From the Stacks … October 30th, 2020

There is much talk today of our nation running aground.

Is this true? The question drove me to the dictionary, to discover that a ship that “runs aground” has found itself in shallow waters.

Aha, I thought. Shallow. There you go. Thus the problem.

We used to believe that “still waters run deep,” until we realized that the adage doesn’t apply to a generation of people who refuse to speak because of the vacuous nature of their thoughts.

I am not quite so gloomy about our future. Yet I do not think it is the job of people who are creatively bent toward sharing wisdom to always kiss the rear end of the person in front of them.

We just need to realize that when a boat runs aground, it can neither float nor can it sail from its perch.

It must seek out deeper waters.

What has caused us to run aground?

My list:

  1. By telling everybody we’re great, we have eliminated the word “great.
  2. By electronically connecting ourselves to the world, we have emotionally disconnected ourselves from one another.
  3. We have replaced actions with speeches, thinking that merely stating our intentions is sufficient to prove our willingness.
  4. We allow the fostering of bigotry, even though it continues to taint both our history and our future.
  5. We promote a war between men and women while simultaneously using sex to sell everything.
  6. We foolishly think there is a permanent solution to problems rather than a gradual revelation in our everyday reality.
  7. We value critique–one of the more useless human endeavors.
  8. We accept mediocrity, hoping that others will accept our rendition.
  9. We want to believe we are exceptional, even though every nationality that has pursued that particular philosophy has ended up being ruled by tyrants.
  10. We think that problems can be solved corporately, when nothing ever happens in the human family without individuals repenting.

Sit Down Comedy … Juneteenth, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

I don’t like to lose.

Maybe no one does.

There is certainly no celebration going on in the locker room of the vanquished team.

No retelling of dropped balls, missed tackles or fumbles.

Losing is intolerable in its inception but even more lonely in its conclusion.

There will certainly be no fellowship in hell for those who are self-condemned to dwell in the loneliness of ineptitude.

I once walked off a football field having been thoroughly beat up—64 to nothing. And yes—it felt like just me—like I was whipped, dragged and humiliated by eleven bullies. My teammates sat in silence, with an occasional sob.

I don’t like to lose.

I don’t keep old raffle tickets which failed to deliver the prize.

I don’t have video footage of me coming in fourteenth in a talent contest.

Yet today I feel like such a goddam loser.

I’m white.

But the only privilege I seem to garner from this statis is the curse of achieving my rank through vile prejudice and bigotry.

It is Juneteenth.

Yet do I have a right, as a white, to even mention it?

What would be my statement?

“I’m so glad my relatives stopped owning yours. Just for the record, I would never have bought you.”

Yuk.

It’s like working really hard to be at the top of your class and then realizing when you got there, everybody hated you.

I’m white.

I’m sorry.

I don’t mind saying I’m sorry.

I understand why it’s necessary for me to be sorry.

But I don’t feel better after I say it.

It just doesn’t seem enough.

Maybe it’s because racism has never died.

Maybe it’s because there’s a whole region of the country which still thinks the Civil War was a grand cause.

Maybe it’s because I’m part of a race that shoots black people in the street and applauds them when they run in a sports arena or dance on a video.

I don’t know how to be white.

It doesn’t matter—whether I know how to do it, I still get the benefit. Or can we call it a benefit? It’s more like the spoils of a war, where the other side wasn’t even allowed to fight.

I want to say something, but everything comes across as anemic as the color of my skin.

I want to be one of those whites who’s “a dude” instead of one of those whites who’s really just crude.

But the harder I try, the worse I look.

Because this problem is not going to be salvaged from destruction by platitudes or promises.

It’ll take a generation—maybe two—before we can even begin to trust each other.

Because while I listen to the news, which implores me to be more tolerant, evening television is still about murderers and rapists, who are usually “colored in” with dark ink.

I just wanted to let you know that I don’t like being this loser.

And I just wanted to let you know that me complaining about being a loser is really a loser thing to do.

I wanted to say, “Happy Juneteenth,” because I am happy about it. Not happy in the sense that I personally was awarded liberty, but happy because hopefully, we can reach a point when we don’t have to award it.

It’s a given.

I don’t like to lose.

If there’s a way out of this, I will find it.

