JUST MUSING: “Even those mean white men down at the Cotton Gin…”

Some of life’s lessons never leave us, even if buried, unseen for years, presumably gone the way of lost memories.  The lessons remain engraved, assuming a dominant position at unforeseen times, buried in some undefined place in our psyches.  Forgotten but not forgotten is a contradictory way of explaining that which is not contradictory, and not complex.  My mother’s mother use repetitiveness and firm commands to make her point, “respect your elders.”  It was never “yes”, unless followed by “ma’am”.  “No, sir”, even for the mean white men down at the Cotton Gin, when I dare asked.  Correcting, reminding, reaching over, grabbing – a hand-full of shirt – converting me into the boy puppet.  “Yes, ma’am,” head moving up and down, arms now engaged in the submissive mode; eyes, mouth, body movements – everything – controlled by the puppet-master.  If the hand inserted in the back didn’t work, a firm tap on the back of the head seemed to work just fine; reminding, re-engaging the circuitry, somewhat akin to striking the television set of my youth on the side, the top, in the back, in order to get a clearer picture; in the case of Chester Anna, to elicit a proper response.

“Yes sir.”

I have never fooled myself to believe the training was not successful.  Mind’s eye said she possessed the ability to sneak anywhere, day or night, and she did so when placing a stamp of approval, visible only to her, in a location I could not see, certifying I was sufficiently compliant and properly trained in the etiquette of the society.   She retained these powers even after her death.  No need for you to give me any mystical explanation of what I believe.  I don’t care.  It is what I believe.  I don’t need an explanation.

“No, ma’am, I am not hungry.  I don’t want anything to eat.  Thank you anyway,” words said even when starving, sitting in place, not moving, while aromas moved from kitchen to the living area, invading every ounce of a child’s deprived body, wanting to say yes, wanting to admit hunger, knowing full well the consequences if you did..  A “no, ma’am” feebly emitted; forever hearing Chester Anna’s admonishments, seeing her hand near – none of those vivid rainbow sightings, no beautiful flowers, no smiling faces – no, no, no, her presence was always accompanied by a stare, more intense than the sun’s glow, never profane, forever pious.  However ready to erupt, much like Mount Agung, on a moment notice, willing to test the circuitry at any moment.  Tap! Tap!

“You eat at home!”

These were lessons ingrained.  Never assume they have been lost over time.  Not my history.  Forever receiving reminders, similar to flood water, invading no matter what mystical powers you believe will protect you from Mother Nature.  Somewhat akin to being reminded intelligence is never artificial, no matter what they tell us – whatever that means – but I digress.

The most recent reminder was this Thanksgiving.  Appearing not in disguise; easily recognizable; so apparent I thought this is a trick question.  Surely Chester Anna was lurking, waiting for me to respond improperly, ready to move across the room – tapping, tapping, tapping a cane pole against the floor.  I was not going to be fooled.  I will never be fooled.  Never, ever again; I know my role.

After saying “no” twice to attending a family dinner to two different and equally important family members, I received a call from an elder, my 96 year old mother-in-law.  “You are coming to the family dinner?  Even though I have placed a question mark after the words, there was no question mark buried in the intent.  There lies the trick.  She knew the answer to the question and wanted me to repeat the answer to make sure I understood.  She didn’t wait for an answer to the first statement.  She followed immediately with, “If you don’t attend, I will never speak to you as long as I am alive.”  The last statement/test/trick was followed by a chuckle.  A Lena chuckle, forever laughing at her own jokes, affirming to me she had spoken to Chester Anna.    I looked around to see if Chester Anna was in the room.  I saw skeleton images, like the ones seen the Day of Dead celebrations in Mexico.  I didn’t think for a moment to wait for them to reveal theirs were costumes.  I answered immediately.  Knowing you always answer immediately.  Loud enough, so she could hear, so Chester Anna could hear.  Loud enough to receive my collar back, to be permitted to move off my toes, to the floor again.  “Yes, ma’am I will be there.”  No mumbling allowed.  Clear diction, said in a manner which said I meant every word.  Said with a correct posture, so there would be no doubt, just in case either of them was staring at meet through the phone lines, from some unseen place to cast retribution.

No more deviance.  No more saying what I will not do.  Immediate compliance in order that the images would move away, “what time do you want me there?”, was the question.  Laugh if you want.  I was a ten year compliant little boy, retreating backward in time, paying respects to an elder, knowing my place.  The same respect I paid to “even those mean white men down at the Cotton Gin.”

“One o’clock.”

“Yes ma’am, see you there.”

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JUST MUSING: “Don’t be duck-ist…”

Mickey Mouse and his charge were angered by The Los Angeles Times reporting on Disney’s relationship with the City of Anaheim.  The Times’ story posed questions about Mickey’s influence on the City, to the detriment of other taxpayers.  After the Times refused to retreat, Mickey, Daffy, Goofy, and Elsa (a new generation star), persuaded the Board of Disney to invoke a Times only ban on the Times preview of Disney’s new releases.  For those unfamiliar, the press is allowed the opportunity to see new releases prior to the movies’ distribution to the public.  The Times responded in kind, issuing a press release telling the public about Mickey’s edict.

NOV. 3, 2017, 6:00 A.M.

A note to readers

The annual Holiday Movie Sneaks section published by the Los Angeles Times typically includes features on movies from all major studios, reflecting the diversity of films Hollywood offers during the holidays, one of the busiest box-office periods of the year. This year, Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer The Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim. The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public.

 

Donald was the only one who sided with the Times.  Standing alone, on the right side of the Board room, one webbed foot planted on the floor, the other on the wall; leaning back, quacking, protesting much too loudly, speaking imperceptibly against the Board’s anticipated decision.  A good transcriptionist would have had difficulty deciphering Donald’s mutterings; spitting out choice words, some profane, in the heart of Walt’s world.              “The Board’s rule strikes at the heart of the First Amendment.   The right of a free and an unfettered press,” Donald’s words, translated to plain-speak.  Mickey and the others were nonplussed.  Mickey turned to his right, cuffed both hands, telling Snow White – and the other seven – to stop giggling.  A non-jolly Mickey, a different face than his public face; frowning instead of smiling, speaking in a lower octave – a bass not a tenor – explaining, “He knows not what he is doing,” seemingly revealing the voice the public has heard all these years was made-up, a false, comical, insulting, falsetto.

“We are not preventing them from reporting.   There is nothing requiring us to allow the Times to review of our movies, Mr. Duck.  Mr. Disney would be terribly disappointed in your position.  I have to tell you I am.   The Board is apparently in agreement, Mr. Duck.  The will of the majority, not the tyranny of the majority – as I heard you say,” said the Board’s chair.

Donald stood firm, hissing, spouting, spitting his words out – not Cajun, not Bawstan, nothing like the most severe southern accent – words spilling out in an unpredictable cadence, with quacks interspersed unexpectedly, further muddling his opposition.  Donald’s anger compounded the problem, distorting his diction, making the opposition doubly unreasonable.

Donald believed in free speech, even for Elmer Fudd.  Fudd didn’t look like him.  Fudd believed differently than he.  Fudd wasn’t part of the Disney family.  Donald didn’t know what Fudd was; he even sounded funny to Donald, a stuttering, cartoonish buffoon was Donald’s unkind opinion of Mr. Fudd.  The interesting part of their relationship – Donald understood what Fudd was saying when he talked.  His difficulty lay in Elmer’s tendency to repeat himself.  He also detested Fudd calling him down for cursing.  None of these differences with Fudd mattered at this time.  Donald was a pure civil libertarian.  He believed in the right of free speech even for Fudds; meaning others, friends and foes alike.

Donald was wrong however on his First Amendment point to the Board.  The Board’s lawyer delightfully corrected him.  “We are not the government Mr. Duck, and the last time I checked no one has amended the First Amendment to add anyone other than Congress.  ‘Congress and Disney … shall make no laws,’ no, no, no, not how it works.  I have never seen Disney’s name referenced in the Constitution.”

Oh, ‘the not how it works”, got everyone going; hissing, cackling, laughing, clapping, stomping, a rather cartoonish, clownish, clannish bunch they were – Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Belle, Princess Jasmine, Maleficent and even Elsa turned in unison, shouting Donald down, pointing to the floor.  The scene took on the ambiance of a sporting event, done in a style that only Disney could produce.  Thumb emojis floated across the screen located on the back wall behind the Board, pointing downward.  Disney being Disney, the animations were life-like; they moved off the screen, floated through the air, pointing downward, frowning while they travelled in the unison.  Riotous, cavorting, snickering behavior was the mood of those watching this mean version of the Wonderful World of Disney, converting and changing the words of the theme song, “When you wish upon a star, makes a difference who you are.”  Daisy, Donald’s girlfriend, turned, batted her eyes and spit.  Instead of sputum flying the fifteen feet separating them, animated block letters flew out and upward, then corrected themselves, lining up in an orderly manner, and instead of a Disney-like chorus line, they spelled out the word, L-O-S-E-R.

