It was a gorgeous Monday morning here in San Diego, the sun was shining high and bright, the temperature already about 70 degrees by 9 am. My girl, along with one of her best friends, and myself, volunteered at the 3rd Annual Interfaith Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, a gathering of all faiths with a purpose; it was a day to embrace the teachings of MLK, to come together to do something good for a local landmark -- Balboa Park, and work in community with one another.
We began with multiple prayers, offered by a rabbi from Temple Emanu-El and an Imam from the Islamic Center of San Diego, with the welcoming prayer from the minister of First Church of First United Methodist. All in all, we prayed to 'Moses...Abraham....Jesus...Mohammed...God' all in one fell swoop.
I knew going into this thing, I would more than likely be hearing how a prayer sounds from faiths different than my own -- and what a beautiful thing, really, to have a chance to experience God, faith, devotion, ritual -- through another man's eyes. I have to say, it sounded good; it sounded like we appear to have everyone's faith and belief system respected, and safely protected in the right place in our hearts.
Strikingly noticeable, within the collection of the Christian, Judaic, Islamic, Mormon crowd, was the great disparity of race however; there I was, thinking there would have been a natural attraction to such an event by African-Americans -- but the stark reality of the morning, out of a group of about 150 (an unscientific count), only about six were black.
Granted, it turned out to be a smaller affair than I thought it would be all the way around -- but honestly, six?
Maybe next year, word will get around -- I'll let you know, as we already intend to go back and do it again...
in part, because I just love the idea of being thrown in with a bunch of people I don't know, having no idea what to expect, and just going with the flow -- especially for something like this -- and low and behold, they actually made us work!
Within minutes from the start, we began with -- for all intents and purposes -- being a link in a chain gang, directed rather authoritatively by a gal who seems to have been here before; before you could say 'I have a dream' we had two lines canvassed up the side of a hill hauling handfuls of St. John's Wort up from the bottom of the gulch.
Fifteen minutes in, we were all sweating, making jokes about the various shapes of the handfuls of debris, forewarning the next guy of the rogue sticks hanging out just waiting to poke someone in the eye, and making long lost friends of the person to the left of us and to the right.
My girl and her BFF took off in the opposite direction, more intrigued by the task of getting a garbage bag and a trash picker-upper in their hands, along with the possibility of running into a makeshift homestead at the bottom of the canyon, a "hobo" or two, a leftover syringe, or disturbing the local bees -- all of which, I had absolutely know inclination to witness firsthand myself, I stuck with the chain gang on the hill and was perfectly happy.
Before you knew it, we filled two dump trucks and it was picnic time, the end of our hard labor, made light in the company of others, was done.
Perhaps it was sucking up the aroma of St. John's Wort for two hours straight...but more than likely, it was the resplendent combination of community service, a good dose of sunshine, and an honest day's work that enlivened the spirits, nearly erasing the depression of the last couple of weeks. Having signed up for it weeks before the Tucson shooting, it was serendipitously the perfect remedy to restore my faith in people, generally speaking.
Here's a tidbit I didn't know about MLK -- did you know he was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize? A prize he wholeheartedly deserved, of course, for his efforts to bring about civil rights coming from his very own non-violent approach and teachings. We all grew up to love the man for what he stood for and more important, the way he did it. It is a lesson still worthy, and maybe more so, today.
If you read G regularly, you would probably pick up that I love advertising -- I am easily entertained by the creativity of the well orchestrated thirty seconds time and time again. In this moment of recognizing the King of Dreams for the equality of life for all people, especially that of minorities, and specifically African-Americans -- I was recently struck in an ah-hah moment listening to a man of color describe what it was like for him to go onto Ancestry.com. Feeling hesitant, afraid of what he might find, he discovered "his great, great grandfather was born a slave, but died a businessman." let me hear an amen to that...
The thing is, America has had their good days, and bad, when confronting the inequality of man; but the truth is, our founders set out on a path to correct the wrongs, to change the mindset of the south -- and did so, knowing we would ALL struggle through hard times until we do. Even Frederick Douglass, embraced the 3/5ths clause, once he realized how it would directly and immediately affect the proportion of representation of the people, and ultimately have the best chance for changing the course of an absolute tragedy of the human condition for an entire nation of people.
What has changed between the time a man was 'born a slave and died a businessman' until now -- what has permeated into the mindset, what is corrupting the forward leaps and bounds, of the African-American today? Being white, I have no way of understanding how we can begin moving forward, when for all appearances, we have gone three steps back at the same time...what has changed?
Now, of course, I have my own inklings -- ever since we grew a system of entitlements to give the minority a leg up, we have suffered; ever since we ceased raising our children, of all colors and cultures, to make use of our self-reliant roots, we have suffered; ever since we began to pay people, even when not adding, laboring, for anything in society, we have suffered; ever since we stopped melting into one, we have suffered.
I believe the national democratic party, and it's leaders, have led the minority down a crooked path; taking a cue from the Iron Man movie of sorts, the left seems to cling to the belief, and the teachings thereof, of something more like "I wanna protect the people I put in harm's way."
But now allow me tie in the actual Saturday afternoon movie I watched, JARHEAD (talk about a crazy dose of violence); the young marine's introduction to boot camp came with a Staff Sergeant yelling at the top of his lungs, "you are no longer black! you are no longer brown! or yellow!...you are green!"
so take that, if you think you are something special just for the color of your skin...that goes for whitey too. You no longer belong inside a designated box discriminating your personal background or culture, Hispanic, check, African-American, check, Asian, check, Caucasian, check -- the new culture is conformity, equally along side the brothers and sisters standing up next to you. that's it. no more no less.
There is no special favor here, just buck up buttercup and melt into one body of solidarity for a common cause and for all concerned, or else you may be responsible for losing your own life, or the life immediately to your left or to your right. Look around you...you belong to us, the United States Marine Corps and we tell you -- NO, we command you -- to let go of who you think you are and become one of us.
Well isn't that a yankee doodle dandy way to look at things, huh?
What we have lost in this country, if I may be so bold, is the sense that we are melting into one US, as citizens of the greatest country on the planet!
We have fallen victim to separating by color first-- divided by specific needs and wants and entitlements -- without laboring to come together, self reliant and true, respective of our duty to one another, and stand, side by side, with our hand over our heart (the way Christina Green would want it) and say "I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
For some reason, the audience of that famous afternoon, when Martin Luther King was addressing all people, of all color, giving what has turned out to be his most often quoted lines, has changed. We are no longer standing side by side, carrying equal share of both the load and the bounty; we have stopped listening to his whole speech, the entire message, for the good of all people and the good of this church (aka USA).
We are no longer conforming to the American way... by culture...in language; our colors are not blending into Red, White and Blue...purple mountains majesty, my @%$. Where, oh where, is our very own sergeant of arms, in our face and in utter disgust, over the overwhelming and blatant lack of attention to such detail.
Thank God, I still have yesterday embedded in my memory, so that I may dream a little dream for tomorrow.
Make it a Good Day, G
Thank you to all the organizers of a beautiful day...Chinmaya Mission San Diego, Congregation Beth Israel, First Church First United Methodist Church, First Unitarian Universalist Church of SD, Hillel, Islamic Center of SD, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Temple Emanu-El, and of course,
San Diego Parks and Recreation! For doing all the heavy lifting, and the trash picking, every other day of the week, year after year.