The other night a solitary black man, trying to do his job was attacked by a group of drunk white college aged boys. He knew what he needed to do to finish his job. He faced them down from as safe a distance as he could. He smoked a cigarette, read a little bit from a book and bided his time.
As soon as his time was up, and the minimum requirements of his job was fulfilled, he beat a quick retreat.
The entertainment press went wild. Those who profit over the rude behavior of concert-goers wrote about his 'hissy fit' saying he had a melt down.
There is a great section in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Thompson talks about being chased by a highway cop for speeding. He goes into a great description of driving like hell when chased, and stopping with bravado. The cop won't like it, he may even pull his gun, but you'll know and he'll know who was in control.
Yeah, Dave Chappelle had a melt down, right! Just like Hunter S. Thompson speeding to L.A. If I smoked cigarettes right now, I'd take a drag and look contemptuously at the crowd.
No, the people who had the melt down were the privileged drunk white boys and the leaches in the entertainment industry that make a buck off of them.
Probably the same leaches that used a fabricated child star, gave her a raunchy ill conceived and ill performed rip off of part of black culture. It is probably the same leaches that got all upset when we talked about how bad the performance was and how it only adds to sexism, racism, and the degradation and objectification of certain groups of people, instead of focusing on some other drama we have control over, like Syria.
No, from what I'm reading, Dave Chappelle's performance in Hartford was a masterpiece, long over due. it was John Cage's 4'33" performed in a not-so-post-racial twenty-first century in a large venue. Listen to the sound of the audience today. It was Martin Luther King's speech reworked to be a commentary on discourse and hecklers in the age of social media. I have a dream that thinkers, both great and small will not be heckled off the stage in Hartford, or online, or in high schools because they look different and say challenging things. It was a eulogy for Bart, the 15 year old boy who was heckled and bullied to death in Greenwich Connecticut.
Yet Dave Chappelle's exit from the stage also echoed a hopeful note. Like Maya Angelou, still Dave Chappelle rises
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
The first reports I'm hearing online this evening is that Chappelle killed it in Pittsburgh this evening.
It is a popular meme, right now, to complain about everyone talking about Miley Cyrus and nobody talking about Syria. Let's look at this from a different perspective. We can argue into the wee hours of the morning the best course of action in a complicated geopolitical crisis. In fact, there are political leaders around the globe doing exactly that. Would a military strike be an unnecessary escalation of the conflict? Would failure to act be current day appeasement? What actions would have the most beneficial impact?
Yet the Miley Cyrus performance provides us with things we can do to make a difference. We can talk to the people around us, especially our children about social norms. What can we do, what are we doing, individually, each one of us, to fight racism, to fight sexism, to fight the objectification of people based on their gender, skin color, or sexual preferences?
Yes, by all accounts, it seems as if Bashar al-Assad is a bully, but what are we doing to address bullying in the lives of people around us? What can the Miley Cyrus performance tell us about how far people will go to be accepted? What can the suicide of the 15 year old boy in Greenwich, CT teach us about how to respond, or not respond, to bullies?
It is all well and good to be concerned about national and international events, but unless take these events and deal with them in our daily lives, it really doesn't seem to make a difference.
Over the past few days, we've been very busy at Cape Cod, without doing a lot; swim, eat, sleep. At moments I've gotten online and read and written a little bit, but not much, so here it is Day 5, I think, and I'm just getting around to writing my thoughts from Sunday on the Cape.
We arrived on Cape Cod on Saturday afternoon, ate at a clam shack and settled into our camping trailer. I awoke early on Sunday morning, as I do most mornings, whether it is on the cape, or at home, a workday or a weekend. I thought about heading off to church. I didn't relish the idea of driving into Provincetown. I'm not keen on trying to find parking there any time of the day or week. I thought about heading down to Wellfleet, but ended up just taking my daily walk to the beach.
It was warm and sunny and along the trail, I found some huckleberries. They were ripe, nearly past ripe. Being late in the season, I was surprised there were any left. How many people had hurried past them on their way to the beach and not noticed them, or not been aware that they were good to eat. How many other times have we hurried by something wonderful, not noticing or not being aware of the wonderfulness.
Warmed by the sun, the berries were even more enjoyable than anticipated. Along the path, I found black currants and beach plums to add to my morning snack. We come out towards the end of August so I can pick beach plums that I take home to make beach plum jelly.
I'm always torn by pointing out the joys of beach plums to those I encounter on the trail and not revealing my prime picking areas. Later, on the beach, I saw a similar behavior in a seagull. He stood with his back to me, and a dead crab lying in the sand. He appeared unconcerned about me or the crab, but kept a close eye on both of us, until I had walked sufficiently past him that he could return to his meal.
Down the beach I saw various people standing, and I wondered if I was approaching a seal colony. The first gathering was of a man practicing yoga and another person taking photographs. Further down the beach were more people standing. I kept watching and found they had come to see the seals, yet the seals were still some distance off. I walked further and eventually came within sight of the seal colony.
It was getting later in the morning, and I still had a long walk back to the campsite.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I am on vacation on Cape Cod and my friends are back from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Sure, we have an African American President, but racism still abounds, as I am too frequently reminded of on Facebook.