The Board ignored Donald’s plea, leaving Donald isolated.  They voted their intent, exited stage right, and were heard mumbling over a live microphone, “He always quacks.”  The comment angered Donald.  He found the comment derogatory, off-putting, hateful; bordering on being … “duck-ist.”

The Board knew the law.  Disney has and always has had good lawyers.  The same lawyers who refused to give an interview to The Los Angeles Times when the story broke.  The law firm is located in Sleepy Hollow.  Absolutely, the lawyers had advised Disney correctly: “Disney can’t control the Times’ reporting (“the right of a free press is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution”) … “we don’t owe them the right to review our movies early.”

So it was, the Board accepted their lawyer’s advice; we don’t have to talk to you defense.  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Iger approved the motion, followed by a second, told Mr. Duck he was out of order, followed by the previously predicted unanimous vote; putting in place a Los Angeles Times only policy.  Thus the Mickey induced policy allowed Disney to raise the ladders, secret behind the moat, permitting Iger and his minions to secret away to their magical castles to cherish the applause of the admiring minions.

Joy, joy, joy filled the air, Donald grew silent, dejected and moved toward the exit, while others in Disney’s universe celebrated, anticipating a joyous holiday season and wonderful reviews of Disney’s movies with the banishment of the tattletales.  Donald’s sadness permitted the door to hit him where it shouldn’t – dead center – rousing him from his stupor, causing the emission of a severe, shrill, startling quack, propelling Donald upward and outward into the arms of the Times’ reporter.  She was there covering the meeting, and exited before Donald to interview him for a follow-up story.

Donald was particularly fond of the Times’ reporter.  No, no, don’t jump to conclusions.  Donald’s not like that; never has been; never will be; Donald is Donald, a different Hollywood star.  A different relationship was theirs.  He was the reporter’s source in a number of different areas:  labor issues, mergers and acquisitions, even admitting he had a favorite Mouseketeer.  This last admission appeared in a fluff piece published in January 2015.  The reporter was forever mining sources, listening, reporting, loving the breadth and size Disney represented.  A fan, a critic and now standing in the hallway, holding Donald, catching him with a basket catch, the same catch she had deployed in the Lassie League in San Bernardino when she was a child.

҉            ҉            ҉

The Disney universe is vast.  Disney’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing of subsidiaries reflects ownership of different entities worldwide, including the familiar Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Pixar, Marvel Studios, ABC broadcast television network, cable television networks such as Disney Channels, ESPN, A & E Networks and Lucas Films.  Other studios which are part of this conglomerate:  Touchstone Pictures, Maker Studios, and ABC Studios.  Disney also owns multiple musical publishing companies, resorts, and theatrical groups.   Disney’s holdings are worldwide; delivering a gross income in 2016 of 22.91 billion.  A conglomerate engaged in the business of speech through various means; movies, books, publications, entertainment, and advertisements.  Cornell Law School’s website explains, “Commercial speech has been defined by the Supreme Court as speech where the speaker is more likely to be engaged in commerce, where the intended audience is commercial or actual or potential consumers, and where the content of the message is commercial in character.”

Notwithstanding, what one may think of Disney’s size, the Board’s lawyer was right with regards to her assessment of the law and the proper way of protecting her client.  Moving a recognizable flock of white hair with one hand, back over her head; mingling the hair with hair a different color.  A raven now appeared, hovering overhead.  The lawyer emitted a laugh heard before, a familiar laugh.  Her name was Cruella de Vil.  Before going to law school de Vil was part of the studio’s permanent cast.  A classical, mean, beauty was she.  Meaning of the last statement? – One of those people who possessed a non-welcoming smile, a smile which was not a smile, an illusion.  Lawyer de Vil could honestly brag that she didn’t look her age.  Nary an errant line; possessing the same youthful mane when introduced to the public in 1961 (101 Dalmatians); same laugh, she was the original Frozen, frozen in place, over time, preserved.   Disney’s creators served her well.  Now a different profession, stacking papers, with an eerie smile affixed, talking to an associate:  “Mr. Duck’s reaction when he flew off the wall was classic.  When the emoji struck him on the side the head, it was better than any other animation I have ever seen.  Flying, stumbling out of the room, getting struck dead smack under his tail.  Bravo!  Dead center, I say, dead center!”

҉            ҉            ҉

In 1938 Mickey, Donald and Goofy starred in a film-short in which Goofy damn near got Donald killed.  Donald, for some reason, blamed Mickey.  There was a considerable period of time in which they did not speak.  Gossip has it Donald held the grudge for ten years and didn’t appear (voluntarily) in another film-short, until 1954.  May be true, may be not true.  The truth of their past didn’t matter when Donald exited, webbed feet first.  Donald understood fundamental rights were not about friendship.

The initial Los Angeles Times story was written by Daniel Miller and was published on September 24, 2017.  The story was entitled, Is Disney paying its share in Anaheim?:  The money battle outside the Happiest Place on Earth.  The article revealed some startling information, including the following introduction:

 A few hours after the gates swing open at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the cars are still pouring into the massive 10,241-space parking garage.

They zoom into the six-story concrete structure, carloads of costumed kids, foreign tourists and graying baby boomers sporting Mickey Mouse ears, “Frozen” dresses and “Star Wars” backpacks.

The cash pours in too: Each vehicle pays $20 to park at the Mickey & Friends facility, $35 for a preferred space close to the escalators and elevators.

Even if the parking garage fills just half its spaces, it would still generate more than $35 million in annual revenue and easily hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the structure.

That money all goes to Walt Disney Co. The city of Anaheim, which owns the garage and spent $108.2 million to build it, charges the company just $1 a year for the lease.

The Times’ article concluded, and rightly so, that Disney is the master of obtaining subsidies for its ventures, securing “$866 million in incentives it secured for film production, real estate development and other projects from 2000 to 2016”, far outpacing “incentives won by its rival media conglomerates, according to IncentivesMonitor, a services of data firm Wavteq Ltd.  Disney’s haul was more than double what Time Warner Inc., Comcast Corp, Viacom Inc. and 21st Centruy Fox Inc. each got over the same period.”  The Times’ reporting did what a free press does, the article begged the questions which needed answering, allow fresh air to enter, invited sunlight to shine on a conglomerate, even one as beloved as Disney, to ascertain whether the Government was wisely using public funds.  Too much fresh air entered, The Times got itself banned the from the preview of Disney’s new releases, and the instatement of The Los Times’ only rule.  A rule instated to punish the press for telling on them; telling the public what Mickey and his friends were doing to the rest of us.

Donald understood free speech meant protecting the odious message too, even if the message was hostile to his interest.  Never aging, appearing in film-short after film-short, known world-wide, knowing his position may well lead to his demise – erased from tablets, deleted from computers, digitally altered, morphing into something else other than Donald Duck were the dangers he faced.   Donald had treaded this path before, once helping organize Park employees, who wanted to publicly tell which characters the employees played.  Fortune Magazine in June 2015 reported the dispute.  This union is attacking Disney’s weirdest policy, read Fortune’s caption.  The union – the Teamsters – represented the Park employees.

And what was Mr. Mouse’s position in this dispute?  Suck-up Mickey could not have cared less; always the favorite son; forever supportive of management, squeaking submissively.  Mickey could well have invented the quiet-ass-mouse adage (no mistake here on the adage, he was a quiet-ass mice, a suck-up).  Donald has always differed, forever irascible, confrontational, however never to the extent of silencing his and others rights.  Donald tendered information to the Teamsters, working toward resolving the dispute.  He stuck his beak out then.  He was sticking his beak out now.

On November 7, 2017, the New York Times reported thusly, Disney Ends Ban on Los Angeles Times Amid Fierce Backlash.  The Times reported that the change in course occurred when a number of news outlets, including the New York Times and A.V. Club said they were boycotting Disney’s advance screenings, in solidarity, until the Los Angeles’ Times only rule was lifted.  Their position was consistent with the unknown adage – because I’m making up an adage to apply to this story – Free Speech for Thee Too!

And since this musing is moving through the different levels of sanity, a few other points:   The New York Times’ story wasn’t totally accurate.  They failed to report on the meeting called by Mr. Duck; putting everything on the line, calling others to task, persuading they  vote against their economic interest in order to support free speech for themselves, friends, and competitors.  His was not a clear speech; his diction is never clear.  Spitting, sputtering, cursing – in a rage, he was – he was the not nice Donald.

