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Why I’m Glad Gay Marriage is Legal

We can finally quit talking about it. Seriously. It’s done. It was already legal in 36 states, so please, let’s just move on. (Not to diminish the celebrations of those who have been waiting for this day. If that’s you – party on!)

To be clear, I have always thought the only restrictions on marriage should be to protect the weak and defenseless, namely children. If a religious officiant wants to perform a marriage between two people of the same sex and it isn’t a violation of their beliefs, then forbidding them to do so is a violation of the First Amendment. To be sure, forcing someone for whom it is a violation of their beliefs is also a violation of their First Amendment rights.

If you’re concerned about states rights, I understand that – but there are so many other issues where they are being violated that this really doesn’t need to be the flagship for that fight.

The really big reason, though, is that this doesn’t need to be part of the conversation in the upcoming presidential election. If we just move forward and accept that gay marriage is legal, then maybe, just maybe, we can spend more time finding out what the candidates think about topics like government over-reach, government over-spending, and foreign policy.

I know, that’s radical thinking. Why would we possibly ask Presidential candidates questions that actually relate to the job at hand instead of focusing on issues best handled by Congress?

Alabama Senate Passes Bill to Effectively Nullify All Sides on Marriage

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Hattie McDaniels Oscar

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3462821/I-d-make-700-week-playing-maid-working-one-Hattie-McDaniel-black-Oscar-winner-Mammy-Gone-Wind-segregated-Clark-Gable-white-actors-Academy-Awards-ceremony.html

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How Do You Handle Different Beliefs?

different beliefs

different beliefs“Never discuss politics and religion” is reasonable advice for day to day harmony, because the topics bring out such strong feelings, but it has led to some unpleasant long-term side effects. People truly do not understand how people can have different belief than they do because people do not discuss their beliefs with anyone whose beliefs differ from theirs in any meaningful way.

Part of the end result of that reluctance to discuss our beliefs is that people end up with less understanding and tolerance of other beliefs. It isn’t because they are bad people. They truly don’t understand how any intelligent, humane person could believe differently from them.

Just as we all have different standards for our physical surroundings, we also have different standards and expectations for our social interactions. Some people actually enjoy debating (even if it is indistinguishable from arguing), while lots of others just get stressed by it.

Some are tolerant of other viewpoints and even search them out to understand them better, but the reality is that most people range from indifferent to the opinions of others to actively avoiding them. Recognizing and respecting those differences goes a long way toward more harmonious interactions.

We all need to work on managing expectations of ourselves and others online and in person, myself included. Everyone has subjects they feel strongly about, usually based on personal experiences but sometimes based on something else, like newspaper articles, and what they hear and see from others in their own community.

Different Tolerance Levels

I believe firmly that it is important for citizens to own firearms for personal protection. (I may post why some day, but this post is not a discussion of that.) I have other friends who believe the opposite, at least as firmly. Not all are willing to discuss hot-button issues like this (most avoid them), but I have had FaceBook discussions with several who disagree.

I really appreciate the few who comment back when I make testy comments. Sometimes when they have called me out, I have backed down because I realized what I was saying, liking, sharing, or reposting was either flat out wrong or too strongly worded. But other times, I have argued back and they have learned from my arguments, just like I learn from some I disagree with. (I know this to be true simply because they have said so.)

Some of my friends and former classmates will argue discuss the issue for a while, but it’s clear that neither of us is presenting facts or opinions that will sway the other. In some cases, we have agreed to not discuss or post on it any more because it’s clearly just a waste of everyone’s time. I’m OK with that, because there was no attempt to shut down communication, even in the face of high levels of frustration on both sides. I know I can post, should I want to, without being unfriended.

Others either simply unfriend anyone who disagrees with them or flat out say that anyone who disagrees with them should unfriend them, they are completely fine with that. While there are a limited number of topics where this makes sense (pedophilia, for example), the number where it is such clear-cut unacceptable behavior is incredibly limited.

My Expectations

It would be foolish to treat these groups the same, and I need to manage my own expectations of how I should talk to them and how I can expect them to respond. I continue to discuss the matter with those who are open to it. For the others, I don’t bring it up.

Some people simply have no tolerance for view points that counteract their own. I don’t know why. Some are so arrogant they can’t conceive of being totally in the wrong. Others are be blinded by a faith that says anyone who disagrees with what their Pastor is preaching is wrong (itself, another form of arrogance). Some are too lazy to look at the evidence. Still others may simply be too stupid to comprehend the arguments against their case.

