Our Silent Majority Power

Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash

We are in a worldwide struggle to break the death grip of a fearful, ignorant people led by status-quo politicians who are themselves beholden to short-sighted, quarterly earnings business.

You and I can make a real difference even from the privacy of our homes, without being publicly confrontational.

Simply donate to a just cause.

Even if it’s just a dollar a month, it affects the balance of power.

Worried about being swamped by email from ActBlue or whatever? Unsubscribe when those emails arrive, or better yet set a Gmail filter to trash them. (Even better yet, don’t let your minor discomfort outweigh the day-to-day suffering of others.)

I live on modest means. (The plight of aging game designers is no secret.) Thankfully, my bucket-list DriveThruRPG titles help fund my giving to Feeding America and the Bail Project.

Yes, I’m being pushy in this post. Nothing changes without being pushed. So please find a charity that speaks to you, skip McDonalds or Starbucks just once a month, and donate that cash. Challenge family and friends to do the same.

We don’t have to stand out front. We can make a difference by helping lift from behind.

It also lifts your spirits.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Lately, in an ongoing struggle with myself concerning stubborn bigotry and ignorance, and how best you and I can confront and change it, my training as a medic and practical nurse has come to mind.

Palliative care versus treatment. Triage versus whack-a-mole.

We all know how contentious debate on social media is. How quickly disagreement can turn to personal insult. How easy it is, consequently, to walk away. But we all know in our hearts that nothing ever changes if ignored.

It occurred to me late last week that online debate is palliative treatment versus healing the diseases. God knows I’m as guilty as anyone, maybe more so than most. When it comes to bullies, I’m kneejerk pugnacious. And these issues have victims. Bigotry still has to be called out, even shamed.

But actual healing requires treatment of the core problem, and triage means treating the most crucial first: I’m the core problem; I’m the most crucially diseased. Chances are so are you.

You and I are ignorant. We want to fix things, but we don’t know how, because we don’t really understand them.

That’s treatable, but steel yourself, because it’s painful. Especially for white people, especially for white males. (But it should go without saying that our pain of seeing ourselves for what we are is nothing compared to the plight of 2.3 million Americans behind bars, for example.)

If you care, don’t waste time arguing with people whose opinions are the symptoms. Call out bigotry. But treat yourself. Start by watching 17th, a documentary Netflx has made free on YouTube. Then read So You Want to Talk About Race. (Almost certainly available from your library.) From there, you can pursue your own treatment, and maybe we can help heal this world.

P.S. Hey, gamers! Roll a d20 versus world population. On a 1, you’re American! Then roll a d20 versus world prison population. On a 1-5, you’re also American. :-/

“Oh, Very Young . . . “

What are your favorite 10 songs from the year you turned 16? Let me know in the comments. It’s re-e-e-aly hard to decide, right?

Me? The year was 1974. In order by Billboard ranking, if you put a gun to my head, I guess I’d choose:

    • 5 “Dancing Machine” The Jackson 5
    • 13 “Midnight at the Oasis” Maria Muldaur
    • 22 “Band on the Run” Paul McCartney and Wings
    • 24 “Time in a Bottle” Jim Croce
    • 44 “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” Brownsville Station
    • 51 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” Steely Dan
    • 63 “Takin’ Care of Business” Bachman-Turner Overdrive
    • 64 “Radar Love” Golden Earring
    • 70 “Oh Very Young” Cat Stevens
    • 72 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Elton John
    • 79 “Tubular Bells” Mike Oldfield

Next question: What was the single most important thing to happen to you at age 19?

Me, easy. I met Jennifer. We’re still together 47 years later. [There’s no emoji good enough for that.]

True story: In 2010, at age 16, a boy named Kalief Browder was arrested and charged with stealing a backpack. His family was unable to raise the $3,000 bail, so he was sent to Rikers Island. On principle, he refused to plead guilty, so he was held for 3 years, awaiting trial, before the charges were dismissed. Released at 19 years old, he returned home and committed suicide.

That’s a summation. The details are messier, his earlier probation on the one hand, the hell of that jail experience on the other. But the central story remains: At 16 he was arrested for something he didn’t do, he refused to plead guilty, he spent the next 3 teenage years jailed on Rikers Island, he was released at 19 for lack of evidence, and he went home and killed himself. He was Black.

Man, I got a lot of joy out of struggling to narrow that list of songs from age 16. Thinking about my high school years. Remembering how I followed Jenny around the restaurant where she was waiting tables the night we met.


An Oppressive White Fog

Image by Epic Images from Pixabay

I’m convinced it’s impossible for any white person, especially older white people, and most especially old white males like myself, to grasp the impact of racism on its targets. Some things have to be experienced to be understood.

Part of the larger problem is our knee-jerk thought, “But I’m not racist,” however true it may seem. Feeling victimized by the accusation brings our own discomfort to the fore, ahead of actual suffering by others. That instinct is in itself passively racist. We may feel like kind people, but our ignorance and inaction keep the machine running, to our benefit.

Fair warning, fellow whites, acknowledging this opens the door to much more discomfort. No matter what action we may take, our motives are suspect. As Jeremiah 17:9 puts it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” How much are we motivated by guilt? Salving that guilt is selfishness. What solutions to the problem can we devise? Again a self-centered viewpoint.

So if whites can’t actually grasp the suffering, and we can’t come up with solutions, what can we do?

Shut up. Accept the blame. Accept the anger and frustration caused by our years of ignorance and inaction. Take our wounded pride out of the equation. Listen. Be vulnerable and accepting. Ask only “How can I help?” And then do it.

Don’t expect credit for it. Don’t accept praise for being a decent human being. Don’t get irritated if we’re still criticized about even our best efforts. It isn’t about our feelings. It’s life and death for others.

That’s all I know so far. I’m still learning. But I do have a hope: Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement may break the logjam of not just racism but of every sort of bigotry. Opening our eyes to one sort of oppression brings others into view.