Maybe the reporter for The New York Times didn’t understand what he was saying; had never seen any of his shorts; had never used him as a source.  The Los Angeles Times reporter sat in the corner laughing at their contempt, listening to the New York reporters mumble out loud, “A talking duck; a talking duck!”  She remained in place listening, chuckling to herself,  Give me a break, I have seen worse on the streets of New York … give me a frickin’ break buddy!   Donald was her favorite.  Didn’t I say that?

Those New Yorkers actually did a “fairly” (with contemptible air-quotes around “fairly”) good job in their reporting, biases notwithstanding.   Their story accurately reported the support of “several high-profile Hollywood figures, including Ava DuVernay, who directed A Wrinkle in Time, which is to be released by Disney on March 9.   Saluting the film journalists standing up for one another, Ms. DuVernay wrote on Twitter on Monday: ‘Standing with you.’”

What did those contemptuous reporters leave out?  They never mentioned the flying and attacking emojis.  They omitted references to the sputum which floated through the air like sputum initially before magically converting to block letters; letters which came out of nicey-nice Daisy’s mouth.  There was no mentioned of Cruella de Vil’s retirement and her now being a lawyer.  Disney never told us any of this, still playing the same films over and over again.  No mentioned of de Vil’s presentation (arrogant, rude, devious, cutting, and unbecoming of the profession).  Sure she looked marvelous (hair, skin tone, voice was the same, never aging not one day).  It seems to me – since I have plum fallen off the wagon with this musing – that none of her physical attributes should have mattered.  The reporting should have reported her role; she started the charge of the tyranny of the majority.  Those reporters probably didn’t trust the public knowledge of the term, tyranny of the majority and the persistent historical comfort in silencing the minority view.

The sad unwarranted and belligerent conduct of Mr. Disney’s favorites was not placed in the historical record; laughing, snorting, carrying on worse than Donald did in a 1952 film-short entitled Donald Duck – Trick or Treat.  Conduct worse than cartoonish, unreal.  Moreover, those foreigners entering a foreign land failed to mention Donald speaking at the meeting, calling a huddle of the reporters afterwards in the hallway, leading the formal meeting two days later, as he did for the Park employees in 2015, encouraging the press organizations and assorted celebrities to collectively boycott the Los Angeles Times only policy.  Seemingly those New Yorkers didn’t believe and didn’t believe their readers would believe.  Now you know the truth.

Perhaps, not believing, they too were being duck-ist.   Something we thought we were long past in our society.  We’re better than that.  Unfortunately in these times – this time – they were not.

 

JUST MUSING: “Harvey Weinstein is not the Lone Ranger … he could have been…”

I believe.  I feel.  I know.  Harvey Weinstein would have been better served by shutting the hell up, firing all the high price lawyers and by engaging in the act of fessing up by his not fessing up.  Never saying a word, moving pass those he previously courted; allow others to issue statements; cry over his vileness; mutter prayers for his damnation.  Instead, he issued a statement, written by handlers, saying he was from a different generation, indicating he may have engaged in shameful and regrettable behavior.  Weinstein shuttled out the legal minions, relying on their names and histories in the courtroom, to threaten corporate powers, writers, and generators of the news.  I sure he thought he was playing his trump card – but – he wasn’t – he didn’t play trump.  I believe Weinstein lost his way amongst the lawyers, money and Hollywood; enhancing his doom by the failure to utilize the expertise and talents of people whose jobs are to craft real and alternative realities.  Instead of using well-reasoned behavior, he panicked when seeing the storm troopers breaching the walls.

The Lone Ranger appeared on American television from 1949 to 1957.  It was originally a radio program, appearing on WXYZ, airing in 1933 in Detroit.  The television show has been in reruns ever since.  Never refreshed, never dying, a persistent thematic comment on the culture, the Mad Men from the thrilling days of yesteryear.  Fred Hoyer was the announcer who introduced the Lone Ranger:

The Lone Ranger! …A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo Silver’… The Lone Ranger! With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early West. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!

During the Cold War period, in every classroom across this country, part of every student’s socialization was to present a stark difference between our society and the Soviet bloc of countries (read this as communism).  Telling us we were different, in both our form of government and in the dissemination of the news.  Casting the others as propagandist, fake news, serving the needs of the Communist elite and the government; showing images of our leaders, Uncle Sam, the flag, prior to our singing the school song, state song, the National Anthem or America the Beautiful.  No, no, don’t hear me to say I reject the socialization process.  Mythology is part and parcel of any society’s survival, creating a distinction how the given society is different than others, casting heroes, creating monuments, recounting and telling history, explaining why the citizens should be united, or even willing to fight for the greater good.  Television, movies, the arts, Hollywood, are as much a part of the mythology as George Washington crossing the Potomac and his refusal to ever tell a lie.  What on earth does any of this have to do with Harvey Weinstein?  I am getting there.

The handlers Weinstein hired did okay, doing what they do best.  They circled the wagon (no pun intended), threatened lawsuits, issued an official statement (after unsuccessfully stopping the New York Times and The New Yorker from publishing stories of their client’s past alleged transgressions), cajoled (citing those who supported him; name dropping I think this is called), quoted others, then invoked the American adage of a second chance.  I feel Weinstein’s handlers missed the mark, never fully appreciating who they were representing.

Harvey Weinstein was a man capable of creating mythologies with the means of doing so lying within inches of his fingers.  Telling the story, restructuring the theme, casting storylines, recasting if necessary, changing the theme when necessary, using the most beautiful people in the world to tell the story; always, always, always remaining in character – placing before the American public the appropriate mythology – you know – from the days of yore, much like the Lone Ranger.  Instead of saying, “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different” (Weinstein’s opening line of his statement), why didn’t the man just buy the rights to Mad Men, play the most egregious tales about women (stories, articles, movies) on a loop, and have the rest of us guess why we are watching so many rape films, reading so many stories with women cast in a bad light, and why there so many stories on the news, in all the major news markets, are about false accusations of rape raised against men throughout history; aired before the ten o’clock news.  My logic is not a stretch.  Behavior which made Mad Men an award winning show, propelling its lead into frame, is nothing more than a celebration of the good old days, what Weinstein’s written statement feebly attempted to invoke, the days of yore.  Yes the days of yore, but it isn’t yesteryear really, we elected a president the same way, didn’t we?  Denial, attack, rely on mythology to rule the day (I’m too rich; believe me, I wouldn’t touch someone who looks like her; fake news).  Didn’t we?

There was no reason for his lawyers to get upset when the issued statement failed and others mustered enough courage to speak out, to move out of the shadows.  The lawyers’ mistake, they treated Harvey Weinstein as a mere mortal.  Lone Rangers are never mere mortals.

They were playing by the wrong rules, believing the rules of high-price lawyers played well in this new social media environment.  Lucille Ball could have told them, there are too many portals, too many past transgressions, too many chocolates moving down the conveyor belt.  The Lone Ranger could have straightened them out, instructing them to rely on mythology.  Shoot … you can shoot anyone you want (read this as touch, molest, they’ll let you when you’re famous) … play it right, muster the best voices in the history of humankind, and touch and hit (say “hit” with emphasis and a cultural twist) anything you want.  That’s the logic, isn’t it?   The Lone Ranger rides again.

Weinstein said it on tape in New York, inviting/telling/cajoling Filipina-Italian actress, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, into his room, instructing her not to embarrass him, reminding her, he was “use to that” (reference to touching her breast) (much like the candidate’s words).  His handlers failed him.  He failed himself.  His trump was the built in mythology, sexism and misogyny granted to him by the society, which has served him well for years and years.  He should have ushered his minions from the publishing, television and movie industries into a room and waited a few days, gone dark, and instructed those same minions/enablers to use the trump defense and trump the trump.  Monitor the real news, newspapers and commentators, and watch for defenses floated by allies and those unwittingly supporting his defense.  Watch how sexism plays in its many mysterious ways; keep notes, using some of the excuses, discarding the rest.  The same with social media:  flooding the web with fake news, making it impossible to discern differences between the truth, and those making their own truths.

The official statement to the press by the Weinstein team had the following additional language [absence my intentional redaction line drawn in the middle of the text]:  “I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it.  To anyone.  I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed.  I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.”  In the world of make-believe, none of the above admissions are necessary.  Redacted, eliminated, why?  Ones reliance on sexism is sufficient.  The same sexism which has allowed the same behavior to become the rule of the day, silencing victims, “when you are famous, you can do anything you want.”  Harvey’s only words, when moving from restaurant to the car, should have been utter disgust.  His lines set out on paper, and practiced, over, over, over again, “I’m disgusted.  The truth will come out.  They’re liars.”  Nothing else, before the minions closed the door, driving away and leaving the rest to the best creators of mythology the world has ever known.

