Wednesday, May 30, 2007

thoughts on coexistence

you know, i haven't been able to go back to that message board since i read that post. maybe that one post was just too much. too disturbing, too threatening. we all have comfort zones, and no matter how openminded or flexible or thick-skinned we'd like to think we are, i think we'd much rather not face certain ugly, unsettling things.

i don't know if that's the other reason why i wasn't able to facilitate discussion on economic stratification among black people and whether or not it's a problem. maybe we just don't want to talk about it. maybe it's too much of a non-issue, or conversely, maybe it's an issue that we don't want disturbing us. or maybe the very idea disturbs us but it would be bothersome to attempt to address it. leave it to me, the oddball to be fascinated by it. it's been riding on my train of thought for a while.

chicago is a lovely place, by the way. i did some touristy things, like looking at this big bean shaped sculpture they have downtown. it's reflective all over its surface, and you can walk underneath the curve of the bean, the rounded surfaces of which make for funhouse-like amusement that attracted young and old tourists alike, myself included. of course i felt silly being a tourist, posing for pictures in front of fountains and the like. but you know, you can't take yourself too seriously. it's not worth the embarrassment that would be sure to follow when you realize you're not as fill-in-the-blank as you think you should be. might as well enjoy the moment.

which i did, until i saw a temporary exhibit put up by the quakers - a set of black boots set out neatly like the headstones in a cemetery, one for each of the 3,452 (as of that date) soldiers who lost their lives in the current military conflicts. it stopped me in my steps. there but for the grace of the Creator were boots that could have included a pair for my cousin, the closest thing i have to a brother, who will likely be leaving his wife and newborn child to go back to the desert in a matter of months. i couldn't help but cry a little. i couldn't help but to walk by a little slower, a little more somberly than your average tourist out for a memorial day weekend trip to a new city. the shoes all had names, ages, and hometowns - save for the boots with "unknown name" attached, symbolizing families with no answers. i thought about how the number of the fallen has now significantly outpaced the dead from the 2001 tragedy in new york. i thought about the 3,452+ families affected by every soldier symbolized here - so many lives, parents, children, spouses, workplaces, fellow soldiers. we have to have some reverence for that loss of life.

which sends me on a tangent. shouldn't there be some equivalent of remembering the senseless deaths here- stateside - by our own hands? i happened to mention on a message board that the selfish and violent culture we rail against in smaller populations, particularly the urban black areas of the country, is really indicative of what's going on in the larger american society. that violence doesn't happen in a vacuum. people are snapping out each other both in and outside of the hood. do you know some woman had the audacity to say that made no sense to her? what country does she live in? turn on a television. watch the news. i challenge someone to tell me that what that shooter at va. did was a part of his ethnic culture/upbringing. no-no-no - that is violent american-ness rearing its ugly head. maybe, possibly, if we acknowledge and admit that we (all) have a problem by recognizing and respecting the loss of life here in this country, we can curb the carnage, both here and abroad.

one other thing i've picked up in this last week: happiness ain't the same for everybody. my happiness is mine. yours is yours. (provided we've done enough soul searching to realize what truly makes us happy.) so long as our happinesses don't threaten each other's well-being, we should be that much more happy with each other.