I respect those who are willing to talk despite having extremely divergent opinions. A high school classmate and I have radically different opinions, and conversations have definitely gotten testy, but I have never felt like he viewed me as being intellectually inferior to him. A college classmate also has some very different opinions but is genuinely interested in learning another point of view and has regularly been chatting and exchanging views with me.

Because of their tolerance for the existence of other opinions and apparent ability to see that other people can look at the same information and come to opposite conclusions, I have the utmost respect for both of them.

The Conversation-Averse

At the other extreme, another friend stated that they want to stop certain conversations entirely. Anytime anyone refuses to even have a discussion, particularly with an underlying attitude that those who disagree with their position are somehow intellectually inferior to them, they immediately lose my respect, no matter what other accomplishments they have.

For those few who aren’t even willing to talk, I try not to discuss much of anything but it’s hard. I recently asked for the facts to back up a statement someone else made. I read it as “gun ownership correlates highly with murder rates”, but it was actually that it correlates with “increased deaths by shooting.” The response was a link to some Google search results.

Well, clearly someone can’t be shot without a gun! But what about the overall violent crime rates – particularly murder and suicide? By focusing on such an insanely narrow point, the conversation has been halted another way. Truthfully, I misread it because I just didn’t expect such an incredibly poor argument, and I really didn’t expect the total lack of anything to back it up.

Personally, I prefer to use things like studies from top-tier universities and surveys of professionals working in a related field as evidence to back up my positions, but if a Google search result is the best you can do….

Seriously, if a Google search is the best you’ve got to back up your entrenched position, it’s a waste of my time to try to change it.

Whatever the reason, in the end refusing to even listen to another viewpoint is nothing more than intellectual laziness and arrogance. I think the biggest irony is that most of those who refuse to discuss issues genuinely believe themselves to be more tolerant than the average person!

Making a Difference

In the end, the only tool I have found that makes any headway in altering what others think on hot-button topics is the hardest of all to wield: frank, calm discussion. Don’t get angry. Don’t call names or storm off in a huff. Allow for the possibility that what you hold to be true might not be 100% true.

But don’t let anyone walk all over you and convince you that you are wrong without some solid evidence on their side, and as amazing as Wikipedia really is, it’s just one of many websites that is most definitely not solid evidence. When you do realize you were wrong – and if you are honest and open to discussion, there will be time – admit it. It’s amazing what a difference that can make.

I think we all recognize that our nation has a lot of healing that needs to happen. In the end, one of the best steps we can take to make that happen is to stop being afraid to talk to people who are different from us in their beliefs, backgrounds, politics, race, or anything else. Have real conversations with them. Discuss hard issues, then we’ll start to understand and can move forward.

Until we really, truly start to talk about tough issues, that will not happen.

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The Electorate, Sanders and Trump

White House Washington, D.C. downtown aerial. The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., it was built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the late Georgian style and has been the residence of every U.S. President since John Adams.

White House Washington, D.C. downtown aerial. The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., it was built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the late Georgian style and has been the residence of every U.S. President since John Adams.

No one expected these candidates to go anywhere. Bush and Clinton are the approved Establishment candidates that are being shoved down our throats whether anyone likes them or not. Whether anyone sees a real difference between them or not.

And yet, Sanders and Trump are still in it. The establishment candidates are having to respond to them because the citizens are responding to them in such large numbers, even though they are far from moderate.

So what gives?

There’s no way to now, but my opinion is the simple fact that these men are not politicians and are not acting like politicians  is really drawing citizens to them. Everyone I know is sick to death of politicians who change “their” opinions based on every new poll that comes out and are afraid to speak the plain truth as they see it. Goodness gracious – that might alienate a few voters!

Do I want to see Trump as President? Not particularly, but I would prefer him to Jeb and several other Republican candidates. I will be over the moon with joy if his candidacy pushes Jeb Bush out of the running. Nothing against Jeb personally, but I am sick of career politicians. We keep electing them and expecting different results – the definition of insanity.

Do I want to see Sanders as President? Again, no, not particularly, but I prefer him to Hillary. I will be ecstatic if his running pushes her out or at least gets other candidates to run. My beefs with Hillary as a Presidential candidate are that she’s too old and, like Jeb, she’s part of The Establishment.

