Treadmills

 

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses

The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score
I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all God’s children
Crept out the back door

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much, much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

These are the days of the empty hand
Oh you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here

So you scream from behind your door
Say what’s mine is mine and not yours
I may have too much but I’ll take my chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score
And you cling to the things they sold you
Did you cover your eyes when they told you
That he can’t come back
‘Cause he has no children to come back for

It’s hard to love there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time

“Praying for Time,” George Michael

 

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The late, great George Michael sang those words in 1990. Scary, how relevant they sound now.

Since the 80’s pop superstar’s untimely death at 53, on Christmas Day, this song, from his superb album, Listen Without Prejudice, has been playing endlessly in my head.  I highly recommend listening to it, if you never have. It’s a powerful piece.

I won’t pretend I understand everything he said in it, but a good part of it is pretty hard to misinterpret. Especially, in light of our current circumstance.

It amazes me how many songs speak, not only to their times, but to ours. They serve as sobering reminders of how little progress we human beings have really made in how we treat each other.

We just stay on our treadmill, walking endlessly and getting absolutely nowhere.

What will it take to get us off that treadmill, and actually moving forward?

What will it take for you?

A Word, Guys

 

NOTE: This post deals with an important subject, but the more genteel among you may find some of the wording a bit coarse, for which I apologize. It’s strictly in the service of making a point.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth living in.

“Land of Confusion”, Genesis

Songwriters
RUTHERFORD, MICHAEL/COLLINS, PHIL/BANKS, TONY

Published By
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, IMAGEM U.S. LLC

 

Well, fellas, I guess I’ll have to turn in my Man Card. Because you’re not going to like at all what I tell you next, and once you read it, you’ll probably be ready to vote me right off the island.

But, I really can’t help but say it. Sorry. Actually, not sorry.

We all, each of us (including me), need to take a very serious look at how we view, think about, and talk about women.

This year seems to have been a particularly bad one for men in the news. To wit:

A college athlete recently convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster was released from prison after serving three months of a six-month sentence, a sentence handed down by a sympathetic male judge. Oh, and in the apple-doesn’t-fall-far-from-the-tree department, the defendant’s father pled to the judge to keep his son out of jail, arguing he had already paid a steep price for (his words), “twenty minutes of action.”

My alma mater is still being investigated for, as it has been characterized, the culture of rape it allowed on its campus, particularly with regard to male athletes. The administration denied a sexual assault problem even existed on campus, and is accused of trying to repress, or even retaliate against, victims’ testimony alleging otherwise.

And a candidate for President of the United States has been heard bragging about how, because he’s a star, he is entitled to his disgusting treatment of women. By now, most everyone knows the lurid details, so there is no need to repeat them here. He later dismissed these boasts as simply “locker room talk.”

And now, he faces an ever lengthening line of women coming forward to reveal their past experiences as victims of this animal’s continued pattern of sexual harassment. He now threatens all of them with lawsuits.

We’re talking about somebody’s wife. Somebody’s girlfriend. Somebody’s sister. Somebody’s mom.

Somebody’s precious daughter.

You fellas out there with a teenage daughter, how do you suppose this landscape looks to her?

Women are people, guys. They have minds and souls. They have heartaches and headaches. They have bills and deadlines. They have wishes and hopes and dreams and victories and defeats and joy and pain and confusion and all the rest of life. They are human.

Yes, they can be quite attractive; no argument there. But…

They are not merely objects that exist in the world solely for our inspection and critique. They are not just a bunch of filthy sluts, parading around in provocative clothing which might as well include, “I’M ASKING FOR IT!” on the front, in big letters. They aren’t pieces of property for us to just capriciously go and take.

They’re not just tits and ass.

So, let’s quit talking about them as if they were.

(And I don’t want to hear about the male instinct to find a suitable mate for procreational purposes. Honestly, guys, when was the last time you checked out a woman and thought, “Boy, I’d sure like to have children with her!”)

Listen, I know how we’re wired;  I’m a guy. We are stimulated visually. We see all these shapely hourglass figures walking around, in their short skirts and high heels and low-cut tops and tight jeans and revealing swimsuits and on and on. I mean, we could see a woman in baggy sweats and the wheels still turn, don’t they? Imagining what she looks like underneath.

And then, we convince ourselves that every single one of them wants us. We smile at a woman, she smiles back, what are we thinking?

Oh, yeah, she’s into me!

Well, fellas, here’s the truth. Aside from being just plain delusional, that is disrespectful. It’s insulting. It’s demeaning.

And, if we’re around other guys at the time, it leads to talking about women in that same disrespectful, insulting, demeaning manner.

What kind of lover she must be. What we’d like to do with her, or have her do with us, given the chance.

Not to mention, the whole “bitches and ho’s” culture embraced by a segment of our society. I’m not even going there.

It’s against that backdrop that guys (not men; men don’t do this) feel entitled to do whatever the hell they want with women, up to and including rape.

And it has to stop.

I told you, you wouldn’t like this.

 

I’m not telling you any of this from up on some high horse. I’ve certainly done my share of looking at and talking about women. I’m not perfect, by any stretch. I just think I, and all the rest of us, should man up here and be more respectful.

So, am I saying, just look the other way? Never make eye contact, never smile, never say anything? Pretend they’re not even there?

Of course not.

But, ask yourself, guys, who was the last woman you looked at – who you didn’t already know – and thought of as anything other than a body?

