G-Poppers … November 3rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Pop has discovered that flipping through the history pages often provides a wind of discovery.

Even though in 1857 the telegraph was available in major towns throughout the United States, no one had a unit in their home–and certainly not in their children’s bedrooms.

Eventually the telephone became quite popular and was not just located in the midst of the community, but each person had one in their house. But rarely was it placed in any area but the living room or the kitchen.

Likewise, when the radio became the craze, there was a big family unit, usually located near the fireplace, where everyone would gather to listen to the shows, indulge in entertainment and giggle or shiver together. No one even thought about buying a radio just for Jimmy or Sally’s room.

The television set–what an advancement. Certainly there was disagreement among family members about what shows to watch, especially with the limited number of networks. Still, the new box remained in the family room, with very few people being able to afford a second unit elsewhere in the house.

We were locked into one another. Some people might even say “confined.” We were dependent–often inter-dependent with other families and communities. We were forced to have meals together because the possibility of having the instant gratification of fast food or warming something in a microwave was decades away.

And then came the cell phone. At first it was a novelty used for emergencies. But as the Internet came floating into the Cloud, a merger was formed in which the cell phone could become a computer and bring the Web into anybody’s possession who held the magic piece in his or her hands.

At this point, for some reason or another, we made a major decision that it was wrong to prevent any family member from having his or her own communication device. We decided we didn’t need to share anymore. We concluded that being privately entertained or informed was adequate. We have now reached the point that children of seven or eight years just assume they should have their own.

We lament that folks seem to be glued to their tiny screens, never making eye contact with one another. We even have television specials which suggest that we’re losing personal contact with our fellow humans.

But most of us never see those shows or hear the reports. We can quickly tune away from them to something much more intriguing.

G-Pop knows that if he were to suggest that we’ve actually hampered our ability to understand one another through our cell phones, he would be considered an old fogey–except that the term “old fogey” is also out-dated.

G-Pop supposes he could become adamant or evangelical to see cell phone use tamed to such an extent that human communication would once again be possible.

But he realizes there’s no need to fuss about it.

Sooner or later we will need each other, and a text, a YouTube, an Instagram, a Pinterest or a Tweet will just not cut it.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … September 7th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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pohymn-bacon

6:43 A.M.

I brush my teeth, scrunching my face at the first taste of sour grapefruit.

I hear a radio blare, “We are the Champions” as a car zooms by my open window.

I see a tiny spider crawl the length of the wall and disappear in a corner crevice, as I slow my chewing of jelly toast.

I smell burning leaves wiggling its odor through the unseen cracks in my door.

I touch my coffee cup to see if it is sippable, or cool enough to go ahead and gulp.

I taste, I hear, I see, I smell and I touch.

A sensible breakfast.

 

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Amos ‘n Angie… March 8, 2013

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Amos and AndyTwo out of work white actors–veterans of minstrel shows–came up with an idea to present a pair of Negro characters who were shiftless, rather ignorant, clumsy and ill-suited for everyday life, and dubbed them Amos  ‘n Andy. Spanning four decades and being translated from radio to television, this twosome created great comedy among the predominately white community in America, and laughs aplenty.

The only difficulty is that when issues of civil rights, human respect and equality came to the forefront, Amos ‘n Andy needed to be shoved to the back of the bus. It was.

Today nearly all Americans would be embarrassed to watch or listen to an episode of the repugnant spoof. They would be shocked at the underlying meanness and condescension in the scripts. But not so–for four decades. It was a staple of American life, and along with minstrel shows, in its own way attempted to keep the darker-skinned portions of our society at bay–from ever considering themselves toe-to-toe with the white community.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with what I just wrote. Most folks would nod their heads or “amen” such a denouncement of obvious racial bigotry and the process of limiting one group of people from ascending to their rightful position.

Yet every single night of the week on TV, and in most of our movies, we continue the same assault, merely changing the characters from Amos ‘n Andy to Amos ‘n Angie. We portray the battle between men and women to be a natural phenomenon, ordained by God, a conflict with no resolution and only worthy of cynical satire, not ever to be considered a resolvable stand-off.

Sometimes the dialogue favors women, making men look dull, stupid and Neanderthal. Other times, the humor is testosterone-driven, with women appearing bitchy, unreasonable, and of course in the end, vulnerable and desperately in need of a hug.

The parallel is there–and it is rather doubtful that we will ever have civil rights, social rights or national rights for all people as long as we tolerate an ongoing squabble between half the people against the other half. Yes, as long as we insist that men and women are so adverse to one another,  the only way to handle the imbalance will be to laugh at it.

How is the old Amos ‘n Andy minstrel show like the present Amos ‘n Angie square-off between the sexes? It works on the same four principles:

1. “They are so different from us that they’re just funny.” As in the case of Amos ‘n Andy, the new portrayal of men and women being cosmically ill-suited is just a way of hiding prejudice.

2. “They don’t make sense.” The two white actors who played Amos and Andy worked very hard to make their accents almost unintelligible, portraying the deep-rooted ignorance of their characters. Likewise, nowadays tirades of either men or women on TV shows and in movies lead the audience to believe that one or the other of the sexes is stupid.

3. They are always bickering. It was a hallmark of Amos ‘n Andy. Nowadays, the way to get people to chuckle is to portray that men and women can not find any common humanity, but instead, must bicker and fuss with each other until they fall into bed and resolve their problems between the sheets.

4. Finally–and probably most dastardly–watching one of these bigoted spoofs makes the viewer walk out thinking, “They are not like us.” The best way to keep the black man from the vote and civil rights was to stand on stage and portray him as the numskull. As long as that was permitted, all the marches from Selma to Montgomery were just walks in the park. And as long as we have entertainment which insists there is an evolutionary gap between the male and female that cannot be spanned, we will continue to have unnecessary conflict which will reflect on our society as permission to segregate.

