When I am called upon as to where I stand on something I like to have taken my time to speak clearly about it. Here are topics that matter to me about living in and being a citizen of the USA right now:
Social Justice and Injustice
Today I decided to honor my mother, Joan Seeman Robinson, for giving me an example to look up to. One summer day in the mid-sixties I asked her if elementary school classmate Michael and I could go to the pool together. Now just slow down and let the mundane, simple, common, every-day nature of that thought settle in for a minute. We just wanted to go to the pool and swim.
Well, Michael was black (more commonly then “negro”), and though the swim club was not officially segregated my mom knew to expect trouble, so she called Michael’s mom and said here’s the deal; I’ll take them if you agree, but we both know what’s likely to happen. They agreed and off we went to the pool not having the slightest inkling of what “going to the pool” meant that day. We were turned away because Michael was “negro”, and the moms had wisely planned an alternate outing at a friend’s pool in a nearby neighborhood. Over the course of the next few years that resulted in a group of member families, eventually dubbed “The Furious Forty”, who decided to retain their memberships to fight the battle against racism from within. Cars were egged and spray-painted during meetings and hateful sentiment was shared at them. Lawsuits were filed that eventually led their way to the Ohio Supreme Court. An agreement was eventually reached and the swim club was desegregated.
So the lesson my mom taught me is that black lives matter (though this is also true of any other racial or disadvantaged group). Would I have the nerve to get in the car and make THAT drive knowing what awaited me. Once in a while I drift toward the notion that we shouldn’t have to highlight any group for special treatment – that what we’re supposed to do is simply treat everyone equally and not make a fuss about this group or that group. I still think those are daily words to live by… until, clearly to the contrary, you see an act you are morally compelled to speak up about. At that moment a statement of support and recognition is essential. Be counted.
I remember (as told to me by my mom) how she once said “I know how you feel” to Michael’s mom one evening in casual one-on-one kitchen conversation, whereupon Michaels mom turned on her with a furious response: “Don’t you EVER say to me that you understand how it feels to be a colored person in this country!” And of course she was right. We can try to understand, but it’s kind of like telling a toddler “NO, that’s HOT!” when they don’t know what “hot” means. So it takes a real reach – a sincere, concerted effort to stretch your mind – to ponder what volatile emotions someone could feel in the 2020 US who is not of relatively pure Caucasian appearance and has to impart a special meaning to their children that I or my kids never had to deal with when saying “Be careful out there tonight”. This isn’t “don’t lose your keys” kind of stuff; this is don’t get shot. Have you really, truly taken a moment to try and grasp this desperation, how you might feel, and what you might do when you see it continue to happen again… and again… and again?
Which leads to my point of closure: promoting nonviolence. MLK taught us that the moment you lift an object as a weapon or tool of destruction, not only are you shedding a part of your better self but you’ve just set your cause back. Even just the image with no action yet taken is damaging. Look at that image… who started it? You are not exhibiting the compassion that on the other hand you are demanding to be treated with. Here I’ll just quote George Floyd’s brother, Terrence: “I understand y’all are upset. I doubt y’all are half as upset as I am. But what are y’all doing? That’s not going to bring my brother back at all”. It is much, MUCH harder to do what activists in the sixties did: actually turn the other cheek. Take the physical punishment and NOT fight back. Readily and willingly be arrested and go peacefully. And under NO circumstances steal, damage property or harm others.
True leadership right now, as exhibited by some state troopers and city police including at least one I saw in Nashville, is to start by recognizing the grief and encouraging peaceful protest. Thanks to officers like Metro Nashville Officer Garren Hoskins seen joining a protester in prayer.
The Coronavirus Pandemic
My message and request here is simple: please wear a mask. The economic devastation has been horrible and we absolutely have got to open the economy. People need to go to work and places of worship etc. But wear a mask when out mixing with other people for OTHERS, not for you. Don’t confuse the sociopolitical statement of getting out there and returning to public life (more power to you) with wearing a mask, because there are segments of the population in your lives whom you are likely to kill if you get it. Many of you know my wife, Cindy, is an ER doc and so factually well informed and on the front lines. The message is:
- The profile of those highly susceptible to this virus is pretty well known: senior citizens and those with underlying or readily apparent chronic health problems. How will you feel if you lose an aunt, uncle, parent, or even a cousin with an underlying health issue because you weren’t willing to take such a simple precaution and think about others as well as yourself? You could help save these lives simply by wearing a mask.
- We don't all *know* what our underlying health issues are.
- Another key point is trying to manage the infection rate so we don’t overwhelm the healthcare system. Show the consideration due healthcare workers who have no choice but to be on the front lines, serving seriously impacted patients while trying to keep everything else in the medical world running as normally as possible. When/if you are in an accident or become seriously ill, now it’s you who are impacted by a healthcare system bottoming out from the surge of too heavy a load.