Monday, September 25, 2017

How are you, Beloved?

Swing built by Big Daddy for Pupcake. I loved sitting in it and thinking about how strong and sturdy he made it, of her day dreams as she watched him at work... and I loved the drink holder her made for their pop! All little girls should have a dad like this. It's at the top of the hill where there's a cool breeze no matter how hot the day.

First, allow me to check in regarding Big Daddy (Benjamin) for those who read my August post. He is still in custody, and has been moved around the country numerous times. From KY to Indiana, to Chicago, to Jena, LA (remember the Jena Six?) to a facility in Texas right on the Mexico border and now back to Chicago.

Protesting Jena Six arrest 2006
With UK students

Imagine that you are his wife, Pansy Valdez, a forty-something Black woman from Springfield, KY who has rarely left the county... and who depends upon "Big Daddy" for her livelihood and that of their foster daughter, Pupcake. You're going to have to roll with me on the nicknames. So far every person I've met has one, including me. I'm "Casey's mama," and almost never Cynthia.

Pansy is beside herself. Benjamin is not a criminal nor a felon and he has been here for eleven years, they are married, and his paperwork for staying is almost complete. But he is being treated like a criminal, or worse, like an animal. Moved from place to place, indiscriminately, denied contact with his family, and proper care and attention. I'm also disturbed by the way Pansy, a Black woman, is treated by the system. In this case, Black Lives and Brown lives do NOT matter.
Legal papers

Since I wrote about their plight, I've become friends (on Facebook) with a young woman at Transylvania University who is a DACA recipient and who was the victim of a racist and hate-filled campaign by another student. He has since withdrawn, but the issue gives off the scent of having been swept under the proverbial carpet.

I heard from a young man I know here in Washington County, a college student who has also been covered by DACA. The latest earthquake in Mexico struck his home city, and he would love to go there to provide aid, but he can't because he realizes he may not be allowed to return to this country.

Knowing individuals affected by these policies is something I highly recommend. It brings a humanity and a reality to the brutal and disruptive lack of sensitivity with which families and communities are being wrenched apart. Immigrants, both legal and undocumented, have been tolerated and even encouraged in this country for decades largely because they worked hard for low wages. Blaming them for coming here to escape dangerous situations and take those jobs is worse than disingenuous. It's dishonorable. In fact, if you think long and hard about it, people from South and Central America who are primarily indigenuous people have a closer link to the people who actually once owned this country than most of us (white Europeans) do.


I detest the rhetoric of exclusion and expulsion. It goes against every instinct that I have.

But, as I started by asking, how are you? Because I think those of us who have a softer heart toward the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the disinherited of the world are also suffering at this time. All around us walls of security and promise are crumbling, and barriers, real and metaphorical, of hate and fear are rising. We are absolutely seeing the worst of our own colleagues, friends, families, and sometimes, ourselves.

Just last week, I brought up an issue at a local meeting of Democratic Women and found myself facing an angry and defensive response. I was talking about how our small county seat had no Black teachers even though there is a significant Black population (22%). They immediately disagreed, and some of the answers were: You are wrong, the Catholic school has a Black teacher; Well, there used to be a Black teacher; and they don't put themselves out for positions.

A few days later when I spoke to my son's 7th grade teacher about the notion of using Teaching Tolerance in the classroom, he proceeded to tell me he had issues with the Democratic party and Southern Poverty Law Center (which produces the Curriculum.)

And these are the liberal and progressive members of the community!

Our friends and acquaintances of color tell us that it's been this way for them all along. "Welcome to the party. We've always known how bad it is. You finally woke up and got a whiff of the Starbucks, soccer lady." Even those of us who've spent decades contemplating and reading, writing and preaching about racism and racial justice feel hopeless and answer-less.

We feel as if we are on a ladder to nowhere or a crazy amusement park ride that the carnival barker won't stop.

I don't like football. I didn't even like it when my son played 20 years ago, but he did, and my current husband watches it, even though the jury is no longer out about CTE. It's a barbaric sport and the mostly Black players, to me. trade their health, sanity, and years of their lives for money. Fans who watch it, well... I just can't understand that. It's like gladiators. But when someone says, regarding the current controversy about athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest killings of Black men, it's a very week argument to say, "they are paid to play.It's their job. Do that on your own time." I cringe. Indeed, they are paid to do a lot more than play.

But IMO, many of the teams came up with a reasonably creative solution on Sunday: locking arms, showing solidarity, kneeling or standing together. It was not enough for some, and too much for others. A point was made.

So, I hope your answer was, Not fine. I am not fine at all. I think it's a most important time to be not fine. I think it's ok to go on Facebook if you live way out in the hinterlands as I do, to touch base, to converse, to connect. I think we have no choice but to stay engaged and figure out, individually and collectively, with as much courage and creativity as we can muster, what is ours to do to stop this menace that grows daily and to win back our country and its place in the world.

I have put a great deal of thought into how we are much like a huge addictive, alcoholic system at this time...which, for some of us, feels almost "normal...," which is why we must keep saying to ourselves and one another, This is not normal.

To be continued...