Recent commentary has got me thinking more about black culture. When I think of black culture, I think of Nikki Giovanni ego tripping through Africa.
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad
But that was over forty years ago. Where do egos trip today? At the video music awards, Miley Cyrus, apparently trying to tap into aspects of black culture, sang:
And we can't stop
And we won't stop
Can't you see it's we who own the night?
Can't you see it's we who 'bout that life?
Can't stop what? If you can't stop, you're out of control. You need help. Not being able to stop is a sign of addiction. It is part of the Lindsay Lohan path towards court mandated rehabilitation.
But we can stop, and we can stop in unexpected ways. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, NRA's executive vice president said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Antoinette Tuff showed this to be wrong, when she spoke from her own brokenness supported by a belief in God's love to stop a shooting.
My pastor, he just started this teaching on anchoring, and how you anchor yourself in the Lord…I just sat there and started praying.
Yes, Antoinette stopped a bad man with a gun. What will it take to stop a bad girl with a song?
As an aside, people are spending a lot of time complaining about how everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus as chemical weapons get used in Syria. This is not an either/or issue. In one discussion, I shared,
the dichotomy between women being violently oppressed because of social constructs of race and gender in the United States and women being violently oppressed by others seeking to maintain power in Syria through the use of chemical weapons seems a bit strained. Human justice for women battered because of the entertainment industry is as much of a human justice issue as how women are being battered by oppressors with chemical weapons on the world stage.
So, what will it take to stop a bad girl with a song, a bad girl with a performance that promotes the degradation of women and has troubling racial overtones? Perhaps, it takes a good man with a song,
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind…
All I ever had:
These songs of freedom,
Maybe it will take a great woman with a poem:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Or, as one strong preacher woman I know put it:
Janet's Wardrobe Malfunction; Madonna & Brittany's Kiss; Miley Cyrus's pitiful twerk...its still the oldest profession and pays the bills. Media Pimps and Women are exploited commodities in our sexist world. Pray for our sisters, our daughters, ourselves. Now Rise!
We should not slut shame Miley. We should not overlook the role of those around her in creating and performing the VMA performance. Instead, as Shelly said, we should pray for them, and all of us.
The light rain has stopped. Kim and Fiona have gone out shopping and I am resting at the trailer. There is so much I want to write, right now that I'm not sure where best to start. Several blog posts are half composed in my mind but may never make it online.
So before I start writing about my experiences, I figure it is good to set some context. We have been coming out to the same campground in North Truro since 2008. The first year, we camped in tents, but that was hard on Kim and she found that there were camping trailers for rent, and we've been camping in them ever since.
When we first started coming, I was mostly working as a freelance consultant. Money was very tight and I worried a lot. Then, there were years that I came out when there were conflicts at work, making it hard for me to relax. I've always struggled with how much should I stop and enjoy the world, and how much I should work on improving the world. As E.B. White said,
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
This past year has been very hard for me. I will not call my mother and tell her about camping on Cape Cod when I get home. She died last October in one of those storms that also ravaged the dunes of the Cape. There is so much improving the world yet to be done. I am getting more and more involved in issues around health disparities in our country and I'm disappointed to have miss a training about racism this week. I ran for State Representative last year, which took a lot of out me.
So, this is the first year that I really feel I have the right and need to relax. Yet still, I suffer from aspirations of grandeur. I try to find things to read that will engage my mind, and yet still be enjoyable. I try to take the swirling thoughts in my mind and organize and express them.
Besides carrying with me memories of all the challenges of the past year, I am carrying other thoughts. I come back to Thoreau as he walked on the dunes of Cape Cod and ponder transcendentalism in the twenty-first century.
I wear my Google Glasses and think about the Middletown Remix project; how can I look at the world differently? How can I get others to try and look at the world differently?
I think about social constructs and tried to determine books to bring. Mairead got me The Post Modern Bible for Christmas. I looked through that, through books by S.H.Foulkes about Group Analysis, by Wilhelm Reich about Character Analysis. I ended up with those two books, a collection of poems by H.D. and Orlando by Virginia Woolf.
I ponder writing a story about a person choosing to select different characters, social constructs for online interaction, as part of a performance art project. S/he recreates him/herself with different genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, and belief structures as a basis for interaction with people from online dating sites and invites all of them, ultimately to a big unveiling where they confront the social constructs they've surrounded themselves with.
Mostly, I've been reading Foulkes and thinking about an online priest and group analyst interacting on Facebook.
Think differently, reconsider social constructs, reconsider social contracts based on these constructs.
And then, there is all the news from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington to Antoinette Tuff to slut shaming and Miley Cyrus's twenty-first century mashup of burlesque and minstrel shows. Tying all that together, perhaps with a little Nikki Gionvanni's Ego Tripping and Bob Marley's Redemption song. That is a blog post waiting to be written.
So, here I sit in the camp trailer, cold and a little damp. My morning walks to the beach are also great blog material. Perhaps, I'll read a little more, walk a little more, write a little more, and relax in my own special way.