way forward :-)
The Morality of Law. Lon L. Fuller, Revised Edition. pg 10.