Bernie Sanders

“This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It’s about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: ‘Enough is enough. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.’ “

The above is taken directly from his website. While the statement by itself is hardly unusual, the fact that he is willing to state his positions fairly clearly and with no concern for what any polls say is unusual. And “unusual” in this case is definitely a good thing. I don’t know anyone from far right to far left who isn’t sick of politics as usual. At this point, I think anyone who has the brass to actually state what they believe and stick to it will be well received by large numbers of people – at least for a while.

Right now, Sanders’ surge is fueled by highly liberal, white voters. He is very popular among them, but no so much among the larger Democratic voting base. Also, the news media is very happy to cover news that increases interest in the election such as news that makes it look like a front-runner has some serious competition.

Given Hillary’s continuing high favorability ratings among Democrats as a whole, support for Sanders seems unlikely to translate into a nomination, much less an election, for him. But it does show that there is a large base of people who do not believe the national party is representing them.

The Donald

Trump is playing the media like a maestro. He is grabbing the headlines and hanging on like a rodeo rider going for a record ride. He says inflammatory things that others may be thinking, but puts them in a way that no one else would. I have no doubt.

Are murderers and rapists coming over the border from Mexico? No one can really deny they are, but it wasn’t being talked about it before Trumps comments. Those comments were put in his bull-in-a-china-shop style that made it possible to interpret to mean that all Mexicans coming over the border are murderers and rapists, except maybe a small number.

His style has led to massive coverage, massive leaps in popularity to the top of the polls – and a massive leap in the number of people who truly, deeply hate him. Neutral is not a feeling he engenders.

My Conclusion

People are tired of safe. They are tired of the same old rhetoric. They want someone who seems to be saying what they believe and they really want someone who will actually discuss the problems politicians keep kicking down the road.

When it comes time to vote, these men are both getting surprising levels of support. But really, I think support for them is more about frustration with The Establishment and their candidates, and with the way all our politicians have been ignoring serious issues for decades while they simply get worse and worse.

Bills are coming due for that negligence and issues really need to be addressed. The people are figuring that out. Now we just need to get the message through to the media, our candidates, and our elected officials. If it takes supporting Trump and Sanders for a while, that’s a small price to pay indeed.

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The Butchering of a Frederick Douglass Speech

frederick douglass

frederick douglassIn 1852, before our Civil War, Frederick Douglass was asked to speak at a Fourth of July celebration. The entire text of his speech is given below. The words in red are the ones read by Morgan Freeman in the video from The History Channel. It is worth noting that their description is “Morgan Freeman performs the words of Fredrick Douglass addressing a white audience about the Fourth of July.”

There is no indication that this is in any way excerpted or shortened from the original version, even though very little of the original was read. In some cases, only partial sentences were read.  

As you scroll down, looking for the first words in red, it will feel like you missed them or there was an uploading error. It’s neither. Copied into Word, this is a fourteen page speech. The first words read by Morgan Freeman are halfway down page six. The last are on page nine.

While the essence of the speech remains, shortening it so radically loses much of the content, and power, of the original. This should be noted, and it isn’t.

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro

by Frederick Douglass

A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say that I am to deliver a Fourth of July Oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for me. It is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to he overcome in getting from the latter to the former are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birth day of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, as what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. l am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young.-Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is, that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.

But your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would certainly prove nothing as to what part I might have taken had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when, to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated, by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.

As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.

The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present rulers.

Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling idea, much more so than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.

Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.

These people were called Tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.

Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.

On the 2nd of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day, whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read it.

“Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”

Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, there fore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history-the very ringbolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day-cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.

The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness. The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified and sublime. The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settIed” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final”; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defence. Mark them! Fully appreciating the hardships to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep, the corner-stone of the national super-structure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.

Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interest-nation’s jubilee.

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, un folded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.

I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait-perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.

I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!

My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and His cause is the ever-living now.

Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchers of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men shout-“We have Washington to our father.”-Alas! that it should be so; yet it is.

The evil, that men do, lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, “It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed.” But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They ac knowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may con sent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding.-There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Take the American slave-trade, which we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave-trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words from the high places of the nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the Jaws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish them selves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon all those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass with out condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-curdling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul The crack you heard was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shock ing gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens, where, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed cash for Negroes. These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners; ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.

The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number has been collected here, a ship is chartered for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.

In the deep, still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead, heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to find one who sympathized with me in my horror.

Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, to-day, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.

Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented. By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason and Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women and children, as slaves, remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the star-spangled banner, and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your law-makers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there is neither law nor justice, humanity nor religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world that in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America the seats of justice are filled with judges who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding the case of a man’s liberty, to hear only his accusers!

In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenceless, and in diabolical intent this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.

I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were nor stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise, and cummin”-abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal!-And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to so licit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner. Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox to the beautiful, but treacherous, Queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country (with fractional exceptions) does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, im plies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love, and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe ofÝ mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke put together have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty and leave the throne of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and with out hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation-a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea’ when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in its connection with its ability to abolish slavery.

The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday School, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery, and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds, and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared-men honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The Lords of Buffalo, the Springs of New York, the Lathrops of Auburn, the Coxes and Spencers of Brooklyn, the Gannets and Sharps of Boston, the Deweys of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land have, in utter denial of the authority of Him by whom they professed to be called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example of the Hebrews, and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.2

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher, of Brooklyn; Samuel J. May, of Syracuse; and my esteemed friend (Rev. R. R. Raymond) on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that, upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.

One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in Eng land towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and re stored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high religious question. It was demanded in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, the Burchells, and the Knibbs were alike famous for their piety and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable instead of a hostile position towards that movement.

Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you adverti

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How can we fight racism?

U.S. Air Force Col. (Ret.) Charles E. McGee Jr., smiles for a portrait  before an interview with Robert Wynn of Lucas Films at the 40th Tuskegee National Convention at the Gaylord National Hotel, Oxonhill, Maryland, Aug. 4, 2011. The Tuskegee Airmen meet annually to celebrate the accomplishments of years past with a week full of forums, historic displays to remember the lonely eagles and mentorship to attendees. Air Force leadership officials also meet to discuss issues about diversity and leadership styles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Col. (Ret.) Charles E. McGee Jr., smiles for a portrait before an interview with Robert Wynn of Lucas Films at the 40th Tuskegee National Convention at the Gaylord National Hotel, Oxonhill, Maryland, Aug. 4, 2011. The Tuskegee Airmen meet annually to celebrate the accomplishments of years past with a week full of forums, historic displays to remember the lonely eagles and mentorship to attendees. Air Force leadership officials also meet to discuss issues about diversity and leadership styles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Honestly, the most effective way to fight it isn’t realistic or easy to do in a wide-spread manner. The organization that has been, by far, the best in combating racism and promoting true integration and racial equality is the United States Armed Forces.

The Tuskagee Airmen and many other brave men and women in the Armed Services have done an amazing job of reducing racism in this nation simply by living and working together.

But we won’t be having an all-encompassing national draft any time soon.

What else can help?

  1. Acknowledge that racism exists in pretty much all times and places. We can and should limit it, but there will always be a few cretins who are racist. Don’t judge the majority on a few outliers. The truth is, those outliers exist in all races, so the minority / downtrodden group has them too.
  2. Stop bringing up old wounds. Why? Because nothing heals if you keep picking at it. Frankly, for most people who weren’t involved, the Japanese internment in WWII, Asian inability to become citizens from soon after the Civil War until the 1960s, Jim Crow laws, and other major racial injustices are truly things of the past. They don’t know any, or many, details of what was done.
    They truly don’t know that blacks were called monkey as an insult implying they were less evolved because, depending on their age, it might have largely stopped by the time their parents were little kids. Since those things are offensive, it is unlikely their family will tell them because their is no point even risking possibly implanting such a horrid idea. How could repeating those idea be a good thing?
  3. Look at it from the other side. To partially repeat the last point, a younger light skinned person, the suffering of the Civil Rights Era may seem long past. Especially since their parents might not even have been alive then. Talking about many of those racist beliefs, especially outside of your immediate family, is generally not done, making it difficult for a younger generation to understand how bad it really could be. It has been more than fifty years since the Civil Rights Era ended the worst of the excesses.
    As a black or Asian, it might be your Dad and Granddad’s story about being badly beaten for talking to a white girl, even he was only asking directions, or your Grandma’s story about not getting citizenship when she immigrated because she is Asian. For those who had to endure it, the wounds may not seem that old.
    For people outside those communities, those beliefs are dead and gone as surely as War Gardens, building your own home (not having it built – doing it yourself, from scratch), and milking a cow before breakfast. None of them are part of regular conversation.
  4. Learn about different groups that have suffered. There are great books about just about everything under the sun. If you understand that your ancestors weren’t the only ones who suffered, it’s easier to focus on the present and moving forward.
  5. Someone fought for each group’s rights. What were they fighting for? Civil Rights Era blacks were barred from voting entirely in some states. Civil War Era blacks were barred from being citizens in some states. Today, people are comparing a requirement for all voters to show government ID to vote to the Jim Crow laws that were designed to bar blacks, and only blacks, from voting. Is there still racism? Yes, but this isn’t it for the simple reason that it applies to all people, of all races, and, frankly, is not at all hard to comply with. The simple reality is that a government-issued photo ID is required for many of our common life activities. I need one to pick up my kids from school!
  6. Look at what racism cost the victims. Discussed more in a future post, true racism costs a lot. True racism doesn’t just annoy a single “victim.” The price may be paid on dignity, in damaged healthy, in lost jobs, in inability to advance, or in many other ways, but true racism exacts a price beyond momentary hurt feelings or ruffled feathers. Yes, those suck, but that is a normal part of life.
  7. Acknowledge that racism doesn’t just affect one group. I lived for years in an area that was, if not actually Mexican-dominant, very very close. If you were not Mexican, you weren’t treated well many places, and you could be charged more for services. In one particular example, a Mexican neighbor described going to a fashion designers sales and if she spoke in Spanish she got a better price than if she spoke in English, and she had gone more than once.