Oh, they look at and talk about us that way, too? No excuse.

It’s just part of being a man? No excuse.

They secretly like it? They’re flattered by it?

Pretty sure that’s not true.

But, you know what? Let’s open the floor to everyone, here. Male or female, if you want to weigh in on this, I invite your feedback. Let’s hear from each other on this, and see if we can’t all learn something. (Let’s try to keep it somewhat civil, though, shall we?)

Because, it should be obvious to everyone at this time in our journey, something definitely has to change. And it’s up to us, guys, to play a significant part in fixing this problem. Because we created it.

Women everywhere are standing united to declare, “Enough is enough!”

I’m gonna stand with ’em. How about you, dude?

 

The Freedom to Sit

 

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
–Voltaire

Class, today’s civics lesson is: Colin Kaepernick.

The quarterback of the San Fransisco ’49ers created quite the stir last weekend with his act of protest, refusing to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to a preseason football game.

(Mind you, he didn’t stand for it in the two preceding games, either, but he was in street clothes for them. I guess it only counts if you’re suited up.)

The reason for his protest, Kaepernick said, was the unfair treatment of people of color in the United States. Being a white dude, I can’t personally relate to this problem, but I hear about it, and read about it, all the time. These people are being treated unfairly, and it’s been a problem ever since one person on earth looked different from all the other people.

Kaepernick meant to call attention to a societal issue he deeply cares about. Unfortunately, most of the attention seems to be on what he did, rather than why he did it. He has been berated, vilified and assailed, mainly on Twitter, being called everything from “idiot” to “disrespectful punk” to “disgraceful piece of shit nigger.”

Want my opinion? If not, you may stop reading, now. Thanks for coming; see you next time.

 

Still with me? Okay, then let’s look at a few of the things being said to or about Mr. Kaepernick:

1. What he did disrespected our men and women in the Armed Forces.

Could not disagree more. I submit to you, he honored them by what he did. (Full disclosure: I say that as someone who never served.)

Throughout our history, men and women have deliberately put themselves in harm’s way, some at the cost of their own lives, in defense of freedom. Colin Kaepernick chose to exercise that freedom in a very public, peaceful manner. You may not like his method, (neither do I, incidentally) but you don’t have to. He is perfectly within his rights, guaranteed by our Constitution, defended by our servicemen and women.

2. If he doesn’t like how things are here, he can just go somewhere else.

Ah, yes… America: Love It Or Leave It. If you have the gall to complain about it, you can just move on down the road.

Really? You can’t love your country if you point out something that’s wrong with it? Seems to me that those are the people that love it the most, the ones who try to call attention to the worst parts of it in an effort to bring about change, to make this country better. Otherwise, why would you care? (Unless, of course, you’re a self-serving Presidential candidate, pointing out all the problems only to offer yourself as the one and only solution, but I digress.)

3. He’s a rich NFL quarterback, so he should just STFU and play ball.

Okay, that’s what’s rich. So, what you’re telling me is, no one should take a stand (or a seat, in this case) for poor, oppressed people but other poor, oppressed people.

How much attention do you think that’ll get?

Kaepernick recognized the opportunity afforded him as a high profile athlete, in a high profile sport, with a sizable audience, to maximize the reach of his message. As I said before, though, that message is largely getting lost in all the chatter about his actions, mostly from all the “patriots” out there who’d rather address Kaepernick’s “unpatriotic” act, because they don’t want to face the much larger question of race relations in their precious America.

Well, guess what, folks: it’s a problem, a BIG problem, and we’ve got to have some honest conversations about it, sooner rather than later, or continue to ignore it at our peril.

Do I consider Colin Kaepernick a hero? I’m not going that far. But, he’s no villain, either. He’s simply a concerned citizen who believes it’s time for us all to work on righting some serious wrongs, and this is how he chose to bring attention to it. I, personally, do not fault him for that.

Will more people sit for the National Anthem now? Who knows? I suppose some will as a show of solidarity, but that won’t move us any closer to the goal. (no pun intended)

Instead, let’s do what Mr. Kaepernick has asked us to do, and have a thoughtful, reasonable, honest conversation about race relations in America, and work towards fixing them, and stop wasting our time castigating Colin Kaepernick.

Colin took a seat. Time for all of us to stand up.

This is what freedom looks like.

Class dismissed.

Honey, We Need to Talk…

 

My new driving job takes up a lot of my time; I’m on the clock twelve hours a day. So, I don’t get as much blogging time, lately. As a result, you may not hear from me quite as often as before.

Believe me, though, I’ve not run out of material. I have some things to say regarding events of the past couple of weeks, but this is not the time to just spew out something from a place of raw emotion. I need some time to choose my words carefully, and to speak from a place of reasoned, rational, but no less passionate, conversation.

I believe, at this point, that’s the best approach for us all.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not overlooking the urgency of the matter.

It’s obvious we are long overdue to have a serious conversation about some issues in this country that have gone past simmering and reached the boiling point. We all need to come into this conversation openly, having dropped all preconceptions and prejudices, to ask some tough questions and be willing to hear the answers, to speak honestly and without fear of reprisal and, most importantly, to listen closely.

It’s just that, as vital a role as emotion plays in the dialogue, it can no longer dominate. We all see where competitive yelling has gotten us; can we all agree, it’s time to employ a different method?

I’ll be back soon, I hope, to share a few things for us all to think about. Meantime…

“…oooh, I’m drivin’ my life away…”