by Robert Wilkinson
The ability to see things in terms of contrast, as well as the infinite shades of possibilities, is both a strength and affliction of the mind. It seems that color still colors American thinking. I suspect it's not isolated to this country.
I read an interesting article in the NYT by Frank Rich titled There’s a Battle Outside and It Is Still Ragin’. In it he examines American race relations as they are revisited on the TV show "Mad Men," and reminds us of the civil rights struggles that continue to this day.
This of course was written referencing the recent high-tech lynching of Shirley Sherrod courtesy of the vindictive criminal propagandist Andrew Breitbart in his heavily doctored video of her giving a speech over 20 years ago. Through this incident we were thrust back into remembering the killings of 50s and 60s era Amerika, since Ms. Sherrod's dad was a man of color killed by racist scumbags and the speech recounts her epiphany concerning race distinctions.
Anyway, as is usual, several of the comments were more interesting than the article itself. Today I'm posting two of them showing two different views of what happened, and what is still happening, all over the world today.
The first, by Sandy Lewis of Essex, New York, is a surprisingly poetic take on things, powerful in its use of imagery and its call for an on-going revolution in thinking and how we live. The second, by akhilleus of KY, examines the non-linearity of social paradigm shifts, and the necessity of countering the current ugliness of the political, social, and racial discourse in the public arena.
I have my own take on things, and know the perils of posting on controversial topics since the world is a bit over-reactive right now. But regardless of whether you care or not, or whether you believe in one or more political systems and don't believe in others, these offer some rich food for thought, even if you don't live in Amerika.
We shall not achieve peace on Earth until we stop the gender and race wars that keep fear and hatred at the forefront of modern existence. There may be two genders, but there is only one race - the Human Race.
First, from Sandy Lewis:
It's surprising and it's not surprising. It's going to work when we return to love and put aside hate.
It's sad. We elected a man of color, a man of love, and we have the white man's values emerging where we'd least expect it - in a White House occupied by a family of color.
In today's upside down world, perhaps it's hardest for those of color to address color.
What is color, after all?
On the edge of victory, there is no victory.
Prejudice is this way. It's ubiquitous. Shows its ugly head transformed in the transformed.
It's fear of difference, fear of sameness, ignorance at base, fear and ignorance, everywhere.
The lady knew herself. She was felled by men who could not hear, did not ask, could not feel.
Ignored by people with a bit of color, not the color of John Lewis. There's color and color, that, too.
To walk in the other man's shoes was never about color. It was about feeling what she feels.
They did not do that. This is about another man's skin - in this case a woman's.
Not one of these folks in the cockpit are women of deep color.
For the most secure, that's where they must go. To the woman aged in color, deep in her understanding of what it all means.
The woman of deep color understands the white boy, she gathers it all in, she's at peace with herself, she knows what she knows, she isn't afraid to say it.
The Laboratory School of the University of Chicago took young girls of color in 1953. There were no boys of color. There was a boy of color who had no color, and he left for Hyde Park High, insulted. He had every right to his feelings. I was there. It took his 50th reunion to see him return - and the feeling was still strong.
Prejudice is this way. Prejudice is fear and ignorance, and it's not about color - just fear and ignorance. This stuff can land anywhere. And it cuts.
This color thing is not simple, nor is it complex. It's about color in one sense, about basic equity in another. And it's about fear and ignorance.
When those calling the shots ignore equity, and can only feel fear, they become the problem.
With the raging right so wrong, it's hard to know where to start. The raging right gets off on prejudice. That is their base, that is where they start.
The right depends on prejudice - and the left is captured in reaction to prejudice. Equity should be the rudder, not spin control.
The Lonely Crowd is required reading again. Other directed is not going to work. Needed, the woman with deep self understanding.
The man's gyroscope needs a freshened base, direction that's real.
In an administration of color, there is no color. Maybe that's why.
Look what happened when David A. Paterson tried, and he's blind.
Appearances do not matter. What matters matters. Color helps, when it helps, not when it doesn't.
Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Litmus does not work, tokenism is dead on arrival.
Prejudice is that way. All of us experience fear and ignorance about differences. We do not see our own prejudice.
It is useful to have experienced prejudice. Prejudice will never vacate. Prejudice will educate.
To administer equitably where differences are concerned requires a blind eye, one educated in the constitution - as it should have been written.
Perhaps that's where we need to start.
Let's redraft the Bill of Rights and the Constitution - once every 25 years.
Even if we end up where we started, let's start over and get it right, put it right, once every 25 years.
Jefferson was right. We need a revolution, once every 25 years. Who said Jefferson did not know? The man knew.
And he cared.
Not the kind of caring Sean Hannity wants us to feel. Or Bill O'Reilly, God forbid.
A good read of the Federalist Papers would leave little room for either. Alas, today's Federalists read backwards.
