Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cruel to be Kind

Last weekend my son asked, “Dad, what’s your mission in life.” I told him that I wanted to be a good person, and the best father I can be. Being an awesome kid, Justin said, “Well, dad you’ve already achieved those.” Pure sweetness. I suppose that if I had already achieved those goals, I could sit back on my laurels. (Laurels are not like poison ivy, are they?) I’ve always striven to be good; sometimes to avoid the razor strap and sometimes to be more Christ-like. Now I don’t need any physical threat or divine inspiration. Treating others as you would want to be treated is just altruistic good sense. The maxim of reciprocity is common in nearly every ethical tradition, although it’s often claimed by Christianity as its own.
To me, being a “good person” means being kind to others. Be kind is one of the twelve points of Boy Scout Law, along with be clean and obedient 😲. I’m as kind as I can be to our customers; even the customers that raise the wrath of my co-workers. There is one little old French lady, who will only deal with me at the used book counter. She’ll call ahead to ensure that I’m working that day. It’s a lot of pressure on me to carry on conversations that I have no interest in. It causes stress in my internal organs when I am nice to others, but cruel to myself. [Excuse me, while I tighten the barbed wire cilice around my chest.] I am my harshest critic. My worst enemy.

What does it mean to be kind to others? I’m a pretty angry person. I’ve had friends tell me that I carry my anger with me. Like the plague, I guess. I’ve cut communication with members of my family over the Frumpf debacle. I get angry when all my son wants to do is play hoops or video games instead of study. He’d rather make the effort on the basketball court than in the classroom. (Duh!) I get angry, because my wife’s religion keeps her from voting or celebrating holidays. She feels no stress or anxiety about our current political atmosphere, and societal breakdown. I get angry, but mostly with myself for not being the perfect human I had hoped to be. For not being the perfect human that I expect everybody else to be. And I’m the one that told my son that perfection is not possible, just a goal to aim at.

Yesterday we woke up to four inches of snow in our neighborhood. I was determined to walk to work, even though I don’t have snow boots. I was enjoying my walk, when all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black and white dog headed for me with teeth bared. He chomped right into my calf, before his owner could call him off and apologize. I said, “He bit me. He bites.” And then I continued to work. I know, I know. I should have gotten a phone number, and other information, but I walk by there every day. I just need keep the wound from getting infected. It’s not like I have a lawyer on retainer, and I’m going to sue for pain and suffering. I experience pain and suffering every goddamn day, so a dog bite is just a little variation on the everyday torture.

In other news: a pedestrian was killed on the crosswalk by our bookstore last weekend. An oversized diesel pick-up truck was barreling around the corner and took her down. The driver was distraught and inconsolable. I was not there, but the accident shook up quite a few people, as it should. I got enough of a visual when my co-worker told me about the blood surrounding her body, and her hat off to the side. It was only a week ago that a pedestrian was hit about five blocks west of there, but not critically. Death is not pretty, but it’s pretty consistent. So, let’s all be careful out there. We need to be extra vigilant. We need to be aware of the dangers that surround us and be prepared to fight. Complacency is lethal.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley (1965)

The documentary "I Am Not Your Negro" opened here in Seattle and in many other cities on Friday. I have been looking forward to this film after first seeing the trailer. We need to emulate great men like James Baldwin and speak truth to power - get up, stand up - and grab the reins of our society back from the moneygrabbing flim-flam man and his flunkies.

Here is a wonderful debate from Cambridge (1965), which discusses the notion that the American Dream was attained at the "expense of the negro." You might wonder why bother listening to Buckley's response to Baldwin, but it's worth it just to view -- once again -- the pathetic white man's defense of his horrendous treatment of human beings, based solely on skin color.