Catchy (Sitting 60) Debriefing…August 5th, 2018

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Unable to get his head around Jo-Jay’s tales of abduction, Matthew made the decision to fly into Washington, D.C. and meet with five very confused but elated friends.

Each of them had purportedly encountered similar imprisonments, leaving them suffering from amnesia except for a very specific name, which each was intended to retain.

Matthew did not want to fly to Washington, D.C. by himself. Shortly before he received the phone call from Jo-Jay, the latest blood count numbers had come back from the doctor. They were not good. His liver was not repairing–actually getting worse.

This was probably due to the fact that Matthew was continuing to drink. When the doctor discovered that Matthew was not pursuing a tee-totaling lifestyle, he explained that it would soon be necessary to pursue a transplant–or Matthew would no longer be able to remain cynical, but rather, would be quite dead.

With that rattling around his brain, he did not want to be alone, so he asked Leonora to accompany him to Washington, D.C. She was completely unwilling–until he set up an audition for her as second oboist with the National Symphony. Even though Leonora hated not playing first–feeling that the classical masters chose the second oboe part to lose their inspiration, she still felt it was a good career move, and a good step for her in advancing her dreams. She agreed to travel along.

Yet she adamantly refused to attend the meeting with Matthew, Carlin, Jubal, Jasper, Soos and Jo-Jay, feeling she would be out of place, and that after the fiasco in the Las Vegas hotel suite, they might hold a grudge against her atheism.

Matthew assured her that they weren’t that type of people, and said she wouldn’t need to stay if she felt uncomfortable. To ensure she had autonomy, Leonora rented her own car upon arriving at the airport in Washington, D.C.

It was clear to Matthew that there were many roads of communication that needed to be opened in the days ahead if he was ever going to have this lovely woman as his partner.

The two Vegas souls arrived in time for brunch, which was beautifully set up at Jo-Jay’s house. It was light but delicious, tasty but small, and consumed in no time at all.

After a few moments of conversation, wherein all five Washingtonians exhausted all of their knowledge about oboes and double-reed instruments, Carlin spoke up.

“Matthew, we’ve asked you to come here because of a very strange set of events. Considering how this whole project has been tinged with the bizarre, isolating one thing as ‘strange’ might seem a little redundant…”

Soos broke in. “But honest to God, this one is strange. This is Twilight Zone freaky.”

Leonora furrowed her brow. Soos turned to her and said, “Do you know The Twilight Zone? You know–Rod Serling?”

Leonora neither acknowledged nor denied awareness. There was an uncomfortable moment while six people waited for one person to emote.

Jubal jumped in to fill the spot. “Well, it was. It was creepy. Let me summarize so I don’t bore anyone. All five of us…” He motioned his hand around the room.

“Yes, all five of us…Well, I guess I’ll use the word ‘abducted,’ though it wasn’t by aliens…'”

Jasper cut in, laughing. “Well, they were alien to me.”

Everybody nodded except Leonora, who was staring into her cup of tea.

Jo-Jay spoke up. “I’m not good at explaining things, but I have listened to everybody’s story, so let me summarize the details we have in common. Each of the five of us were taken against our will and flown by airplane to another location. We were given drugs which didn’t do any harm to us, but for some unusual reason, refreshed us. We were interrogated…”

Soos interrupted. “And this is where it gets different. For instance, I was interrogated by a woman in a clown suit.”

Carlin noted, “My guy was a fat Alfred Hitchcock-looking fellow wearing a ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ mask.”

“I was interviewed by a football player,” said Jubal, “with an unknown uniform–at least unknown to me–with a mask over his eyes.”

“Mine was a little kid,” injected Jasper.

“And that leaves me,” said Jo-Jay. “My interrogator was dressed as an angel. A very dark one, wearing a black hood. It was scary shit.”

A silence fell over the room which Leonora filled with a heavy sigh, shaking her head. Matthew realized he was losing the attention of the woman he loved–or at least lusted after. He thought about trying to include her, but decided it might be better to just hurry the meeting along so they could get out of there.

