Reading (& listening) ((& learning))

I just finished reading Ta Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me. I wanted to read it immediately after hearing Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with the author. It is beautifully written, complicated, thought-provoking and troubling. I suspect that indeed was part of the intent Coates set out with when writing this open letter to his son.

I have to say that while I devoured this quickly, I have a guilty feeling about myself and my society. You see I live in the relative isolation of Vermont where there is little cultural diversity and as my brother would say, I was able to get away from it all up here.

I don’t think I and my family have gotten ‘away from it all’ in Vermont but there is a relative space here compared to growing up in a great Jersey Shore town. The total population of Vermont is about that of the county I grew up in.

My take is that there is much less societal pressure living in Vermont and rurally than living New Jersey or the big cities – less people, no billboards, dark skies at night, no traffic to speak of, space, quiet, nature, etc. That’s good, right? Wouldn’t everyone want to have that opportunity?

The answer might be yes, but the more realistic answer is that not everyone would have the opportunity. Oh I know that everyone can strive to be what they want to be, get to where they want their station in life, blah, blah, blah. I mostly have, so if I could why not everyone? On some level everyone can and we’ve all seen examples where coming from the worst of environments and living situations, people excel. However ,the odds are against us when we have little to none of the advantages of community support, liveable wages, mentorship and leadership, structure in the communities we live in and people in our midst who guide us, almost every day to grow, take appropriate challenges, fail and recover, and then take on these roles to pay it forward.

I encourage you all to consider reading this book, which I consider revelatory.


So Many Things to Think About

I’ve been thinking and pondering and stewing about this since the Orlando shootings. Or terrorist attack, which I just wish we didn’t have to identify as such, but sadly I do think it true. To make it worse we have the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castillo, Dylan Noble, Dallas Law Enforcement officers; Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Micheal Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa and today, in Nice, France, on their national holiday, Bastille Day, at least 73 killed and more than 50 injured. And now since I started this another in Baton Rouge, LA.

When will it stop? What are the reasons? How have I or you helped make this better or worse? Obviously this is only one person’s perspective, but here goes.

What is community? What makes us a member of a ‘community?’ I think there are myriad answers. After absorbing what happened in Orlando and learning that the Pulse Nightclub was a LGBTQ bastion of community, identity, solace and love, my first thought was why and then what could be next. As I absorbed the news via internet and that this was an assault on the LGBTQ community I thought a lot about community. At a vigil locally several days later, I spoke with a dear friend and member of the LGBTQ community and realized that that community, their community is my community.

Why did I come to realize that the community that was being discussed was a community that I have membership in? Because it is THE community. That of Americans, of compassionate people, of human beings. WE ARE ALL of the SAME COMMUNITY.

That is one where we need to be open more to listening, just opening our ears and hearing the others’ perspective about whatever it is. We don’t have to identify, we don’t have to fully understand, but we do need to listen, embrace the fact that there are other perspectives out there and try to understand every one of them. That includes trying to understand why someone would commit any egregious act against the human community. In so doing, we expand our perspective, expand our knowledge of the others’ perspectives. After all perspective is reality to whomever has it. Acknowledging another’s perspective and therefore reality can enlighten us, create bond and erase (or at least diminish the divides).

I am for humanity and therefore the preciousness of life. I am for black, white, yellow, brown, red, blue and all lives. I know it isn’t as simple as that, but if we don’t start trying more to engage the other, nothing will change. Certainly forcing my way, your way, our way down someone else’s throat isn’t going to make you, me nor anyone else make a lasting and welcome change.

I hope each of us can take the tiny steps to connect, expand our community involvement or at least membership, create increased harmony, love and engagement. Lets seek to understand those we don’t, don’t want to, don’t agree with, etc. Have reasoned discourse with that other person, community, ideal, religion; you might learn something and in turn we might become better at humans being human.