Sitting in a law school classroom watching my fellow students struggle to get the point the professor was trying to elicit from them.  Moving from student to student, pointing to the front of the room, to the back, to the middle, none seeing the problem with the case.  I don’t remember the name of the case.  I do remember the setting was in the South and a negro citizen (intentional small case, “n”) was charged with attempted rape for looking at a White woman (intentional upper case,  “W”).

“What is wrong with the facts?  Why did the Court reverse the conviction?” – The professor’s questioned.

Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have reported being victims of sexual assault at some time in their lifetime, revealing the crime is not an isolated, singular, nary a rare event.   Actually the number seems to reveal a persistent prevalence, a sickness in the society, surely not restricted to past generations.  In the June 2015, Baltimore City Paper, it was reported that “[a]mong female college students who are raped, [eighty] (80) percent never report the crime, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Justice report.  [Eighty] (80) percent of student victims knew their attackers; another ten (10) percent did not report the crime because they did not want to get their assailant in trouble with the law.”  The article also explained these issues are compounded by race, with forty-four (44) percent of white victims reporting the crime, while only seventeen (17) percent of black victims reporting the crime.  In a paper entitled, Acquaintance Rape [Victims and Violence], the author(s) provide additional context:  “For many, the word “rape” conjures up images of a stranger behind a bush in a dark place with no one else around.  In school we are taught to recognize stranger danger and how to say no to a mysterious figure.  However, the reality of rape is very different and far more disturbing.  Rape is most likely to occur, not with a stranger, but with someone you know and trust.  According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 55% of sexually assaulted women know their attacker.”

In the law school class the case’s problem was the government convicted a man for attempt on an attempt, reaching in his brain and discerning he had to have thought about committing a crime.  Surely the negro looked at the White woman, therefore surely he thought about raping her, was the implicit reasoning.  When I answered the case represented, “conviction for attempted, attempted rape”, my classmates looked at me as if I was mad.  The professor exclaimed I was correct.  His may have been a legal point.  My answer was less legal, more social, reading the facts as real, living the Southern mythology, understanding well what an attempted attempt looked like.  But I digress … back to Mr. Weinstein, the Lone Ranger and Lucy.

You can read this muse as being both cruel and crude.  It is not.  The muse is designed to show we have been complicit in the unwarranted and unwanted behavior, permitting the behavior to continue because of our refusal to call out the destructive mythology, ignoring how sexism has been used as an ax and a shield.  Refusing to call out our own destructive thinking, protecting those who looked like us for unwarranted behavior, laughing it off, laying waste to the victims; forever ignoring how the race continues to haunt us even in something as violent and inhuman as rape, sexual assault, and abuse.

The author, Allante Adams, in the Baltimore City Paper’s piece, had another good point:

Rape of African-American women goes back to before they reached the Americas. Slave women were routinely raped by crew members during the transatlantic voyage. There were few consequences for rapists—regardless of race. In 1859 a Mississippi judge overturned a guilty verdict from a lower court in a case involving two slaves. The victim was less than 10. The judge wrote in his decision: “The crime of rape does not exist in this state between African slaves, [because] their intercourse is promiscuous.”

Asking Lisa Bloom to tutor him, seeking out therapists, donating money – statements all derived from Weinstein’s statement to the public – misses the point.  If Weinstein was going to go full-trump and clown the rest of us, he should have used music, art, and sound to their best uses – grabbing the mythologies of today and days of yore to roll the rest of us.  Programming the cameras to move out and around, instructing the Director on cue, putting on the best show the world has ever seen.  Never denying, never admitting, calling everyone liars, coloring the words actually heard, inserting words heard in social media discussions between millions of excusers (“locker room talk”), before moving on to better things, with his enables paving the way for his transition and the second … third, fourth, fifth, sixth … no telling how many additional chances.  In my mind’s eye, the man wasted his money.  “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.  The Lone Ranger rides again!”

JUST MUSING: “Why Jeremy Lin’s story is actually more meaningful…”

Curiously controversy continues to overtly and covertly surround Jeremy Lin’s existence as a member of the National Basketball Association (NBA).  The most recent controversy you ask; Lin’s decision to change his hairstyle.  For the unfamiliar Jeremy Shu-How Lin is one of the few basketball players in the NBA, an American professional basketball association of Asian descent.  Lin’s ethnicity is Taiwanese/Chinese.  Lin entered the Association the hard way, undrafted.  He was not deterred, and maintained a sense-of-self and a belief in his abilities in a profession where those of his ilk are not often seen.  He was cut by a number of teams before receiving a chance to prove his mettle with the New York Knicks in 2012.

Recently, Denise Young Smith, Apple’s Vice President Diversity and Inclusion, an African American female, was quoted as saying:

“There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation,” Young Smith said on-stage at the recent One Young World Summit, held in Bogotá, Colombia.

In few words Apple’s representative revealed the multi-talented nature of racism. Words spoken clearly, providing a visible dose of self-hate, laying waste to what she was hired to do, appearing more like mere caretaker for the tech industry’s woeful diversity, done in black, possessing a white-washed mine.  Words spoken clearly making it appear that she occupied the position for window dressing purposes only; speaking honestly when she didn’t realize she was speaking a bit too honestly; telling the world what she really thinks.  One of the problems with racism [or sexism] is sometimes the victims of these social diseases forget that the victims too have to check themselves, because they too are infected by the same disease(s).  Seemingly, I have digressed but I have not.   I hope I am making sense.

Once given a chance, Lin demonstrated he belonged.  Over a twelve game span, the term Linsanity was born.  Linsanity was actually larger than Lin himself, captivating Knicks’ fans, the Asian world, the imagination of those who have been told they too do not belong.   Draining game winning shots, directing the team like the next coming, lifting a moribund Knicks’ franchise for a brief period, while resurrecting – in my mind – the lives and history of the African American athletes who too looked differently when they pleaded, demanded to be given a chance to prove they belonged.  How soon we forget.

Moses Fleetwood Walker, Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, ghosts of baseball’s past sins, would have never criticized Lin’s role as a first.  Charles Cooper, Nat Clifton, Earl Lloyd former professional basketball players would have likely applauded and extended a hand, recognizing when their color was a barrier to others in joining the NBA before they were given a chance.  Kenny Washington, football’s first, would have blocked for him, shredding criticism, reminding the rest of us you can’t place five white men on the court and call your decision and exercise in diversity, while the Asian ball players sit on the bench looking around, bemoaning never being given the opportunity to show their mettle.

What controversy?  After the twelve game display, comments were leveled at Lin’s way revealing a lack of appreciation for history and why Lin’s dazzlingly display, particularly in a historical context, had meaning beyond the individual himself. 
Waging criticism
of Lin’s rise to fame (his teammate, Carmelo Anthony’s remarks); purporting not having any idea who or what he was (comments by then star in the league, Kobe Bryant); expressing outrage (comments made by multiple athletes in the league at the time) when Lin was offered a contract by the Houston Rockets, even though it seemed Lin’s good fortune would benefit other union members of the Association.

Sure that time has passed.  Lin is no longer with New York or Houston.  He has in fact changed teams on multiple occasions.  Today there is no more Linsanity.  Lin is still in the league however, now on the New Jersey Nets.  One thing seems constant; the diseased mind still continues to lurk, occasionally appearing in the oddest places.

The new criticism is about hair.  Lin has elected to wear his hair in dreadlocks, ropelike strands of hair formed by matting or braiding.  Kenyon Martin, an African American, and former professional basketball player, after he discovered Lin’s choice, did what we tend to do in this age of digital miscommunication – he said what he shouldn’t have.

“Do I need to remind this damn boy his last name Lin?” Martin said (h/t Nets Daily). “Like, come on, man. Let’s stop it with these people. There is no way possible he would’ve made it on one of our teams with that bulls–t on his head. Come on man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘alright bro, we get it.  You wanna be black.’  Like, we get it. But your last name is Lin.'”

Without engaging in a detailed debate surrounding the origins of civilization, or who did what when, the inherent racism found is Martin’s statement is readily identifiable.  First, he ignores dreadlocks, as a hairstyle, has been documented throughout history.  A quick reference to Wikipedia reveals that during both the Bronze and Iron Age, dreads appeared in “Near EastAsia Minor (considered the western two-thirds of the Asian part of Turkey), Caucasus (located between the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea), ancient Persia (present day Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan).  Also evidence of dreadlocks was discovered among the ancient Israelites (ancient Israelites are considered to be an outgrowth of the indigenous Canaanite populations that long inhabited the Southern Levant, Syria, ancient Israel and the Transjordan region), in ancient Greece (depicted in frescoes), and  Egypt (seen with mummified remains).  Martin should have done a preliminary search before hitting send.