But before he could speed the conversation toward a conclusion, Leonora stood to her feet and said, “The food was delicious. I shall not stay for the stories. I have an audition in two hours, and I am going to go practice and prepare. I’m sure you understand.”

She turned on her heel, and without saying another word, walked out the door. Matthew wanted to follow her, afraid of the separation.

At that moment, Matthew hated all five people in the room, and counting the Father, Son and Holy Ghost–make it eight. He was extremely tired of the whole project. He was sick of being sick.

Carlin sensed his desperation. “We won’t hold you long, Matthew.”

He continued. “I was given a name. Terrence Eldridge. I have Googled him, studied and tried to get as much information as I could. Turns out he’s a fellow who has started a new movement in the black community, to escape what he considers to be the racist term, ‘African American.’ He wants to give his brothers and sisters their rightful place in this country. He wants to call them ‘Amerikin.’ From what I read, he is powerful, dynamic and completely unknown.”

Soos jumped in. “Believe it or not, the name given to me was Michael Hinston. You may not know it, but he was recently exonerated of all charges. He’s been given a clean bill of health by the Congressional investigating committee. His testimony before them was speckled with spirit and humility. He’s in a good place. For some reason, he is my mission.”

“Mine,” said Jubal, “is a guy named Milton Crenshaw, who lives in South Florida. That’s not the name I was given. I was given a word. ‘Jesonian.’ When I typed that word into Google, this fellow’s name came up–with a self-published book that seemed to have gone nowhere. So I assume I’m supposed to go talk to him and find out what he’s trying to communicate with his new word.”

Jasper laughed. “Well, of course, I was given the name of a comedian. Mickey Kohlberg. He’s a Jewish fellow who has taken it upon himself to take all the material of Jesus of Nazareth and rework it into a standup comedy routine, which he has entitled ‘Dying Laughing.’ So I’m off to see what he’s all about.”

Jo-Jay looked around the room. “Well, I guess that leaves me. I was given the word careless.’ Of course, dumb girl that I am, I thought it was the normal word, “careless,” but then I discovered there’s this consultant to the rich–a young man in his early thirties named Careless. His goal is to teach these very wealthy people how to redeem their sense of worth through giving–intelligently. I’m set up to meet with him next week.”

Matthew sat for a moment. Carlin started to speak, but Matthew interrupted.

“No, I don’t need to hear any more from you guys. You do understand, this just sounds like a crock of shit. The smartest thing I could do is run out the front door of Jo-Jay’s home and throw a hand grenade behind me and save the world a lot of trouble.”

“Now, I’m not much of a church boy, but I do remember that when the Apostle Paul was talking to a king one day, the monarch got done hearing him and said to the Apostle, ‘Too much learning has made you crazy.’ Do you see my point? You guys have gotten so involved–so convinced that you’re going to change the world–that you’ve just let your minds go nuts.”

Jo-Jay stood up indignantly. “You know me better than that, Matthew. You once called me the most level-headed person you had ever met. Not woman. Person. Sometimes, though, all the answers don’t fit into a bottle of booze.”

Carlin also stood to his feet and pulled Jo-Jay toward him. “That’s enough. We’re not here to hurt our friend…”

Matthew shook his head. “You’re not my friends. I could use some friends. Did you all even know that I have liver disease? Did you know that I need a transplant? That’s what they told me right before I came here. And if you did know, how much would you let that interrupt your lives as you try to save the world for Jesus?”

“Did you see that woman who left? I love that woman. At least I think so. If she weren’t so goddamn obnoxious, I’d tell her. But the way she is right now, she’d just use it against me. You guys don’t have an answer. She hates your guts.”

He shook his head. “I know what she’s going to do. She’s gonna ask me to make a choice. Am I going to be with her, or continue to be in this ridiculous adventure?”

“And what would you say?” Soos asked meekly.