If there’s an opportunity to remain silent, but still be actively involved in reparations for the sin of our country, I want to discover it.

I don’t want you to listen to me whine.

But I’m also not going to watch “Roots” one more time to make sure I’m aware of what slavery was.

Somehow or another, you and I need to go forward trusting each other—that we got the message.

I don’t know how that can happen.

But it’s a nice thing to write down as a goal on a Friday afternoon.

And belief in it, pursuit of it and faith that it’s possible…

…makes me feel just a little less like a loser.

Sit Down Comedy … April 24th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

Sometimes good people do bad things.

Likewise, bad people do good things.

More often, people do nothing.

This compels us to ask the question, “Should folks be judged by what they accomplish, or by the dictates of their beliefs and the parameters of their character?”

It does come up.

For the greatest among us are often splattered with iniquity, while simultaneously making a notable contribution.

Such is the case of a man named Henry Ford.

He is arguably the inventor of the car. The argument exists because there were many souls experimenting with the “horseless carriage,” but Henry was certainly the first one to take it to market, promoting a product known as the Model T.

Mr. Ford jokingly once said about his Model T, “The customer can get it in any color whatsoever that he may want, as long as it’s black.”

Along with this massive achievement of motorizing the race, Mr. Ford was also known to be one of the worst bigots and enemy of the Jewish people. He even received an award for his writings from Adolph Hitler and the Nazi boys.

So history has handled the dilemma by enjoying the automobile and leaving next to it an asterisk, which quietly tells about its creator, Henry Ford.

Perhaps that’s the best way.

But the truth of the matter is, Henry Ford took something that was impossible and made it pleasing. Why was it impossible?

A gasoline combustible engine.

Can you find a word in there that isn’t dangerous?

Yet Henry took on the job of making a shell to sit on top of that engine safe for traveling.

He did it by following a three-step process. And though I don’t agree with Henry about the Children of Abraham, I cannot ignore the visionary approach he took for making the renowned family car.

First step: make it work.

It doesn’t matter how pretty it is, how many colors it comes in or how many seats it has—if it doesn’t work.

It has to function without people choking from all the smoke. It has to start up instead of needing repair on every trip. It must be reliable.

Now wait a second. I must be candid—over half the things we have going on in this country are negated because they don’t work. They are pretty, popular, spiritual, touted—but they don’t work.

If you’re going to do great things, you have to make sure the great thing you have come up with actually kicks ass, while taking names.

Number Two: make it comfortable.

It was not easy to ride a horse for twenty miles to the next town. That’s why they came up with the carriage in the first place. But it had its drawbacks, with broken wheels, axles and many a sore buttock.

Yet people were not going to give up their horses for something that did not work—and was not pleasant.

Room for at least three inside.

A little padding on the seats.

Glass in the windows.

A way to get fresh air.

And a way to start the vehicle that didn’t demand priming the engine each time or turning a crank.

And then, once you make it comfortable:

Number three: make it fun.

All the things that have been added to the automobile since Henry Ford pushed his little invention down the road have been all about making driving fun.

  • Radio.
  • Speedometers.
  • Air conditioning.
  • Heated seats.
  • Video.
  • Audio.
  • GPS.
  • Mirrors everywhere.

These have turned the car into more than just a means of transportation. Now it’s a way to brag about your success.

Henry Ford, in spite of his bigotry, took an idea and made it work, made it comfortable and made it fun.

Somewhere along the line we will have to do this with everything we wish to accomplish in America, or we will drag our feet, fail to pursue great ideas—and shall we say—back the wrong horse.

 

3 Things … February 6th, 2020

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You Need to Know About Black History Month

1.  It makes white people feel “R-E-A-L white.” Look what we did.

 

2.  Skin color doesn’t do shit—people do.

 

3.  It’s all American history.

 

Sit Down Comedy … January 17th, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

There are many ways to win the immediate approval of an audience.

You can:

  • Compliment their city.
  • Tell them how beautiful they look.
  • Inform them you have two children, but parenting seems to “escape you.”
  • Say “God bless America.”
  • Make sure they know you support the troops.
  • Tell them how much you love your wife, and you know that she’s “the boss.”
  • And of course, you can always call them exceptional.

Or you can say “America is exceptional.”

