Nightmares And Dreams

Fifty years ago, on this very evening, the same Zenith console TV set, which, five years earlier, had been my window to the spinning out of control world of Dallas, Texas… the site of President Kennedy’s assassination… was “now” providing me a similar view of Memphis, Tennessee.

My recollections are now strong… almost as if I’ve time traveled back to this tragedy. I’m once again an adolescent, age 13, home alone since my folks have gone out for the evening to watch my sister’s performance in her High School Junior Class play. I’d have eagerly tagged along with them had it not been for my body being under siege by a particularly nasty rhinovirus.

Once again, Walter Cronkite has become the bearer of bad news. Once again, his reportage focuses heavily on the death of someone so young and so vital… someone who had said so much of importance… and still needed to say so much more.

Dr. Martin Luther King had been slaughtered, silenced… cut down in his prime… by an assassin’s bullet.

I’m stunned and saddened… those identical, sinking, heavy heart, Dallas magnitude feelings now resurfacing. I had so hoped that in the five years since November 22, 1963, that America had changed… well… at least a little? But knowing that it hadn’t was sickening me far, Far, FAR more than any of my cold’s worst symptoms.

Dr. King must have already seen the sickening writing on the wall… his final speech best described as prophetic…

Senator Bobby Kennedy, a 1968 presidential candidate, delivered his from the heart speech (note how he doesn’t rely on his notes)… deemed to be his finest, ever, oratory. He also gets credited with preventing riots in Indianapolis. Many other cities… nationwide… could not make such a claim.

So, why do I, a Caucasian, feel so strongly about Dr. King? Mainly because I’m a caring, compassionate, colorblind human being.

Beyond that, I do know that poverty, too, is colorblind. I could readily identify with King’s fight to help hardworking, struggling, impoverished Americans achieve The Dream he had spoken of. After all, if there was one thing my eye witnessing my own, low income, schoolteacher parents had taught me, it was that our family of four was unduly burdened by our barely scraping by lifestyle.

To this very day, I can still vividly recall handing over seven, one dollar bills to my Dad… several years worth of my hoarded allowance money, which he had given to me… just so we could put some food on our dinner table that evening. Oh, how my hand-me-down clothing’s patches always had patches. Oh, how I remember our slumlord’s coal fired furnace that could’ve easily carbon monoxide gassed us all to death.

I could never forget (and still can never forget) all the bullies at school, who had verbally and physically assaulted me… even spitting in my face. I now ask… in some small sense… had I not had my own bitter taste as to what it was like to be singled out… profiled… discriminated against… by oppressors?

And while Dr. King’s fight was focused upon helping African-Americans, I believed his spiritual and practical messages to be universal. If ever taken to heart by the elected powers-that-be, that would’ve certainly made my own family’s life… indeed, every impoverished family’s life… better too.

Fast forwarding to more contemporary times… while it’s true it took far, Far, FAR too many decades… no, strike that… centuries in arriving, America did wind up electing and reelecting Barack Obama as our 44th president. In my mind, this was a gleaming ray of hope that We The People were finally turning our backs on our nation’s racist past. And I’ve never been more proud to say that I had had a small part in making that a reality… by my voting for that intelligent, insightful, righteous man both in 2008 and 2012.

But now? Regrettably, America is being gutted by #45, who sucks up to both the KKK and Nazis… who takes sides with racist cops who profile and mow down innocent blacks… who lambastes pro football quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has frequently, justifiably and peaceably protested such police brutality and racial inequality by harmlessly taking a knee during the pregame playing of America’s National Anthem. Which raises the question…

Will this now ongoing, Trumpian nightmare obliterate Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream?

That’ll depend upon whether or not Democrats can regain Congressional majorities this coming November.

 

 

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99 Word Blog (#015) Society Needs Sobriety

A WordPress blogger I follow recently discussed how beggars, who reject food and “too small” monetary offerings, likely need big bucks for booze / dope.

The undesirable effect identified… let’s examine the cause

Today’s tightfisted corporate monsters flat out refuse to pay a living wage. The resultant blue-collar blues and scourge of substance abuse are but two sides to the same coin.

How to best help? Be they stoned or sober, bypass the panhandler. Donate directly to existing soup kitchens and vocational / psychological counseling centers… help fund more as needed. A CEO attitude readjustment is in order, too.