Jubal countered. “Hush, Soos. That’s none of our business.”

Matthew stood and walked toward the door. He stopped short. “Jubal, you said a mouthful. It’s not your business. Not because I don’t care. Not because I don’t love you guys. But right now I need someone to love me more than they love Jesus. Do you fucking get that?”

Carlin nodded and said, “We do.”

“We do what?” asked Matthew.

Carlin smiled. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Matthew craned his neck from side to side, relieving tension. “Listen,” he concluded. “I’m sorry. I’m not myself. It sounds like a great punch-line, but keep in mind–my liver is dying. And I’ve got a conversation waiting for me with a very angry, talented, intelligent, sexy woman. And I’m outgunned. I would ask you to pray for me if I believed those words would go any higher than the ceiling. So let me leave it like this–I’m gonna live through the next twenty-four hours. I’ll let you know how much damage was done.”

He turned, opened the door and was gone.

Five startled, loving, confused, bewildered, exasperated, terrified and worried people peered at one another, anxiously.

 

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G-Poppers … June 1st, 2018

G-Pop wants his children to know that 155 years is just too long.

This is the amount of time that has passed since Abraham Lincoln offered the Executive Order of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves.

But the slaves aren’t free.

With the mixture of lingering bigotry, cultural confusion, social fears and entitlement entanglements, the American black man or woman will never be free–until we stop the foolishness of color-coding our choices.

Of course, the most ridiculous notion is the recent declaration that these individuals are “African American.”

It is insulting. They have lived here longer than many white people and this is their country–not the unfortunate prison which they’ve never been able to escape.

If we had made the same progress in the medical field over 155 years, we would still be amputating limbs because a bone is broken.

In the transportation system, the Wright Brothers might have recently discovered the possibility of flight.

In the business world we would still be clinging to twelve-hour days, with no restriction on child labor laws and women relegated to nothing more than secretarial duties.

I don’t know–if you parallel the educational system to the progress we’ve made on racial relations, we might have evolved to the four-room schoolhouse.

It is no longer a mar on the American image–it has become our image.

Our musicians and artists rallied against South Africa and boycotted the country to get rid of Apartheid. I wonder what would happen if they refused to work cities in America due to the mistreatment of people of color?

Three things must happen:

1. We must disband the different approaches to culture, and really take up the banner of being a melting-pot–a single culture called America.

2. The black community should be given the question of the doubt in its conflict with the police department. We’ve done this with women who accuse men of sexual harassment–the men are basically considered guilty because of the accusation. Why is this not true with the police? If police are here to protect and serve, and someone does not feel protected and served, then they must place the onus of responsibility on their officers.

3. We need to get rid of anything that is spoken before the word “American.” African, Irish, European, Mexican, Hispanic, Asian, Indian–whatever the prefix. It does not extol these individuals–it targets them.

155 years is too long to solve a problem that should have been rooted out through the educational system within two generations.

We have just decided not to do it.

It is time to change this pernicious piece of history, and in so doing, show the rest of the world that we are a “shining city on a hill,” and we are prepared to lead the way in human rights, including the equality of race.

 

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Ask Jonathots… October 20th, 2016

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The Presidential election has raised my awareness about gender bias in America. What can I do as a woman to raise the level of respect for women?

Stop trying to raise the level of respect and equality for women. That’s a good start.

As long as you are talking about yourself as a woman, men have been trained to act overly sensitive, or worse, condescending.

The struggle is–and always will be–for human rights.

It was Jesus who used the inclusive word “neighbor” instead of focusing on a pronoun such as “he” or “she” when proclaiming who we should love.

If you treat yourself like a special case, people will never include you as part of the general population. This is why terms like “African American” do not increase fairness for the black race, but instead, qualify them as visitors to the country instead of primally intricate.

Anything you put before the word “human” is useless and ends up relegating you to a status of something different. When we stop talking about difference, we will finally get down to having an Earth-saving conversation about commonality.