Where prejudice is concerned, it will start with tolerance. There has not been a good study on tolerance since Samuel A. Stouffer's of 1955 or so. Harvard's Stouffer discovered our value system - and it died there. We were a nation in love with the British accent.
What accent do we love now? What accents do we not love.
Who wrote, Love Is Not Enough, and was right?
Who wrote, Dynamics of Prejudice and was right?
Who studied feelings and managed to get it wrong on color?
Love is a good place to start.
The right seems to start with hate.
That never works.
Here's the second comment from that news story offering another angle of view from akhilleus examining the perils of uncritical thinking regarding those elites who long for a world long past:
Mad Men offers a vision of the ineluctable thrust of history. One of the great fascinations of the show, aside from superior writing, note perfect art direction, and actors smart enough to generate the aura of a period rather than beat us over the head with histrionics and contemporaneous tics, is the ability to visit the not so distant past and see where we've been and how much (or little) we've progressed since then.
It also serves as an object lesson in where certain species of political cultures would dearly love to revisit. An America unburdened by questions of race, of equality for women, of the necessity to acknowledge that any other country or group of people (privileged, conservative, white males) matter.
A world where women study their decolletage rather than discuss politics or social issues. A world where men (only the white variety, of course) are unquestioned masters. This is the world that the Mitch McConnells, Rand Pauls, John Boehners, Glenn Becks, Bill O'Reillys, Rush Limbaughs, and Karl Roves wish to return to. Where pesky feminists, Blacks, Latinos, and liberals know their place and kowtow appropriately to the massas.
But Mad Men also reminds us of the work of public intellectuals who were working and thinking seriously about these issues during that time period. I realize that calling on the work of smart people (never mind intellectuals) is dicey in this day when people like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin pass as oracles of wisdom but I'll risk it.
Thomas Kuhn, in his landmark study of scientific revolutions, drew our attention to the malleable nature of history. Mr. Rich's observation that we are little able to guess what might be around history's next corner is perfectly in line with Kuhn's conclusions.
Kuhn, in thinking about where such major historical shifts come from (he calls them paradigm shifts), realizes that they are defiantly unpredictable. As the culture changes, ways of thinking not previously available allow us to see things differently. There is nothing linear about it. This opens the door for possibilities that had never existed before.
This is where revolutions come from. Ideas, possibilities for action, and women and men sturdy enough to walk through these new doors. These are the doors, however, that conservatives dearly wish to nail shut. They want to go back in time and reverse these paradigms. We have five members of the current Supreme Court who think of nothing else day and night.
But as another great thinker, Isaiah Berlin, has taught us in many of essays, but particularly in essays like the Sense of Reality and Pursuit of the Ideal, there are too many shades of coloration in the political world for us to focus solely on the simplistic black and white outlines shoved in our faces by the likes of Rand Paul and his Teabagger supporters, and most Republicans. They have no wish for subtlety in thought; no wish for any of us to think critically about the pablum stained nostrums they foist on us through their allies at Fox and in the execrable right-wing noise machines.
This is an attempt to deny history; to plunge heads firmly in the sand, cover their ears and loudly recite right-wing mantras in order not to hear or acknowledge that paradigms have shifted.
There IS a black man in the White House. As painful as that may be. It is not 1960 or 1860 or 1660.
Unfortunately, as Mr. Rich points out, too many on the other side have allowed their thinking to become skewed and swayed by the screaming mantras emanating from the ostriches on the right.
Time to recognize that times are still changing. This doesn't happen in a willy-nilly manner. We do have the ability to influence where we go and what we think.
But it's vital that we all understand and acknowledge the complexities of social and political life. Descending into the childish and unmediated viciousness of the Andrew Breitbarts of the world will have a debilitating effect that won't bring us back to the age of Mad Men. It will create a new age of madness from which not even paradigm shifts may rescue us.
Robert here. I'll conclude by musing on the fact that the mind is a funny thing. It is brilliant and capable of changing lives and history forever when turned to greater matters infused with a Spiritual intention, but destructive when turned to selfish ends, using fear and hate to sew the heresy of separateness among humans.
Those of us with a spiritual practice are charged with antidoting the latter whenever we find them, and furthering the former to whatever degree we can, using the power of the heart focused through the mind to break the links between pain and suffering. There is always a light in the darkness, and it's up to us to move into that light and become that light for the benefit of all sentient Beings.
Some things to be aware of as we move through these polarized times.
© Copyright 2010 Robert Wilkinson
p.s. - Now that I'm back I'll try to answer some questions to recent articles beginning mid-week. It may take some time to answer the many questions that have stacked up while I've been gone in Costa Rica. Just remember that every hour I'm doing that I'm not composing an article for the benefit of all, so please be patient.