I’m not a minority, but that doesn’t mean racism doesn’t bother me or that I don’t notice. In fact, it doesn’t even mean I’ve never experienced it, although it certainly hasn’t been a dominating factor in my life. Anyone who lives in an area where they are a minority runs that risk.

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GO PLAY IN THE RAIN!

go play in the rain rectangle

Seriously. The next time it rains, just go play in the rain with your kid. Heck, take a walk and enjoy it by yourself! You won’t melt, although your mascara might run and glasses get water spots.

Do you remember what it was like as a little kid? Little kids run in the rain. They slide in the mud and squish it up in their toes. They jump in puddles. The bigger the better! Puddles are good for splashing in too! Go dance in the rain! Kick up your heels in a puddle!

We had some heavy rain today. I stood on the stoop watching and my son came out with me. I asked if he wanted to play in the rain and told him I’d go if he would. He ran inside for a shirt. I went inside to leave my glasses and watch.

First we stood in the heavy rain. Then we put our arms out and twirled, like Julie Andrews at the beginning of The South of Music. We walked through the yard and my son walked down the driveway in the stream of water flowing down it. When we got to the big puddle, I had him stand beside me and hold my hand and we jumped in the biggest, deepest part of it. Several times. (Admittedly, not very deep, but that’s not really the point of a puddle.) Then stomped, splashed, and kicked the water before heading up the hill.

Finally, we went around back and looked inside at everyone else. They were amused, and we had a blast.

So, when was the last time you went out to play in the rain? I bet it was years ago!

GO PLAY!

Like Lego, chocolate chip cookie dough, and the smell of PlayDoh(tm), it’s still fun even as an adult! You just need to let yourself have fun.

Added bonus: Now that we’re grown-ups, we can plan ahead and leave a big, dry towel or fluffy robe near the door so we can get dry asap. Or maybe toss them into the dryer so they are warm when we come inside. Heavenly!

Next time it rains hard, kick off your shoes and go jump in a puddle! Play in the rain and make some memories!

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Racism: A Nearly Meaningless Term?

racism meaningless term

This started out as a post about racism because I am angry about how lightly the term is tossed around today. After I passed 1000 words, I split it in two. Then again. And again. Right now, I’m up to five posts on the subject, so it looks like it’s going to be a series.

This is something that has been bothering me. There is a lot of talk about racism in our country, and after many years – decades – of decreasing, it has done nothing but get worse over the last few years. People “play the race card” over the stupidest things! A few years ago, a black actor on the show Gray’s Anatomy said his firing was racially motivated. By Shonda Rhimes. A black woman. When his bad behavior on set and toward other cast members was common knowledge. It was ridiculous. It has reached the point that it seems to be…

A Nearly Meaningless Term.