You will astound the men and women around you when you start referring to yourself as a human being, a person or a fellow-traveler instead of a gender-bound individual whose feelings have to be isolated and studied for understanding.

For instance:

If a man who thinks he is being extremely equitable says to you, “What is a woman’s thinking on this?” you should respond, “I don’t know, but as a human being, my thinking is…”

If someone asks, “What’s it like being a woman?” you should respond, “It’s very human, just like being a man–except we’re able to birth duplicates.”

Keeping a sense of humor, along with an awareness of our similarities, is the path to equity.

To do this you will have to shed some of the fantasies, silliness and cultural trap doors that have been created by our society to make sure that men stay in their boxes and women remain in their dollhouses.

You can do this. It’s a simple formula:

  • Reinvent the language, you change your attitude.
  • Change your attitude, you revise your approach.
  • Revise your approach, you begin to be perceived differently.

 

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G-Poppers … June 12th, 2015

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The cereal aisle at the local grocery store.

G-Pop found himself perusing at least 100 boxes of the stuff, each one promising delicious diversity. So he decided to glance at a dozen of the packages, reading the labels to see what was so special about each one.

It was an amazing test.

After careful inspection, it became clear that the only difference among the various brands was that some were sweeter and some had more fiber.

That was it.

Even though, with all the colors, designs and advertising, he was led to believe that each one of the treats was birthed in a factory to be its own entity, they were all basically the same, with minor exceptions in flavor and color. How amazing.

Likewise, even though we tout ourselves a tolerant society, G-Pop would assert that we’ve allowed a sophisticated prejudice to enter our thinking by believing that there are actually African-Americans, Asian-Americans, women, men, Hispanics, LGBT and even religious differentiation.

We just keep shrinking groups down smaller and smaller, insisting that the subtle attributes that might make one group unique are actually insurmountable barriers.

It’s insane.

Just as the boxes of cereal are only set apart by their packaging, not by their cereal, we as human beings have much in common.

  • Some of us are a little sweeter.
  • And maybe some of us have a little more fiber in our disposition.

What will it take? How can we get a whole generation of younger folks to stop this insanity of purposeful division, and instead, remove titles and insert appreciation?

After all, even the distinction of “American” causes us to pursue the notion of exceptionalism instead of joining forces with the other souls on this small planet, to create harmony.

Cereal is cereal.

You can box it up differently, but once you open it and pour it out in a bowl, it looks like a dozen more equally delicious options.

The same is true with people.

G-Pop left the grocery store still deep in thought. He realized he needed to talk to his grandson about this.

Even though the boy is very young, it is never too early to set an intelligent young fellow on a mission for unity.

 

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Are egg whites racist? … August 9, 2012

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Usually late afternoon.

Yes, on days when Jan and I don’t have a gig, we will slip out to the swimming pool and do a small workout to justify our calorie intake and tease ourselves with the possibility that we are remaining in fairly good shape. We followed that pattern yesterday.

Arriving at the pool, there were five young kids and two mothers occupying the space. They happened to be black. We happen to be white. (Actually, as you know, that’s quite incorrect. They actually look more cocoa-mocha-latte, and we, more a peachy-pink cotton candy. But needless to say, there was a color differentiation.)

The children, who had been playing, when they saw us coming, stopped in mid-scream. Now, I don’t know if that was because we were a different shade, a little older, or because I am a big, fat man. (I always like to have a variety of reasons available for rejection.) Nevertheless, there was a moment of silence honoring our arrival.

Jan and I quickly got into the pool, tried to speak to the little ones, but they would not respond, and we started splashing around. I immediately noticed that one of the mothers was walking up and down the shallow end of the pool, peering into the water. So I decided to ask her.

“Are you looking for something?”

She was a bit surprised at my inquiry. She paused, thought it over, and replied, “Yes, I lost one of my earrings in the pool and I’m trying to find it.”