The charge of cultural misappropriation is dangerous in this context, in that it reaches and grabs a number of different cultures, peoples and religions, all incorporating the same hair style.   By way of example, pray tell which myth survives reality when one group attempts to claim credit for matters as common as dance, bread, alcohol beverages.

I muse because I believe Martin’s sin is not his failure to undertake a modicum of research; instead his is a greater sin, the byproduct of endemic racism.  Seemingly never wanting to give Lin his due, criticizing him for matters unrelated to his professional path.  The same way Jackie Robinson and others were criticized for anything and everything.  The faux argument over hairstyle and choice is no different, more of the same.

The website Root.com wrote about Lin’s hairstyle, missing the mark widely.  Electing to tell a joke of the incident and comments; ignoring history’s wide and encompassing clutch; the act of pretending to support Lin while burying him with faint praise.  Absolutely, Lin has complained of racism – before and after the Linsanity label – however he didn’t this time, instead asking Martin about the tattoos on his arm, which contains Chinese characters – cultural misappropriation I guess.  The same cultural misappropriation I too have engaged in when electing to purchase Chinese artwork over the years, or having bookcases made in Hong Kong years ago, prior to Mainland China opening her doors.  My suggestion – any future references to Jeremy Lin’s hair also include a visit with history’s lessons, of course, after checking our racism at the door.

JUST MUSING: “Mercy, mercy me …”

How I wish I could wax elegantly like Marvin Gayemercy, mercy me … things aren’t what they use to be.   How I wish I could predict the future … I can’t, planning, anticipating notwithstanding, approaching every day as a new adventure.  Remembering the adage, nothing is promised, knowing well, nothing is promised – not today, not tomorrow.  Magical, invisible hands reaching and holding limbs in place, slowing, restricting, bounded closer to earth’s gravitational pull.  Looking in all directions, looking for the binders, seeing what I expected to see, nothing, still convinced of their presence.

I suspect we are not witnessing Armageddon.  A New York Times’ story, reporting on the Mexico City earthquake, quoted a government employee, Jorge Ortiz Diaz, as saying, “It’s like Sodom and Gomorrah, like God is angry at us.”   I possess a contrarian view of the world, of life.   My contrarian view is one formed in part by my maternal grandmother.  Always viewing weather as a gift, no matter the conditions, view in part religious based, in part the slanted view found in a farmer’s eye.  My opinion in nothing Chester Anna Wright told me verbally, instead conveyed by praying; kneeling, persistent rubbing of both hands, looking skyward, lowering herself to the earth, touching the soil.  Similar behavior she engaged in when neighbors, church members, relatives many times removed, came to her home to die.  Praying, bathing their bodies, bending over and downward, listening to voice tones and inflections, accessing when death would arrive.  Likewise, smelling and predicting Mother Nature’s behavior – weeks on end.  No emergency warning systems, no telephones, never a newspaper delivered to the doorstep.  Supplementing her faith with the Farmer’s Almanac, the radio, and A.A. Allen.  No television, no internet, seldom a visit from friends or strangers.  Forever educating – turning to Louis Wright – instructing when to plant, predicting rain, praying for rain; looking outward and over – “Two days, two days … you should secure the animals.”  Watching birds, plants, sky, noticing absences before others; smelling, touching, forever looking for tell-tall signs.  Cherishing rain, looking upward and outward, extending both hands skyward, verbal mouthing a simple and concise, “thank you”; cherishing heat, sweating like the rest of us, never uttering a profane word, even when the unexpected occurred.  Consistent pattern and behavior was hers; possessing a sublime belief in Mother Nature, when all others viewed her conduct as obscene fickleness, mercurial, and unpredictable.

Storms, fires, earthquakes are weather events which are both common and uncommon.  Common when it doesn’t affect us, uncommon when the water laps at our doorway, entering, invading … soiling.  Seeing others in peril is different than when the worry become an everyday reality; worrying about ones future, being displaced in mind, body and thought; listening obliquely while others whisper “we were lucky, we were lucky”.

Pulling possessions out – now nothing more than rubble – through the doorway, into the yard, onto the curve – dealing with the hand fate has dealt to one’s household.  Wanting the world to go back to work, admitting ones good fortune, contending the good fortune is because of God’s blessings, never seeing the corollary meaning in an affected household; common and uncommon tales existing side by side, told by the same untold weather events.

After Hurricane Ike’s landfall in 2008, there was a considerable period of time in which most of us were prevented from coming back onto Galveston Island.  City officials informed the least of us the Island would be closed for an unknown period of time.  Law enforcement was put in place to prevent entry; guarding the roadways, informing the citizenry, in both the print and visual mediums, to be advised to place their children in other school districts, to make other plans.  The officials’ announcement felt like someone was pulling the welcome mat away.  These announcements played hourly, daily; part of the news-feed, playing while the others were permitted to enter, to make repairs, secure property, to check on friends and family.  When the Houston Chronicle reported a seafood fest on the Seawall for recovery workers, I was aghast. Looking from afar, prevented from entering; wondering, wondering, wondering what tomorrow would bring.  I did what I did then for a living.  I studied the legality of the City’s actions and brought suit; something about life, liberty and property rights.  We settled, allowing the rest of us to enter the island to begin the rebuilding process.

Three weeks after Ike’s landing, lights were restored.  Courts in Austin and Houston must have been in communication with the light company, both placing calls within fifteen minutes of the lights and phones becoming operable.

“The temporary injunction hearing is scheduled 1:30 p.m.  The Court wants you here for a docket call at 9:00 a.m., tomorrow morning.”

“I can’t be Austin in the morning.  We had a hurricane on the coast.  We just got lights and phone service minutes ago.”

I learned quickly, our conditions weren’t their conditions.  The plea was refused, never heard.  “No counsel, see you tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.”   My, “but-buts”, meant nothing.

The Houston court demanded my appearance two days later, “docket call and jury selection will start on Monday.”

My, “I don’t know(s)”, were never heard.  I didn’t know where the file was.  I didn’t know if I could find clean suits to wear.  I didn’t know how the client survived the storm.  Things aren’t what they use to be … mercy, mercy, me.

Actually, I knew where one-half of the file was located, in the middle of the floor. A soaked pile of smelly mush rendered unreadable, bound by something other than paper clips, swollen to twice its previous size, expelling invisible fumes which caused ones’ eyes to water.

I ultimately learned neither Austin nor Houston was affected.  Saw something one the television I suspect.  We were removed from their world.  Their courthouses were safe.  The pleas were for naught.

“I don’t have lights at my home as of yet”, Her Honor explained, while dismissively waving the objections to the side, much like a worrisome fly.  Standing, moving away from the bench, exiting, and reminding me of her ruling, “See you Monday morning.”  A surreal experience, cartoonish, as if being pulled across the screen, with blanket in tow, screaming, “Stop, stop, stop … erase and redraw … no one stopped and redrew the sketch.  The ruling was the ruling and remained the ruling.  Pulling on the booth-straps has never been as painful as it was then, standing in the dock of the courtroom, looking around, feeling smallish, lost.

Seeing the water rise during Hurricane Harvey, stopping six inches short, lapping at the door, swaying in the middle of the street, in suspended animation served as a reminder how the common and uncommon plays us.  Seeing the destruction of Rockport, watching the Sabine rise, the freeways in Houston become rivers, seeing people being drug across the screen to safety, while hearing my own whispers, others whispers, “how lucky we were”.  Life must go on, they say.  Yes, they say.

Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no.

I have seen the feel good stories.  I too have applauded the volunteers’ efforts, wondering still, worrying still, what happens when the cameras move away?  Worrying whether we will remain consistent and recognize the disjointed, dystopian existence storm and earthquake victims are presented; long after the water has receded from yards, streets, bayous, rivers, flowing back to the Gulf; long after the earth has stopped shaking; considerably longer than the time it takes water to dissipate, leaving noticeable reminders of its presence.

Those who are lucky, move on.  Life goes on.  Life goes on.

Food and clothing assistance stops, for those who are not so lucky.  The lenses are put back in place, the cameras lowered into carrying cases, after being put in the off position.  No longer a story; a new story awaits; time to go back to work, while the less fortunate remain in a perpetual state of internal shock; worrying whether, trying to remember how to put one foot in the front of the other, hoping for the best.

I say all of this to say that I hope we remember – even if we were fortunate – the adage “life goes on” sometimes is not a complete and adequate description of life’s circumstances and challenges.  We have to recognize life changes, much a cracked vase, on the verge of fractured, must be helped – held in place – until the glue sets.