Just as it took brave people to stand up and declare Amos ‘n Andy a dangerous attack on human beings, we are going to need some very insightful folks to refuse to participate in the Amos and Angie presentations permeating our culture.

Ironically, many of the black comedians who would be appalled at Amos ‘n Andy are now jumping on the bandwagon of Amos ‘n Angie, making a quick buck off of sarcasm and cheap shots at the genders.

You can still write a funny piece based upon a man and woman discovering how to become more like one another, thus signing an eternal peace treaty of the soul. But no one wants to do that as long as Amos ‘n Angie is selling. It’s just like no one wanted to stop Amos ‘n Andy when there were advertisers lined up to support it.

I will guarantee you, in thirty years many or most of the television shows we now extol as comedic wonders will be viewed as cultural bigotry. The issue is–will YOU be one of the ones to notice before it becomes so obvious that even the common riff-raff of Hollywood has to give up the ignoble cause?

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Squeaky Wheel … September 21, 2012

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Complaining is when we take the precious time to stop off and write the “Book of Lamentations” when we know we should be finishing up the “Book of Acts.” It is the proverbial squeaky wheel which Benjamin Franklin insisted always gets the grease. But candidly, for every dollar’s worth of attention a complainer receives from the world around him, he spends two dollars in lost respect from others.

Human beings are often hypocritical, and one of our main hypocrisies is that we simultaneously despise complaining when it trips off the lips of others, but find it logical and necessary when its origin is in our mouths. Still, all in all, we actually judge the true depth of character in the human family by whether those around us are able to endure, or if they give in to sharing their opinions about their plight. Those who persevere are dubbed spiritual. Those who don’t are viewed as devilish.

The true problem with complaining is that it shuts down the learning process. It is quite impossible to be sharing misgivings and frustrations while still keeping an open mind about new possibilities. It’s just one of those things that makes us too predictable to be valuable.

My friend Caddie had a hard time learning this one. I met Caddie in jail. I was visiting and she was a temporary resident. She had acquired my number off of the wall next to the pay phone in the county jail, placed there by a young man I had assisted through some difficulty a month or so before, who obviously felt compelled to spread the good word about my generosity.

Caddie was a shop lifter. Within twenty seconds of meeting her, she explained that even though she’d had the twenty dollars in her wallet to pay for the scarf, make-up, hair brush and tooth polish, that she couldn’t purchase those items and still have enough money set aside for some groceries and bus fare. Her reasoning was flawless in her own mind. Even though she was surrounded by prison bars, she felt she was the victim of an unjust society which failed to understand that “Caddie needed to do what Caddie needed to do when Caddie needed to do it.”

I helped her get bailed out of jail and offered her a place to stay at my home, and for the next two weeks, as we awaited trial, I attempted to assist this young lady in finding some answers to what I believed were her burning questions.

As time passed, I realized that Caddie didn’t have any burning questions–just complaints. She started off leading me to believe she was asking for my counsel in some matter, but before she ever got to the end of the sentence to form a question mark, we took a detour–four or five details recounting how unfair the situation was in the first place.

She didn’t like the bed we gave her–it was too soft. She was allergic to almost everything we had to eat. She only drank Japanese tea, which I learned was quite different from Chinese tea, or the offerings of Mr. Lipton. She didn’t like television, only appreciated certain types of music on the radio (none of which we were able to provide, by the way) and for some reason, immediately tried to start a war with my young sons, who “returned in unkind” with their own nasty remarks. It didn’t take long for Caddie to set our entire household on edge. People began to root against her. I think one of my boys even hoped that when she walked across the floor she would slip and fall. Caddie seemed oblivious to the disapproval because she was already deeply embroiled in all sorts of disapproval of her own.

When the trial date finally came and we went to court, I found it difficult to be a character witness for her, even though that’s what she desperately needed. So this is what I said to the judge (maybe much to her chagrin):

Your honor, I am not related to this woman, but she has come my way and I have been doing my best to help her find a better path. I cannot tell you that she will never steal again, but I can tell you that she knows she shouldn’t. I also can enlighten you to the fact that Caddie’s main problem is not thievery, but complaining. But… for the past two weeks, she stayed in my home and learned that the squeaky wheel does NOT get the grease. What we do with squeaky wheels is … replace them.”

The judge chuckled and gave Caddie a very light sentence. She stuck around for a week or so more after that, and then took off. About five years later I received a phone call from Indianapolis, Indiana. It was Caddie. She told me she’d had a devil of a time tracking me down, because I had moved and was the traveling sort. She wanted me to know that she had landed somewhere and realized what a pain in all areas of the body she was, had gotten married and started a new life.

With a bit of boldness I stepped up to the plate and asked the most important question. “Have you stopped complaining?”

She laughed. “How do you think I got a husband?”

I laughed, too.

I will tell all ministers, politicians, school teachers and parents this very valuable point. Continuing to leap to your feet to respond to the complaints of a malcontent is to do nothing but build up a thunder cloud of stormy weather in your own soul which will eventually dump rain on them at the wrong moment. Instead:

Don’t give grease to the squeaky wheel. Change the tire.

Ask other human beings to do what you, yourself, have to do to continue to be a learner instead of just a burner of time.

Stop complaining.

And the best way to stop complaining is to understand that difficulty is pre-packaged in life to keep the human race moving forward and discovering instead of just settling into dangerous repetition, boredom and stagnancy.

So the next time you run across something you really don’t like, take an extra moment and find out why it’s really there instead of trying to spit it away with your complaints. Then maybe, like Caddie, you can escape the selfishness that steals time from others and yourself, and instead, find new life.

Maybe … in Indianapolis.

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