Well, I looked over at the shallow end and there were twelve little feet attached to six little bodies, which were going to make it difficult to conduct an adequate search.

“Let us help you,” I said. Again, she was surprised.

So Jan and I began to swim in the shallow end, feeling along the bottom for a tiny earring. About ten minutes passed, and the mother gave a sigh and walked away, believing that the quest was futile. But Jan had a moment of brilliance and swam up toward the steps which exit the pool, and there, sitting on one of them, was the earring.

The lady’s friend called to the mother, who came over, and earring and mother were reunited. She was grateful. The children noticed she was grateful, so they began to speak to us. It ended up being a wonderful afternoon swim.

I share this story with you because we live in a generation that offers three explanations for the present climate of interaction between the races.

The first group consists of those who are in denial. They will tell you there is no racial problem in this country, insisting that they are colorblind and would not treat anyone any differently, no matter what the circumstance. They will say they just wish people would calm down and live their lives and do not understand what all the fuss is about.

The second group takes an intellectual approach to the issue. They will proffer that all we need is more education–a way to change the language. They contend that what we say about the races and how we address one another–what words are included and what words are rejected–are the key to discovering harmony. This is a very popular opinion. This group believes that merely by changing the language, we can heal the wounds.

And then there’s the third group (which may just include me). I disagree with the first group. There is racial tension in this country, because we have all been brought up around the idea that “difference is dangerous,” and therefore, suspicion of some sort or another is warranted to protect ourselves from looming disaster. Everyone on earth at this particular time sees color unless they happen to be under five years of age and their parents have not yanked them away from a playground situation where they got too near someone of differing ethnicity.

The second group amuses me because changing the language develops a politeness without the heart for understanding. So if I decide not to use the “n” word and they decide not to call me “cracker,” is this going to be merely in my presence? Or will the language still be forbidden during private times? And in the process of changing the language (which has been done many times in my lifespan, by the way) when do we choose to believe that “negro” should become “black” and “black” transform to “African American” and “African American” should be avoided because it’s segregationist? And what WOULD be the new term of the week? Changing the language is worse than merely being cosmetic. It’s like having the pimples and pretending like they’re pretty.

The real answer is to change the fear–and the only reason we fear anything in our lives is because we haven’t experienced it. The race issue will never be resolved in this country until we do something together.

It’s the truth. You never develop a relationship with folks until you do something with them. You can talk, send emails, write letters, exchange books, sit through a movie or watch similar television shows, and the end result will still be nervous energy and careful selection of words. You have to do something together. It doesn’t matter what it is.

At one time they thought blacks and whites couldn’t serve in the military together, and then they threw them in a foxhole and discovered that fellowship was quickly established. Because “Young Black Joe” and “Red-Neck Bobby” were being shot at by a common enemy, they quickly became fast friends. It used to be forbidden for the races to date or marry, but actually, marriage between human beings of every color may be the most helpful step towards racial harmony.

The reason that religion is a holdout on assisting the world in becoming harmonious over this issue is that the church itself is segregated–and if you’re not worshipping together, you begin to believe that you have a different God.

If in the process of one week, you do not interact, work, fellowship, laugh, talk, argue, discuss, or travel around with a person of a different race, you will still find yourself to be a reluctant racist. You won’t be proud of it–you will certainly deny it. But the only way to get rid of racism is to change fear. And the only way to change fear is to do something together.

My cocoa-mocha-latte friends yesterday were terribly frightened of their peachy-pink cotton-candy human invaders. I will tell you, we could have occupied the same pool and it would not have changed. But when we had a common mission of finding an earring, all the boundaries were brought down and suddenly it was okay to smile at each other, and in no time at all, our skin color didn’t matter.

It would help if the church would work on alleviating segregation from Sunday morning. It would certainly help if would stop talking about changing the language and would begin to address changing the fear, and it is certainly mandatory for all of us to stop acting pious on the issue, pretending that we have escaped all prejudice.