The little things, the same hand extended to you in the past.  Doing what you wished others would have done for you, caring.  Some can’t move on, living the nightmare daily; seeing their world turned, inside out, upside down, round and round.

Oh, absolutely, there aren’t enough hours in the day; hurting feet, backs, aching minds remind us of this.  Never ever believe our world is as big they told us in school; a world isolated by time, distance, differences, and languages, no more.  The persistent attempt to resurrect coal is not meaningless, having a profound effect on us, our neighbors to both the North and South.  Dismissing the repetitive five hundred (500) year storms as happenstance is pure folly.

There is no magical formula how long it takes.  Events which are life-altering can change the character and nature of the community, causing a communal migration.  New Orleans is a prime example, a mass migration of peoples into Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston.  The disappearance of next door neighbors, shuttered buildings, and untimely, unexpected deaths.  Mercy, mercy me…  Land grabbers, disinterested government officials with smiles engrafted – practiced, affixed – putting on the best face possible, congratulating each other – banquets, awards – while moving away, in the opposite direction of encased cameras, moving on, moving on.  That’s what we do.  That’s what we do.

Chester Anna Wright lived a simple life, by today’s standards.  Her life examples seemed more complicated by any standard.  Relying on her senses, remaining in tune with nature’s whim, saying thank you no matter what, never whispering her good fortune when other suffered in her farming community; a harder stance, not an impossible stance for any of us, no matter where we are located.

 

JUST MUSING: “What went right in Charlottesville …”

noI have never been to Charlottesville and without cheating and making a quick reference to a map, I can’t tell you what part of the State of Virginia the city is situated.  Recognizing the city’s name, sitting in a chair, pushing back, readjusting my position, stunned – watching, watching, watching – going silent, moving inward; each passing minute, hour, day.  Witnessing from afar, separated by distance, and time, drawn close by technology.  Seeing the persistent struggle play out; commentary about the south, the Birth of a Nation, statues of horror/of honor, marching/sitting, mouths agape/spewing hate, dogs, guns, jail, confinement, the fraught reality of slavery; love and death.  Wondering what the future may bring, seeing the chasm grow wider; the by-product, the root, southern birth-rights playing out in living color.   Stopping, closing my eyes, wondering to myself – complaining to friends – whether anyone realizes there were actually events which went right in Charlottesville.  Adjust your thought process, wipe your eyes, appreciate for a moment the last statement is somewhat inconsistent with my ingrained minority paranoia.  Please bear with me.

Merriam Webster defines paranoia two ways:   “mental illness characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations” or “a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.”  The word, minority, or the term, being in the minority needs no definition when stated in a racial, national origin, religious context – both are self-explanatory.  Merriam Webster contains no definition for minority paranoia.  With that said, viewing the use of the term, minority paranoia, in a negative context shouldn’t be done, contrary to both definitions of paranoia.

_____________________

Turning off Almeda-Genoa, proceeding eastward initially, turning slightly northward on Telephone Road – at a time before the strange voices occupied our phones, became secreted into our dashboards, telling us which direction to proceed – all to reconnect with Almeda-Genoa.  My memory said it was a Sunday night, nearing one in the morning.  Houston was sleeping.  Crossing the landscape making my way back to the freeway, travelling home, fighting sleep, watching, listening to music – as if the music helped me stay attuned – it didn’t, it didn’t.  Seeing lights enter the cab, flashing, bouncing, an invasion of light; lighting up the surrounding area, enveloping my path, causing sleep to flee, the same effect of being invaded by millions and millions of lighting bugs.

Not knowing what I had done, checking the time, checking my vehicle’s speed, looking ahead, for a place to pull over; changing the radio station – to a gospel station, not for prayer, not that I knew the musical preference of the Houston Police officer instructing me to pull over – none of this, none of that.  Correcting my posture, locking both hands in place, sitting, awaiting – for the officer to arrive to the driver’s side of the vehicle; actions developed of time, now a habit, a routine, designed to survive the interaction.  Having travelled the same road over the years, seeing I was near where I was determined years before, also in the early morning hours; stopped by the same Department, detained for two hours.  Cursed and threatened then; words designed to push both societal and racial buttons; an invitation to react, hoping I would react – until the officers determined I was a lawyer.  Apologizing, hiding their badges, some refusing to give me their badge numbers, calling their supervisors.  An ah-ha moment, a moment Allen Funt would have loved (Smile you are on Candid Camera), an event best expressed in the idioms of a southern Negro (“Oh Lord, Oh Lord”); burdened by history, race, humor, I am, only none of unfolding events were funny at the time.

A thousand thoughts flooded in and out, with each step, with every movement of the officer.  How to survive a simple traffic stop?  Don’t accept the bait, ignore the bait, don’t turn the music down until the he reaches the window.  Oh happy days.  When Jesus Washed … Hands up – breathe, breathe, breathe – remain calm.  Give him your license when asked, respond only to the questions asked.

This was the third time I was stopped by Houston Police on this stretch of isolated roadway within a three year period.  Adapting, changing radio stations, sitting erect, remaining erect (statue like), turning the music down – receiving a warning, thanking the officer, vowing not to travel down the same road again, particularly in the early morning hours.   A vow I have kept, forever seeing the spots where I have been stopped, the faces, ingrained images, time.

Is there a correlation in the stops? – I don’t know.  Was my race a factor? – Maybe – possibly.  What I am clear about?  These events are part of the term I used earlier on – minority paranoia.  Minority paranoia established over time, observing ones environment – someone akin to assure life (read the use of life literally, as in remaining alive), liberty (read this as avoiding jail) and the pursuit of happiness (no explanation needed).  Driving away, extending a self-congratulatory pat, remembering the last stop, hearing the officers threaten arrest, calling me stupid.  “What do you think about being so stupid?  His calling other officers over, had to be at least six officers in and out of the back seat, while I remained cuffed, for two hours.  Awaiting a response, obtaining a response, “I guess I’m stupid.”

Driving farther down the road, seeing the other incident, on the same road; stopping to help another driver after a wreck – helping her, not helping him.  He – a stranger to me – was upset because of he felt she was at fault.  She too was a stranger.

Walking near, seeing the terror in her eyes, sensing fear.  He – this stranger – hovering over her window, screaming, yelling; reaching inside of the passenger compartment.

“It was your fault!  It was your fault! Look what you did to my car!”  He said, bellowing his words while she screamed.

“Hey man, it was a wreck, calm down.”

She leaned back and away, restrained by the seat belt, screaming, dazed – these facts didn’t matter – continuing his rant, “Look what you have done!”

“Hey man, move away from her car!”

Touching her, hearing the screams grow louder, grabbing the stranger by his shirt, obtaining a firm grip, licking my free hand with spit, aiming at the nape of the neck, continuing the attempt to get his attention.

“Hey man!  Come on fool!”

Words accompanied by a popping sound, hand against neck, skin against skin, causing a distinctive sound, indicating I was successful in making contact.  I learned quickly, I was successful in getting his attention.  Spinning in place, much like a bull – he did.  Seeing blood on his forehead, and in his eyes; sweat poured liberally down his face.  He was none too happy.

“I’m going to kill you!”

“No, you’re not” – reaching, extending – striking again for good measure.  Moving away, wondering why I was in the middle of the street boxing a total stranger.

“I am going to kill, your ass” – lunging forward, grasping at air, crying in anger, complaining to himself about “my car.”

“Man it’s a damn car.  You’re alive.  She is alive.  Stop before you get hurt!”

“Nigger, bastard” …

Unwelcome words causing a reaction – for every reaction there is a reaction – extending an obligatory strike, to the festering wound on the left side of his forehead.  Ole!

“You need to calm down!” – moving away, circling, making the stranger chase, only striking thereafter when he got too close.

The police ultimately did arrive.  When I tried to tell the officers what happened, they ignored me.  When I attempted to repeat the story, I was stopped.

“She is in shock.  She is not going to let her window down.  Ma’am it is okay, you can let your window down.”

The white man – stranger one – stood to the side no longer than ten feet away, playing victim.  The white woman – stranger two – sat stunned, ultimately lowering her window, stepping out after persistent persuasion, intruding, trying to explain to the other officer why she was frozen in place.   The lone black soul, my meddling-self, my not-minding-my- business-self, stood in the middle of the roadway listening to the officer’s firm instruction – “Leave before we arrest you!” – No address given to him; no telephone number; no name allowed.  A black Casper the Friendly Ghost I was, invisible, irrelevant; obeying the officer’s instruction, entering my car, wondering why I even bothered to stop.