My U-Turn To Mom & Dad’s Downturn

By 1929… The economic collapse a.k.a. “The Great Depression” had reared its ugly head. That downturn did far more than reduce the U.S. economy to financial rubble. The societal stagnation was staggering. It put the lives of Americans on hold… inclusive of the two people who were to become my Mom and Dad.

By 1936… my folks-to-be had earned their degrees in education and were seeking public school teacher positions. But, with the economy gone bust, job opportunities were scarce. For those who could find work, the pay was lousy. Consequently, they had to put their careers on hold while waiting for the day when the economy would improve. In the meantime they found odd jobs to tide them over.

By 1947… the job situation did brighten a bit… they met each other… married… and started their family… but all that took place far later in life than normal. By the time I wound up entering this world, they were both 41 years old. In better economic times, they could’ve been grandparents by then.

By 1958… my earliest boyhood memories involved eating the cheapest cuts of bad tasting, gristly meat at our dinner table, my clothing’s patches having patches, and my family renting from a landlord slumlord whose house had a broken down, coal burning furnace… a patched together contraption, which could’ve easily carbon monoxide gassed us all to death.

And… re our unhealthy living conditions… I can see how hypertension is linked to poverty… it’s all that reaching for the saltshaker to mask the taste of unpalatable food. I also suspect the nausea and dizziness, which my family and I had experienced, was not influenza… a defective furnace flue would be the likely culprit.

By 1961… thanks to an FHA, 4% interest, 30-year mortgage, Mom, Dad, Sis and I got to move into our newly built three-bedroom ranch home… things were beginning to look up.

By 1967… teachers had won the right to bargain collectively. But they still had to go on strike to persuade the Board of Education members to pry open their hearts and the school district’s “wallet”. Had my Dad’s labor union failed, the American Dream would’ve remained something that ended each morning when our alarm clocks went off.

By 1975… when I walked through my college graduation day procession, my folks were in their early 60s and words such as “aging” and “ailing” did aptly describe them both.

With the intergenerational role reversal slowly but surely becoming the new reality, Mom and Dad were soon depending on me more and more. My choices were to either help them stay in their home sweet home… or run away from home. Since my soul has never been up for grabs (at any price) I stuck with them… to the very end.

By 1978… I had sacrificed my freedom to pursue employment consistent to my God given talents and college degree. To ensure I could stay close to home, I worked dead end, low wage retail jobs.

Eventually, my superiors did offer me a low-level management position. Of course, prior to accepting that promotion, I had to clearly spell out that I’d prioritize my family first… every time. They understood, which is not what one would normally expect from corporate big shots.

By 1988… Dad had overeaten and smoked himself into a diabetic, riddled with cancer condition and late, that year… into an early grave. Since he had been a chauvinist who insisted on doing all the driving… and my Mother had let her license expire / had gone along for that “ride”, she had to rely on me to do all the grocery shopping… to be her chauffeur. But… as we traveled down the road of life, some twists and turns had become inevitable.

By 2002… Mom had a heart attack. Roughly a year later she broke her femur. It was while convalescing in a nursing home, when pneumonia had asserted itself, and, in spite of her doctor’s best efforts, would not let her enter the road to recovery.

By 2003… Mom had passed through Earth’s Exit Signs. My final duty welcomed assignment was to write and deliver her eulogy. And once the curtains came down on her memorial service… there I sat all alone in the house that was now mine… doing something I had never, ever really done before… putting my needs at the top of my to do list.

In the days and weeks that followed, I came to the realization that while helping my parents… something else had been happening… something insidious. My friends, acquaintances, peers, business contacts and (last but not least) even some marriageable women had all slipped out of my life… perhaps forever.

By 2008… after three decade’s worth of retail’s heavy lifting / standing on my feet all day long … I had wrecked my body… all of that forcing my early retirement.

True, laparoscopic, outpatient surgery could fix the damage, but, in my lifetime, I’ve already been down that exact same road twice before… in other words… these surgical procedures had been, at best, only temporary… which means I could easily reinjure myself.

This does bring to mind the apt saying…

“Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice shame on me.”

Folks there’s not even a contingency for being fooled three times… so I’ll just have to improvise and coin an addendum to that adage.

“Fool me thrice and that makes me the biggest fool who never hit the big time.”

By 2016… By 1929… everything has come full circle… I am now, actually living in my Mom and Dad’s Great Depression… facing down my bare bones existence and an uncertain future… just as they had done four score and seven years ago.