Yesterday, those little kids saw a big, fat white man and a white woman coming to the pool. They couldn’t help themselves. I saw a pool occupied by children who were black. I couldn’t help myself. But what we did was to find something we could do together, and in the process, color faded.

Make up your mind. Otherwise, you’re going to spend all of your time wondering whether offering egg whites to your guests of color could be misconstrued as a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

If you want to restore normalcy, go out and do some normal things with people who are different from you, and establish normalcy with them. Otherwise, go into denial, try to change the language and end up with an undercurrent of racism that will eventually drag us into the deep and drown us all.

 

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Mother of Invention … December 11, 2011

In Melbourne, Florida

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Truth is tricky business–because whenever you summon a statement as fact, and even provide historical evidence of its validity, that particular precept spreads across every nook and cranny, even into the corners that you may wish to hide.

Such is the case with a politician posing as a historian who shared this week that the Palestinian people are “invented.” He cited historical evidence, conjuring up images of the Ottoman Empire and other irrefutable pieces of data to affirm his assertion. Okay, let’s go with it. Let’s say that the Palestinians ARE an invented people–because during the time when their inception would have been possible, they did not exist.

But let’s also consider who else were invented people. How about a bunch of Puritans, Catholics, renegades, former prison dwellers, plantation owners, rogue explorers and frontiersmen who decided one day that they were Americans? There wasn’t really anything to justify such a claim. They were the largest mish-mash of nothing ever thrown together to form anything that resembled a central style of government. You can imagine how King George and all the Englishmen must have chuckled at the notion that these colonies who had just fought a war against the French and Indians in the name of the Crown twenty years earlier were now presuming that they were free of the English and were now Americans. And not even Native Americans. None of them were Iroquois, Cherokee or Sioux. Most of them were rejects from all over Europe who were forced to find a new angle for existence because they found disfavor with the Saxons.

I wonder how this politician posing as a historian would fare if he went to South Carolina and told them that the Confederacy was an invented people? For after all, weren’t they just Americans who were rebelling against the government and therefore possessed no separate identity whatsoever? There was no such thing as the Confederate States. It was invented in the minds of those who wanted a different life from the trends of the day.

I wonder if this political historian would also be willing to go into black America and tell them they are an invented people when they refer to themselves as “African-American.” For after all, there are no African-Americans. It’s a made-up name. There are people from Africa who were brought over here to be slaves, were intermingled in a society which for nearly four hundred years rejected them as being real people, and now, even today, often reluctantly include them into the great “melting pot.”

There are many invented people. I wonder if this astute student of history would be willing to walk up to the four billion Christians and tell them they’re an invented people. Because it’s exactly what happened in Judea so many centuries ago, when a handful of ragtag Jewish men and women decided to separate themselves off from the mainstream of the law of Moses and instead follow the teachings of an itinerant Galilean named Jesus.  Certainly every Pharisee and chief priest would have told you that these Christians were an “invented people.”

But you see, here’s the thing–the Mother of all Invention is freedom. And if people are willing to endure the inconvenience of discovery and the prejudice against their uniqueness and persevere to claim their rights as human beings, they can earn the privilege of being included. Until then, those who possess great pomposity will claim these interlopers are out of the loop–and invented.

I think a nation of people who began their lives by running from persecution and had to rebel against authority to gain autonomy should certainly be careful judging the attempts of others to be equally as free. I may not agree with everything individuals or organizations do to establish their independence, but far be it from me–a Christian (invented people), who was formerly in Germany, persecuted as a Lutheran (an invented religion), made the journey across the pond to America (an invented land of people) to settle into Central Ohio (an invented place), and is part of a nation of United States (an invented concept) to follow the dictates of a Constitution (an invented document) to live out my dreams (certainly all invented). 

Yes–far be it from me to close the door on others who just might need to find their own place. I would agree, the best way to guarantee your own place is to grant one to others. But the Mother of Invention is freedom. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 

Yes. Liberty to be inventive.

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Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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