With the above digression, my definition of minority paranoia seems appropriate at this point:  Minority paranoia is a sense of paranoia, real and imagined, clinical and non-clinical.  A paranoia which is ingrained in the souls of a minority group member, when existing in a hostile environment causing the group member to constantly assess and reassess events, based upon past events, and stimuli.  Minority paranoia oft-times causes the minority group member to view the world differently, seeming irrational, when not irrational – somewhat akin to speaking a foreign tongue to the majority group member; akin to asking the majority group member to accept the impossible, even though the non-acceptance of the minority members view of the world is no different than the majority member’s perception (Elvis is still alive, but Michael Jackson can’t be alive).

I give this detailed definition to explain how minority paranoia affects my view of the events in Charlottesville.  A paranoia invoked when shocking societal events occurs; causing worry and anxiety to return; ghosting, shadowing my every step.   We are the ones who are told to leave.  We are the ones who are arrested.  We are the ones whose rights are affected when we silence our enemies.  This time however something else occurred.

First, those men and women of hate were granted their fundamental right to march.  I know, they are our enemies; purveyors of hate, terrorists in our mist.  I don’t disagree – I’m not stupid.  I told you, didn’t I, that when the officer threatened me with my arrest in the middle of the roadway, I put my finger down, I stopped pointing, walked away, dropping my business card in stranger two’s  hand (if she needed a witness later), and moved off the roadway.  I’m not stupid … but I remain the consistent fool.  The boys and girls of hate live under the protection of the First Amendment (United States Constitution) possess the same protections you and I possess – the right to peacefully assembly to protest, spew their odious messages in and about the public square.

The American Civil Liberties Union was right to remain consistent with its history; litigating the issue in federal court, citing the laws which protect the rest of our rights.  The deprivation and silencing of those men and women of hate, silences you – me – denying us a free and open debate.

Call me a fool next.  I’ll take the compliment.  Thousands appeared to have entered the public square protesting the hate of those men and women of hate.   Screaming, yelling, shouting; protecting their love ones when attacked; protesting the clergy who were there to pray; telling the world, “This is not us.”

Remaining forever angry, refusing to good back to the good-old days, recognizing the historical laden words said by those on the other side; words of hate, oppression, and death.  Of course, one can argue that the deaths of Heather Heyer and the officers did not go exactly right.  Not according to Heyer’s mother, embracing Heather’s courage, her cause.  Not according to Heather’s friends (Marcus Martin), flying to the air like Super Man – hit once – twice – by the terrorist’s car, saving his fiancée (now what was the controversy about the possibility of a black man playing Superman?).  Working against type-cast, visions of the old-Southern dissolving, reminding us, we have changed, even in light of being a society in constant flux.

Removing symbols of hate, taking lifeless stone and metal figures out of the public square, dismantling the supposed statues of honor from the landscape; statues erected during the changes, serving as a reminder of the greatest of the Old South – while we, the minority group members, saw something else.

Ordered to desegregate public schools – “We can’t.”  Ordered to arrest those who attacked, terrorized, murdered in an attempt to ensure the constitution meant what it says – “We won’t.”  The Court affirming the constitution wasn’t applied to us (“The negro had no rights the white man is bound to respect.”).  Preventing minority group members from voting, rigging the voting systems, using judicial and extra-judicial acts, purging voting rolls, cheating, threatening, arresting – refusing to hear, refusing to see, denying there ever existed the speaking of evil.

Jews will not replace us!

This city is run by Jews and criminal niggers!

NiggersJews, Homo-sexuals, Mexican, A-rabs, and all different sorts of Chinks stink, and I hate ’em! … Go back to yer country! White power!”

Okay, I’ll admit, I have gone too far.  The last of the quotations did not come from the events in Charlottesville, but is from Dave Chappelle’s show.  I wanted to see whether you were paying attention.  Matters not, I think you get my point.

If you didn’t notice the crowd howling against my boys and girls of hate was different, the majority of them were white.  Welcome to the new south.  Something has gone right.  Sending their children to the streets, recognizing our long hard struggles and freedoms has freed them – that each of our freedoms is tied to others’ freedoms – even our enemies.

Sitting, watching, thinking; moving uncomfortably away from the monitor.  Escaping to the kitchen, counting eggs, removing butter from the refrigerator, checking the flour, making a list; hearing the President’s voice, astonished by his justifying, unjustifiable conduct, bowing my head, seeing the worse and wondering how far back we are going to move.  Watching, listening for the immediate reactions, seeing and hearing repulsion of the majority.  Racism laid bare, sending the our President scurrying to the sidelines, his words and defense having the opposite effect, convincing some who would have never been convinced – the statues have to come down; we can’t go back.

We will never solve the color-line until we admit there is a color-line.  We will retard the march to equality if we fail to admit there was much which went right in Charlottesville.  Kneading, moving flour from one location to another, blending eggs, tasting – much like the motions of life – smiling, not because of the taste – no, no – because of what I saw, because of what I heard.

 

JUST MUSING: “The wait staff pretended not be listening, not to be watching…”

The invitation to give a speech at the Baytown Country Club was bittersweet in a number of ways.  From third grade through high school my family lived in the shadows of the country club, a world apart, foreign to our everyday reality.   The invitation came two years after an extended and bitter fight over prayer in school.   The case, Santa Fe School District v. Doe, wound a tortured path through the United States District Court, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.  My representation of the Doe(s) served as one of the impetus for then federal judge, Samuel B. Kent, personally expressing his intended life’s mission (“I will make the  next forty years of your life miserable” (his actual quote was more profane and colorful – mean-spirited, bordering on bullying.  Absent spelling out the profane words, the descriptive words used above, coupled with one’s imagination should suffice to provide a proper setting)).

I drove that day with the intent to make the luncheon speech on time.  It was now clear to me His Honor had made good on his promise of my intended demise.  He had dismissed 18 out of the 25 cases in which I had in his court.  His Honor crafted three opinions a week, over a six week period, releasing each opinion with great fanfare.  The opinions inferred the plaintiff’s lawyer (interpretation – me/moi/mì) was suffering from drug or alcohol problem(s).  Each opinion contained faint praise – he at one time was an excellent lawyer, but that something was now amiss in his behavior and practice before the Court (please read this with a cultural twist on my part – “He be talking about me”).

His honor, in those 18 orders, directed I forward a copy of the orders to the affected clients.  All of the orders contained an explicit recommendation for plaintiff file a grievance against their lawyer or sue the lawyer (again, me/moi/mi).  Not surprisingly the clients took the Court’s advice, 18 grievances alleging their lawyer violated his obligations to them.  In hindsight I don’t blame the clients.  The cases were now dismissed.  Their only remedy was an appeal.  They didn’t know my history with His Honor.  Not many people would resist an explicit order from a federal judge inferring their lawyer was a drunk, on drugs, or made a mess of their affairs.   Part of me was internally insulted:  never consuming alcohol in my life, refusing to allow any type of drugs/mind or body altering substance to enter my body.  Avoiding advertisement, peer pressures, expected behavior.   I saw too many of my classmates succumb and fall by the wayside because of the use/abuse/addiction to those substances; substances readily available, far more available than say a fresh apple in our neighborhood.  I wonder why?  I wonder why?

His Honor also visited his fellow federal judges and told of his life altering plans for me.   He requested his fellow “his/her honors” become active participants his goal to rid the bar of my presence.  His expressed invitation was extended in a meeting of his fellow judges for the Southern District of Texas.  One of his fellow judges revealed this secret to me, even though the judges’ meetings are confidential.  Her Honor wasn’t the only one who told, another Her Honor spouse revealed the remaining judges’ decision to reject Judge Kent’s invitation to participate in my demise.  The judges directed me to file any new Galveston Division case in the Houston Division.  The remaining judges directed me to file any new case in the Houston Division, assuring me those cases “would not” be transferred back to Judge Kent’s court.    My complying with the other his/her honors’ request did not protect me from the pending grievances, nor shield me from the public relationship war being waged by Samuel B. Kent as he continued to issue opinion after opinion.  The other judges also made clear they had no authority to remove any of the pending cases from Judge Kent’s court.

When Judge Kent issued his weekly opinions, he followed his orders with a phone call to the local print media (Houston Chronicle and Galveston County Daily News).   The reporters would then in turn call me for my response to the latest edict.  I gracefully demurred.  My addressing the press in a state of anger simply didn’t seem to me a likely path for success or survival.  Judge Kent’s initial attacks began in 1997.  The Supreme Court heard the Doe case in 1999 and issued its opinion in 2000.  I was now two years removed from the Supreme Court’s decision; time’s passage did not make my drive any less internally traumatic.

