G-Poppers … June 12th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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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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