Please note that I most certainly do NOT mean that racism does not exist. It does. My point is that the way in which the word “racism” is being used is rendering it nearly meaningless because people are quick to insist that anything referencing skin color, in any way, is racism. That is not racism. Saying a woman with ebony skin will look better in a crisp white shirt than someone pasty white skin isn’t racism. It’s reality. Some colors and shades just look better or worse depending on your skin color / tone. Our DNA and ethnicity render some of us more likely to succumb to certain diseases. That’s just cold, hard science. Neither is racism, although if you bring up either topic you run a good chance of being accused of being a racist. I heard one middle school kid say calling a white chocolate Kit-Kat bar “white” is racist, and another one who is black accused other kids of being racist for using the word “monkey” in a way even he admitted, when asked point-blank, was not intended as racist. (It was used in reference to an actual, literal monkey.) In many areas, racism has seemingly receded to the point that many, if not most, younger people truly do not understand what actual racism is, no matter what their skin color is. They truly do not understand the kind of racism where using a fire hose on someone was considered OK simply based on the color of their skin. Sure, they have heard about slavery and understand in an academic kind of way some of the evils associated with it. Many have heard about the Civil Rights Era and past discrimination from family members. But, no matter what their color, most of them simply have not ever seen that kind of racism in their lives and hearing stories isn’t the same.

What is racism?

Racism is making assumptions about people based on the color of their skin and on stereotypes, yes, but it is more than that. Racism, actual racism, is when a person believes that a person’s skin color or ancestry – their race – somehow makes them inferior to people of another race. Usually, the racist believes their race is the superior one and has a God-given right to dominate those races they believe to be inferior.

Racism, the kind that causes problems, includes actions. And yes, those actions include speech.

I was told that an older woman I knew didn’t like blacks. Since she lived near me and I saw her often as a child, she could have passed on some of that hate, but she didn’t. I never knew. And really, I don’t think she fits the definition of a racist. Her dislike was based on being beaten up regularly in high school by black teens. It seems like she was smart enough to know that not all blacks were like that, although it couldn’t make her comfortable around them because of the violence in her own past. I don’t think she qualified as a racist because she didn’t seem to think they were inferior to her, although I could be wrong since we never discussed it. The point is that even if she, herself, was racist, she didn’t act on it – not even by talking in a racist manner and passing on those horrible ideas. His dislike of, and discomfort around, black people ultimately did no harm because there were no actions, not even spoken words, that accompanied it.

Stereotypes aren’t the same as racism. Really.

Is it racist to assume that an Italian family will probably be noisier and more animated than a Japanese one? Based on the current usage of the term, absolutely. It’s a stereotype, and those are always assumed to be bad and racist. But while they are related, that isn’t really what racism is. Stereotypes aren’t meant to tell us how an individual will act. Stereotypes are about how members of a group might be expected to act. Just as not all three year old girls love princesses and tea parties, not all Texans carry guns. If you know that most Italians are more animated and talkative, then it will be easier to accept this behavior as natural rather than, say, an attempt to cover that they don’t want to talk to you. If you recognize that the quieter Japanese normally cover their mouths when they laugh, it will be harder to misread it to mean they are making fun of you, not just enjoying themselves. Like most things, stereotypes can be taken too far and cause damage. They can also turn into or be signs of racism, but the fact that any stereotype – anything at all – is seemingly considered racism on the same level as Jim-Crow-era segregation laws is ridiculous. This zero-tolerance policy is rendering “racism” a meaningless term, and that is dangerous because racism, real racism, is dangerous. The media and people in general need to stop saying things are racist unless they are, in fact racist. The person who killed nine people in their church in South Carolina was a racist. How can we be sure? Well, he said so, for starters, but also because he left a clear social media trail and a string of real-life encounters that confirm he thinks blacks are inferior to whites simply by virtue of their skin color. So when people of any color say trivial things are “racist” (calling actual monkeys “monkeys”) or use it to try to escape the consequences of their own bad behavior (the actor on Gray’s Anatomy), it chips away at the actual meaning of the word. It belittles all that the Civil Rights Era protestors fought for, and all that they went through, and it denies all the hard-won progress that has been made over the last fifty years.  

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Happy Fourth of June!

fourth of june

Yeah, you read that right. Of all the holidays during the entire year in in the entire world, the USA’s Independence Day – a.k.a. the Fourth of July – has to be the hardest to get the date wrong on. Seriously – it’s in the name for pity’s sake!

The US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia has managed to do just that, though. This year, they celebrated it on the Fourth of June. That’s not the holiday, guys! June Fourth is too close to Memorial Day for another major federal holiday, anyhow.