Most of these methods work real well because they feed on a common misconception: We’re happier when someone panders to us. Actually, in the long run we’re happier when someone alerts us to our obvious flaws.

I, for one, have no problem saying that America is exceptional as long as we determine the definition of “exceptional.” At the heart of the word is another word, which is “except.”

Except means to leave something out, to delete or to rid yourself of it—making sure it is not attached to you in any way, shape or form.

Exceptional is when you live around “crazy” but insist on removing that temptation from your mission.

To be exceptional, you have to accept what needs to be excepted.

If you don’t, you just end up being mediocre.

I agree that America has flirted with being exceptional. There have been times when we have made a stand as a nation—against barbarism, fanaticism and bigotry.

Then again, there are times when we stood in line to imitate the insanity of the world around us.

But let us presume that we actually want to be exceptional.

Then we must realize that we can only have freedom of speech when those words do not attack the freedom of another.

We can worship—but we have no right whatsoever to hate people. We must decide that hating people, disincluding people and despising people has no religious profundity.

If we’re going to be exceptional, we have to state loud and clear that it’s okay to be a politician—except you can’t lie.

You can be a parent–except you can’t be a hypocrite.

You can be a man–except you can’t hurt women.

You can be a woman–except you can’t hate men.

You can be in business–except you can’t cheat your customers or fail to take care of your employees.

If we truly want to be an exceptional nation, we must accept what we have to except from our conduct.

You can be a leader, except you must not act like a master.

You can be intelligent, except you must use it and therefore prove it.

Let’s work on being exceptional.

Let’s find out what is causing this world to be so uncertain and filled with tribulation and use our good cheer to overcome that imbalance by being the exception, and therefore becoming exceptional.

Truly, may the exception prove the rule.

Sit Down Comedy … August 2nd, 2019

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Hurling insults.

It may be the only exercise that many folks are getting.

We’ve become very concerned about being offended, yet are we becoming more offensive ourselves?

An interesting question.

One of the favorite insults is accusing one another of being racist. I think we must understand the path of intolerance. It begins with”

Prejudice

“I have an idea that I hold to be true.”

Opinion

“That idea has become my foundational thought.”

Bigotry

“I believe my idea is so good that I am prepared, willing and in the midst of sharing it with others.”

Racist

“I am convinced that my idea is supported by both nature and God, and therefore means that I must enforce it, alienating some group of people.”

As you see, it’s not easy to be a racist—and no one who is truly a racist is ashamed to admit it. They are loud and proud.

I think what each one of us needs to do instead of hurling insults is take a look at where prejudice tries to wiggle its way into our lives.

There are four encounters which give us the opportunity to use our speech in different ways if we so choose—or arrive at a unity of one voice.

First there’s Platter Chatter

These are the conversations we have with friends and family over dinner or during fellowship.

Next, the Pew View

These are the scriptures, sermons and ideas promoted by our particular religious organization.

Third is the Work Week Speak

I’m referring to the “around the cooler talk,” which sometimes is not cooler. It can actually be hotter.

And finally, the Walk Talk

This is a social environment with people we do not know, so we must be cautious in sharing our ideas and beliefs in front of them.

Is your conversation more prejudiced during Platter Chatter with your family? Does your church have a view of lifestyles that disincludes some people from salvation based on their choices? How about the bigoted jokes spoken at work? Can you refrain from laughing loudly, and in so doing communicate your disdain? Or must you object? And what is the profile of your interchanges around strangers?

In trying to figure out the amount of racism you have in your life, you have to concentrate on whether bigotry has found a home inside you—whether somehow or another you’ve formed your own personal opinion based upon a prejudice that has lingered in your mind.

So ask yourself:

Is your Platter Chatter, Pew View, Work Week Speak and Walk Talk all the same? Or do you allow a little more opinion, prejudice and maybe even bigotry to appear in certain environments, which you don’t permit in others?

It’s a great way to analyze your situation, and it also makes you a bit more cautious about slinging the term “racist” around.

It’s something to ponder.

Of course, there always is the choice of going for a long walk instead of hurling insults.

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3 Things … July 25th, 2019

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That Breed Racism

1. Too much interest in ancestry or culture

 

2. Looking for someone to blame for your setbacks

 

3. Religion

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