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These articles informed a recent talk on the topic of whiteness for sign language interpreters.

white-fog

A continuum of character development from white fragility through white fog toward appropriate whiteness.

“White people [must move] from an individual understanding of racism—i.e. only some people are racist and those people are bad—to a structural understanding [of white privilege].”

~ Dr Robin DiAngelo ~

White People: Stop Microvalidating Each Other, Stephanie Jo Kent

White Fragility: Why it’s so hard to talk to White people about racism, Robin DiAngelo

Fighting White Supremacy and White Privilege to Build a Human Rights Movement, Loretta Ross

Calling In: A Less Disposable Way of ­­­Holding Each Other Accountable, Ngoc Loan Tran

It’s time for white people to reckon with racism, Eve Ensler

28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors, Jona Olsson

The Near Certainty of Anti-Police Violence, Ta-Nahisi Coates

Dear White Parents of my Black Child’s Friends: I Need Your Help, Maralee Bradley

White America Couldn’t Handle What Black America Deals with Every Day, Henry Rollins

This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter, Sally Kohn

Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda on Finding Originality, Racial Politics (and Why Trump Should See His Show), Lin-Maneul Miranda & Frank DiGiacomo

10 Books I Wish My White Teachers Had Read, Crystal Paul

What it’s like to be Black in Napierville, America, Brian Crooks

Police shootings won’t stop unless we address this problem no one is talking about, Jack Hitt

Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no. Wesley Lowery

Could all this racial violence bring two sides together? Faye Higbee

Branches of Mentoring, Michael Meade

end white silence

Immediacy

Almost a month ago I received an email inviting me to join a Google+ group. I was happy to do so, thinking it was a personal invitation rather than one generated by an essentially anonymous algorithm.

John Kellden invited me on July 14, 2015.

John Kellden invited me on July 14, 2015

Arriving to the group (I went to check it out right away), the post that greeted me also seemed personally relevant to me; in fact my first impulse was that the founder of this group had invited me because that particular post had just been published. I felt an immediate tug to comment but hesitated…

Very soon (what felt like practically right away), I saw a Facebook post in a related “Conversation” group that complemented the Google+ group’s posting—indeed it felt directly relevant, articulating some of my private contemplations about a particular sub-set of dynamics that arose around a Sceenius’ Knowledge Expedition.

Fortunately, I didn’t have time to compose a comment at that exact instant, but the vitality of my visceral engagement meant I kept thinking about the communication I thought had occurred. That is to say, I felt as if a particular message (or messages) was sent deliberately to me, calling upon me to offer up a response. I say fortunately I didn’t give an instant response, because as I have been able to carve out time to explore more, I discovered that the Google+ post was not that fresh; it had been re-posted by someone other than the original author.

This image of convergence seems to be a statement of value.

This image of convergence seems to be a statement of value.

Ron’s original post pre-dated John’s invitation by three days. One could argue (I suppose) that this timing lends some credibility to an hypothesis that John invited me because of Ron’s post. Whether or not this was the case is of minor significance, however, in light of the reality of me experiencing it “as if” the meaning of “invite+convergence glyph” was directed personally to me.

Heteroglossia

It is more likely that the invitation I’d received from John was random: at least its timing with the (second) appearance of Ron’s Glyph diving in social fields post was coincidental. At most whatever motivated the invite to be sent at that particular moment was not accessible to me in the instant of reception—there was no “evidence” nor any “clues” presented to connect the invitation with anything that had happened before—only my suppositions; call them intuition, or wishful thinking, or fullblown fantasy. The experience offers an illustration of what one might call a communication fact: receivers are the ones most ‘in charge’ of deciding what something ‘means.’

My realization of the serendipity of the timing of John’s invitation and Ron’s posting called into question the construction of meaning in my mind, also casting doubt on the associations I’d made about the content of Joe’s Facebook post, How to Create a Group Mind, being a reflection or commentary relevant to the Sceenius dynamics in question. In fairness to my logic, I had not thought that there was any association between Joe’s post and Ron’s. Nor did I draw any overt connection between Joe’s post and John’s invitation. Rather I sensed a more covert kind of parallel process or synergy whereby different members of a group are always representing various aspects of the group’s whole/holistic experience.

"...the ability to resolve disputes..." offers a counterbalance to the (apparent) imperative for convergence.

“…the ability to resolve disputes…” offers a counterbalance to the (apparent) imperative for convergence.