Why on Earth?

It is in the middle of Ramadan and Indonesia is a Muslim country…and you are way ahead of me now.

That’s right, the American Embassy choose to change the date they celebrate our nation’s birthday to accommodate the religion of another nation. Perhaps someone should distribute copies of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, to them since they missed the memo about separation of church and state.

No one changes the date we celebrate in this country because another holiday or event conflicts. We haven’t altered it in the past in other countries, either, no matter what their faith or beliefs. That includes Muslim countries.

Do they need to do that?

During Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours. I can see that it might be rude to have the delicious smells of a barbeque wafting around when your neighbors are fasting, but there are plenty of ways to avoid that. Assuming you are set on a barbeque, the simplest way is to barbeque after dark. Then any Muslims you want to invite can even join in eating anything that isn’t against their faith. Any who just smell the food, well, they’re probably on their way to get their own food, so no biggee.

Another possibility is to grill inside, on a stove, where the smells won’t carry to anyone fasting. They could even have the whole event indoors, which admittedly is counter to a normal 4th of July celebration.

And, as mentioned above, it’s never been moved any other time and hasn’t caused an international incident before.

Bonus to holding it after dark, when Muslims are not fasting: sparklers and fireworks show up even better at night.

At least they are still celebrating our Independence Day.

Well…. Not so much.The focus was on green energy.

That is so messed up I couldn’t have imagined it. It could only come from the minds of political-correctness-obsessing-bureaucrats.

 

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VF Caitlyn

Frankly, I don’t care about Bruce Jenner’s “gender reassignment”. He’s not my husband, my family, or even passing acquaintance. It just doesn’t impact my life. But it’s been impossible to miss the headlines if you were online at all this week, and the big ones have all been to the effect of “Caityln is Gorgeous!” No. Caitlyn is NOT Gorgeous. Caitlyn is styled and photoshopped.

Caitlyn Jenner has a hair stylist, a make-up artist, a stylist to choose her (very expensive designer) clothing, and assorted other people to ensure she looks perfect. And her $200 bustier is from Trashy Lingerie, which can custom make items based on your measurements. Hardly the same as something grabbed from the rack at the mall. After all that, there are people to retouch her images.

So, no, Caitlyn is not gorgeous. She generally looks like a she (men don’t have breasts like that) – and considering she started out as a he, that’s no small thing. But she looks big boned, because she has a man’s bones and those are bigger than a woman’s. Caitlyn looks like a manly she, not a delicate little flower of femininity. Not “gorgeous.”

Women of a certain age who were still attractive would sometimes be called handsome in times past. “She’s a handsome woman” was not in insult, nor did it mean masculine. I think that usage and adjective are more suited here. Caitlyn is a handsome woman. (Face it: with that much money at your disposal, there is no excuse for not being at least modestly attractive.)

If nothing else, the reality is that “gorgeous” generally applies to much younger women. Once you pass retirement age, and Caitlyn has, the set of adjectives used to describe you shifts.

So what?

So why does saying Caitlyn is gorgeous annoy me?

It feels like political correctness run amok. Again. I can’t for the life of me see why everyone is saying she is gorgeous unless they are afraid that by not saying it they are not being “supportive,” are somehow “bullying” or phobic, or are risking a public backlash (particularly for magazines and websites).

The simple fact is that no person who starts out one gender and either transitions or dresses up like that gender is going to be held up as a shining example of attractiveness for their new gender. Mrs. Doubtfire was not a hot Grandma. Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie wasn’t the biggest hottie around. And Whoopi Goldberg in The Associate was not the World’s Sexiest Man. There will be traces of their old gender that remain, no matter how many surgeries they have. Bone size is just one example. Saying that isn’t bullying or being phobic, it’s just a fact. By definition, only a tiny number of people can be “the best looking” in their gender and saying someone isn’t one of those is not bullying nor is it being unsupportive (frankly, a job of actual friends and family, not the world at large or the internet in general). It’s just reality.

It’s also annoying that they are using the exact same word seemingly everywhere. The English language is a rich one. There are many words to describe an attractive woman. Stunning women abound on magazine covers. Beautiful women adorn many front pages. Stylish, elegant, classy women sashay up and down Fifth Avenue. Dazzling women pose on red carpets.

So why is it the exact same description for her, unless there is a feeling that she must be described a certain way by any supportive adult who is not a trans-gender-phobic Neanderthal bully?

