Statues Are Not The Problem

 

When we can’t solve personal problems, we go after impersonal ones. If people can’t fix the gang problem, drug abuse, drug trafficking, fatherless homes, the high school drop-out rate, street violence, criminality, and a completely shattered moral compass, they’ll just go beat up people and tear down a statue instead. That’s a lot easier, and may also be an outlet for the rage they feel over all those other, bigger, unsolved, chronic problems.

Has a statue of anyone ever stepped down off a podium to mess up anyone’s life? No, we do that all by ourselves.

I’m no fan of the confederacy, of course, and I wish slavery never would have happened in America, but  I keep in mind that America is the only country that ever fought a war, in large part, to abolish it at the cost of many lives. I remind myself that a lot of white people died in that war. I also remind myself that slavery existed in most other countries of the world at one time or another, and still does today in quite a few. I remind myself that slavery existed in Africa long before whites ever showed up. It didn’t start with us. But we ended it with a Civil War at the cost of 620,000 lives.

So as I watch people tear down statues, I wonder if they ever stop to think that – instead of trying to erase history – it might be wiser to take that energy and fight to add another little plaque at the feet of those statues that will teach children the Confederacy lost, that slavery lost, that hatred lost. That’s something to be proud of, and unique in world history. It’s true that forgetting history condemns us to repeat it. And destroying statues is what Islamic terrorists do. 

If America were a person with a voice, she would be able to say, “Yeah, I had some major problems, but I fixed them. It wasn’t easy, but I’m okay now. Not perfect, but a whole lot better than I was.”

How many of the people currently trying to destroy the evidence of America’s problems of the past can say the same about themselves?

Personally, I’d rather have a visual tool to teach my kids that the good guys won, let them see what a bad guy looks like, and have another reason to be proud of America for all she has overcome. I’d rather stand at the foot of that statue and smile, knowing evil lost.

The irony is that if every person on earth would get their own house in order, all societal problems would cease immediately. But “becoming the change we want to see in the world” is hard so, instead, as an outlet for all the frustration and rage people feel for not being able to change themselves, they just go out and smash something, or someone. Being paid by a political party to cause mayhem and division makes them not only fools, but pawns, too. 

paid-trump-supporters

2308318_630x354

We can be better than this. We can be smarter than this. We can fight fascism without becoming fascists. We can embrace our past and learn the hard lessons it taught, or destroy it all and guarantee that future generations will forget and repeat it. 

 

Two Worlds (poem) – Childhood and Charlottesville

Here’s one of my first attempts at poetry, written during my (overly) dramatic and (unnecessarily) tumultuous late teens or early twenties. Looking back, I realize it wasn’t just a choice between serenity and strife. In fact, life always fluctuates between the two. It’s how we handle the episodes of strife that matters most. Wayne Dyer said we all need to have an “insular Tahiti” – a place inside ourselves the world can’t touch. Otherwise, pain will invade us completely and overwhelm our ability to cope or even imagine being happy again, like thinking a storm will last forever and the sun will never shine again.

As a kid, I loved a toy called the 3D View-Master.

I didn’t have video games or an iPhone. We only had a couple of TV channels, and except for afternoons and Saturday mornings, only adult shows were on, so we kids back then were much more easily entertained. I would crawl inside those View-Master slide worlds and live there, so much so that my mind today is a panoply of the idyllic scenes the geniuses behind this toy created. My childhood wasn’t perfect so this escapism was a blessing and a relief. I suspect the mental vacations into the View-Master slide worlds must have been even stronger for kids living in worse circumstances than I did. The fantasy inside the little binoculars versus the real world they were born into.

I’ll be using 3D View-Master slides in part to illustrate this poem. Enjoy!

Two Worlds

Two worlds have I known along the path of this life –
one of serenity, the other of strife.

The first world I knew was a magical place
of warm smiles and laughter and kind-hearted grace.

f4eedb4bda8a6dfe3b3e06ca511a300f

Of meadows and tulips, wood shoes and white blouses.
Of bread trails and bonnets and gingerbread houses.

Of blind mice and windmills and Little Jack Horner.
Of Winnie and Tigger and the tree at Pooh Corner.

WINNIE THE POOH AND THE HONEY TREE VIEW MASTER SCANS (6)
Of fun-loving pirates and billowing sails.
Of serpents and mermaids and friendly, blue whales.

My young eyes saw the world as a sweet, gentle place
without hatred or killing over nation or race.
There was no better or worse, only different from me
and it made life enticing, a grand mystery!

o-TALKING-TO-KIDS-ABOUT-RACE-facebook

I remember gazing in wonder, unexamined and pure,
at the indigo sky. Oh, the thoughts it allured!
So many places someday I would see!
So many people to share it with me!

157c761de25d3375fdeacbfd9008d871
But the wind-spinning freedom which was my young world
grew shrouded in darkness as adult years unfurled.
And the strangest thing is I never noticed peace die.
I just knew it was gone and I didn’t know why.

Unknown-1

Thus began the long years of searching for answers,
questioning poets, musicians and dancers,
politicians and teachers, gurus and sages,
spending my youth between dusty pages
to recapture a feeling, stolen or lost,
and hold it again, no matter the cost.

Unknown

Many years have passed now. I’ve grown old and gray
and I watch the games that my grandchildren play.
I can hardly recall how my youthful heart yearned
and I won’t bore you with stories of the lessons I’ve learned.

nattu Photo URL    : http://www.flickr.com/photos/nattu/895220635/
But I will tell you this – joy isn’t somewhere “out there.”
It cannot be studied or found anywhere.
It’s something you’ll either let in or you won’t,
something you give to yourself or you don’t.

3023021267_84d479eace
Do you hear what I’m saying? All the searching’s for naught!
All that you need, you’ve already got.
There will surely be pain. That’s life’s one guarantee.
But how much we suffer – that’s up to you, and to me.

6a00d834890c3553ef013488a8471d970c

Post-Script: Not to end on a negative note, but as I was looking for photos to illustrate this, the domestic terror attack in Charlottesville yesterday was heavy on my mind. Maybe that’s why I chose this poem to post today. Nobody starts out hating. May we all retain the joy and appreciation of differences we had as children, and create an America we can be prouder of.