҉            ҉            ҉

The drive from Galveston to Baytown was bittersweet because all which preceded my invitation to speak gnawed at me in the same manner the chemical plants gnawed at Baytown’s harbors.  My office had now been gutted.  Fear of the unknown became the burden imposed on the young lawyers and staff members prior to their fleeing to safer, more reasonable and lucrative harbors.  As they fled, the office became a poor facsimile of our previous self.  His Honor’s much public attacks devastated our federal docket, obliterated the overall caseload and caused our income to plummet.  Samuel B. Kent’s actions mirrored others’ acts which had played out during my existence in Galveston – different actors, a different time.

The trip to Baytown allowed His Honor’s unwanted attention and my childhood memories of a changing/challenging world of a desegregating south to play out.  The landscape was familiar to me, somewhat akin to watching a well-worn movie, listening but not listening, watching but not watching.  However, none of this is why I muse.  I muse because history is a vicious reminder of our past, and a wonderful predictor of our future.  I muse because as I happily now exit the legal stage somewhat similar to the boxing ring, my history tells me that my being excluded, mistakenly being invited or being expelled from the ring were constants of history’s lessons.

I was running a little bit ahead of schedule.  My decision to travel to the speech immediately after my court appearance in Galveston allowed me to save some time.  I left early also because of other obligations, a requirement I appear in federal court in Houston after the speech.  My office had informed the Houston court of the conflict and the possibility of running ten to fifteen minutes late.

When the invitation was extended, I had not been told much about what my host wanted me to speak about.  The only information given was their wanting to hear of my experiences in Santa Fe v. Doe, no other instructions.   My childhood anxieties refused to remain in the car – they walked with me every step of the way – from car, to sidewalk, to door.  The well-appointed room served as a backdrop for my history and anxieties.  I was immediately met by a gentleman.

“I am glad you made it.  I am glad to meet you personally and not just talk with you on the phone.  We were worried whether your hearing in Galveston would go over.  And then the rains came.”

“I finished early and made up some time.  Thank you for the invitation.”

“I am so excited you are here.”  It was at this time I was given a fuller picture of what the host wanted to hear.  “We want to know whether you were disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling and if so what do you expect in the future?  … Is there a chance of any additional test cases?  … Prayer in schools is important to our members.  … We request you speak for thirty minutes, leave a little time for questions.”  …

The host left me little time to answer his questions.  He left even less to take in this new information, saying, “Excuse me, I must check with my colleague on something else.”  Walking away, leaving me to my own devices.

Why on earth would I be disappointed with a ruling which was in my clients’ favor?  What test cases was my host referring – I didn’t have a clue.  This smartly dressed business man moved across this once prohibited sanctum to visit with others of like ilk.  I had not moved far from the front door when Wanda Cash, a former Assistant Managing Editor for the Galveston County Daily News, approached and asked whether I remembered her.  I assured her I did.  She now occupied the position of editor and publisher of The Baytown Sun.  Wanda too expressed unbridled excitement with my appearance.  A smile seemed permanently etched on her face.  Wanda appeared to be enjoying herself a little too much.

When Wanda left my presence, I reached for a program on the front desk.  I was now confused.  I was described in the program as the lawyer representing the school district.  “An unfortunate loss” the members were informed, but “optimism for new strategies, new cases all to assure prayer in school.”  The Baytown Rotary Club invited the wrong person.  I wasn’t the other lawyer.  I had no earthly idea how those lawyers felt, and was pretty sure no one was going to inform me of any planned test cases in order to get the question of prayer in public schools back before the United States Supreme Court.

My predicament was not one of “guess who coming to dinner”.  I was already at dinner.  When I looked up from the program my smartly-dressed host was approaching again.

“We are going to do some general business first.  There are some agenda items we need to address before I introduce you.  I say five minutes.”

            “Sir, I have something to tell you.”

“You need something from us?”

“No sir, I’m fine.  The description of me on this program is not me.  I think you invited the wrong person. I represented the children and parents who challenged prayer in the public schools, not the school district.  We won.”

As Ali’s phantom punch of Sonny Liston, in their second fight, was too fast for the human eye to perceive so was the effect of my words on this stranger.  Those words propelled his 165 pound frame across the floor.  The tails of an immaculate grey suit flapped as he approached other similarly attired men.  He may have attempted to mask his horror, he couldn’t.  His hands served as tell-tales, flailing uncontrollably.  His body appeared distended with gas.  He attempted to whisper, but the other men did not.

             “Oh shit!”

Oh shit is right.  I’m hungry.  I did not eat breakfast.  I started my day at 5:00 a.m., prepared for two hearings, spent two hours in the first hearing and traveled here in a driving rain storm for the last hour.  If I don’t find something to eat, I’m not going be able to get anything in my stomach until 4:00 p.m.  The first time my Negro butt gets to go the Baytown Country Club and I am going to get kicked out!  I have seen this dance before –‘no you can’t come in, no don’t use that water fountain.  Why to the back of the bus, are you kidding me.’ It wasn’t my mistake! Oh come on, I’m hungry!

 I immediately identified where the food was coming from and played bird dog and headed in that direction.  I was met by one of the wait staff at the door.  I told her what I perceived, what I expected to happen.  I don’t remember what she looked like.  I only remember her showing all thirty twos when I told her what was going on.

           “Can I get a plate to eat before I get kicked out?”

“Sure baby, absolutely.”

When my food was brought, it appeared the entire kitchen staff came out – all people of color.  They were the most friendly, happy bunch of Black people I have ever seen.  Joy filled the air.  Joyous, joyous people of color; I expected a chorus line to form.  While I ate I noticed the word of the mistake passing from lip to lip, ear to ear.  I noticed Wanda Cash standing and watching – the wait staff – her fellow Rotarians – me.  She was happy, a profane giddy happy; happy, happy.

The food was excellent.  The okra gumbo competed with my mother’s.  I consumed the food as fast as I could – wiping and eating, wiping and eating – as efficiently as a starving man could only achieve.  The same fast when you realize the dad doesn’t like you.  The same fast when you realize you don’t like him.  I knew I had to leave as soon as possible.

“Thank you.  The food was good.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed the food.”

“Did you cook the okra gumbo?”

“I did.”

“Check your foot, one may be missing.”

“Oh baby please, you made all our day.  If you want to take some with you, I will make you a container.”

Their day became more joyous as I approached my hosts, still conversing in the southwest corner of this temple of my anticipated expulsion.

“Sorry, excuse me.   I figured out how we can address the mistake.  You can tell your members, I got sick from the food.   I will gracefully excuse myself and make my court appearance on time.”

I expected my host to accept my proposal, he did not.  The frown gracing his forehead, which first appeared when I told him of my discovery, seemed to have become permanent scarring.  “No we want you to stay.”  I was shock by his stance, shocked enough to accept and begin thinking about what I could possibly say at a luncheon I shouldn’t have ever appeared.

The wait staff pretended not be listening, not to be watching.  I pretended not to be noticing those colored people now lining the walls.  Wanda Garner Cash wasn’t having any of our cultural “not be(s)”, she smiled, bounce in her chair in a perceptible manner.  She enjoyed these events more than anyone should publicly enjoy themselves.  Her public display of joy in all probability could meet the definition of obscenity.

I told the shocked faces I knew of the mistake.  I identified myself.  They didn’t clap.  The … Oh Shit … moment still lingered in the air.  The wait staff was having none of our socially acceptable behavior – clapping, smiling, watching – standing in a row, glued in place, collective humanity holding up the wall.

I explained, “My belief in the Constitution was borne in Goose Creek’s public schools, funded by their tax dollars.  “You have no one to blame but yourselves.”  Visions of years past came back, flooding and clouding my thoughts.  Some in the audience flashed oblique smiles.  The wait staff didn’t care, extending a laugh of appreciation, as if Richard Pryor had healed and was on stage again.

I tried to explain the importance of free speech, why the parents’ complaint was upheld by the Court.  “Thank you for the food.  Thank you for the invitation.”  They remained in their seats – astonished – well, except Wanda and the wait staff; standing, clapping, enjoying life’s contradictions a little too much.

After speaking, I hurriedly made my way through the sea of blues and grays.  I was stopped by Wanda before I could escape.  “Anthony wasn’t this just a great meeting”, all spoken while her body continued to tremble with glee, a giddy glee.  Wanda’s only attempt to control her condition came in the form of wiping her eyes.  We wished each other well as I made by dash for the door to escape   “Wanda, I’m so glad you had such a good time.”

 

 

[Author’s note:  The above muse was initially published on November 1, 2014 on Blog.com – thus a throw-back musing.  The musing is the Web-Manager’s favorite musing, and remains so.   It is hoped you enjoyed this version, with slight modifications from the original.]