Again, so what?

We shouldn’t have to describe anyone a certain way. We all have different standards and ideals of beauty, and there is nothing wrong with that. Even if all these posts and sites are authentic, by parroting the same headline, it sounds forced and fake. It sounds like something copied from a PR release.

I do not think that Bruce Jenner made a choice to do this for ratings (no one would change their gender for something so ephemeral), but I also think that he was fully aware of the publicity, ratings, and promotional opportunities that would come his way once he did it. If Bruce Jenner had never gone to the Olympics and gone on to reality TV fame, I think he would have died as Bruce. He might not have been happy with it, but he would almost certainly have accepted it because, frankly, without all the things his wealth and fame have gotten for him (including top notch medical care), having this done so late in life probably just wouldn’t have happened. Acceptance doesn’t mean you are happy with something, just that you have accepted that is how it is.

If Bruce had won the Olympics and simply never been on reality TV, I think (and this is just opinion) the probability is that he would have not made this choice because, really, once we reach a certain point in life, most of us simply accept our lot and don’t make major changes. He started down this path in the 80s and changed his mind. As I said before, this doesn’t mean he would have been happy in either general terms or with his gender, but he did make the choice to stop the process once before knowing how he felt.

But he did win, and he was on TV. This gave him a platform to have an extremely public sex change – one he will milk for a large profit, no doubt about it, and he has even all but admitted as much. But perhaps he will be able to do something good with it.

While I personally can’t imagine making that change or having someone close to me do it, I’m not going to judge Bruce or Caitlyn Jener for that choice. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to have hurt anyone except his ex-wife, and that hurt is between them and God. I am not involved. But most of us have read or seen, at some time, the horrifying statistics about both homicide and suicide, not to mention homelessness, drug addiction, and abuse, among homosexual and transgender people. No matter how much you may believe that either of those are choices and / or wrong, I don’t think most people, on either side of the aisle, are OK with such horrific things being done to them. 

The ESPY courage award (a sports award)

Making this change was undoubtedly hard and involved some self-admitted second thoughts, but she already knew her family supported her and that she would make serious bank off of it, as well as getting monumental publicity. Doing this required far less courage from her than it does for many others who undergo the procedure and do not have supportive friends and family, big bucks to ensure they have everything they need (including special ordered large size shoes) and a security detail to keep them safe from anyone who wants to harm them because they made this change.

People with average incomes (which may be much lower for transgender because of discrimination and other problems they face), families, and lives in general may risk losing their friends, their jobs, their families – everything they love – by going through this process. Caitlyn lives in Los Angeles where rather than her losing those things, anyone who was less than totally supportive of her might risk losing their jobs, friends, etc. Making a major change to your body like that can never be easy, but at the same time, her risks were not as large as many others, and she had huge potential upsides in free publicity and probably improved TV ratings.

Even more  importantly, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is a sports award and her gender reassignment has not a thing to do with sports. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Noah Galloway is competing in extreme sports despite having an arm and a leg amputated. Lauren Hill played on her team while battling brain cancer. THOSE are sports related accomplishments that required courage – especially Lauren Hill. No one knows who else was actually considered for the award, and it can be given for non-sports accomplishments, but it has been said many times that Caitlyn is a new and different person from Bruce – and Caitlyn has no sports accomplishments.

More to the point, though: if this award is given to Caitlyn instead of another award focused more on human right or some other relevant topic, what award is left for people like Lauren Hill or Noah Galloway to recognize what they are doing.

Honoring Caitlyn with this award is no more appropriate than giving a soccer star a Tony Award or a famed soloist a Pulitzer for literature. There are certainly awards that ARE specifically appropriate for her actions and I would far rather see her receive one of those and someone whose accomplishments are, you know, in sports receive the Arthur Ashe Award.

Final Thoughts.

Seeing all these comments about how “gorgeous” Caitlyn is annoys the beejeezus out of me because, well, I don’t see it. It feels fake and forced. And I feel strongly that there is absolutely no justification for giving her the ESPY courage award. But I do hope that some good comes of this in terms of less violence toward, and more acceptance of, others who go through or consider this process.

One point I want to be clear on: No matter what you think of Bruce / Caitlyn’s transformation, she is still a person and there is no need to be mean. If you wouldn’t, truly, say it to the face of a person you know, how ever slightly, in real life, then you probably don’t need to say it online.

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