Now, I am writing weeks after the immediacy of those deeply-felt ‘turns’ (John—Ron—Joe) and can imagine the labor of memory required for John, Ron and Joe to recall those original moments from their points-of-view. Certainly each of the their individual communication acts (Invitation—Google+Post—Facebook Post) are not seamlessly connected in their minds as part of a discrete flow of sequential experience. It is unlikely that these separate communication acts were collectively conceived as a conscious representation. One could go so far as to say that it’s ridiculous for me to have made such strong associations among them, particularly in terms of sensing myself as an intended audience. Indeed, only John might have considered his invitation to me a direct engagement warranting a designation of me as an interlocutor, but that single act of communication could hardly have been more than a blip in his day. Ron most likely did not have me in mind as a potential audience member/reader of his post.  Joe would not (as far as I know) have had any reason to even be aware of me when he decided to re-share his blogentry (originally written two years ago) on Facebook!

This diversity of communication experience is an illustration of what Mikael Bakhtin meant by heteroglossia: everyone speaks ‘their own language’ and, by corollary, comprehends language by making use of linguistic resources and packaging/interpreting perceptions in ways particular to their own particular ‘center’ according to the sequence of events and experiences. Everyone has different reference points, experiences a unique stream of communicative events, and is informed from the on-going transactions of their specific embodiment and particular social position(s)/positionality. These aggregate and cohere in society to create social reality: prejudices, discriminations, and oppressions as well as strengths, beauties and aspirations. This dialectical process is prominently enabled by language: language use, language-in-use, language as transactional for the transmission of knowledges and equally (though often neglected) the perpetuation of identities and relationships through time (see John Carey).

At an emotional level, I would have preferred to continue to flow onward along the trajectory of the imaginary meaningfulness I constructed from those three discrete communication acts! When such acts collapse in mutually shared experience, it seems people do generally prefer to carry on at full speed along that stream. Perhaps there was a way I could have “joined” in a more immediate manner, but I was at a loss to reconcile the complexity of our interaction into a simple reduction that was suitable to the moment without compromising or, worse, appearing to erase an unresolved previous encounter.

Can we hold each other accountable for real? And, in doing so, can we uphold each other’s dignity and respect each other’s learning curves and processes of assimilating new/different feedback?

In other words, how, I keep wondering, can we ever generate collective coherence beyond the easy magnetism of instantaneous grokking when divergence is much more common than convergence, or when convergence self-perpetuates itself only among those who are already like-minded?

What is needed is to enable connection that allows for, nay embraces, tensions of real difference as an essential part of collectivizing.

Calibration

Michael Holquist, a contemporary Bahktinian scholar and translator, labeled the operational function of language in generating chronotopes as timespace calibration.  Bakhtin had realized that the language of a people reveals that people’s orientation to time and thus to space, that culture or society’s overall relation to timespace—the time of spaces. Bakhtin gleaned this from close comparative study of early literature (the Greeks and Romans) and contrasted their similarities and differences with the popular Russian literature of his own time, the first half of the 20th century. Bakhtin suggested that not only does language provide a lens for discernment of past and present cultural and ideological orientations to time (and thereby to space); language is itself a tool for constructing the social realities of timespaces. That is, language dynamics make a significant contribution to the generation of material conditions.

These days, I’m a peripheral, minor participant in several chronotopally-bound conversations. I think of them as contrapuntal. The general trend in most of these conversations is a centrifugal discourse, one that continually re-centers itself as “the” most-important-thing-that-is-happening-now. #BlackLivesMatter is a counterpoint to #Conversation and also to a month-long online encounter last January exploring Dialogue, Deliberation and Social Transformation . #Conversation strikes me as a tech version of the #permaculture movement. Last week Greenpeace dangled human beings in front of a massive oil rig to try and prevent drilling in the Arctic. Egypt nears absolute water crisis. War and unspeakable violence continues to ravage vast populations of human beings on the planet. The patterns of self-reinforcing language use of folks invested in each of these discourses offer slim strands of interconnections, but there is no reason these cannot be made more robust! I suppose that giving careful attention to interpersonal/small group-scale moments of disconnect and divergence (according to diverse beats and varying rhythms) we can identify and forge such mergers.

With time, practice, and increasing skill, this more resilient ‘net’ will spread.

Alliances must be broader, deeper, and more wholistic. We must learn and enact skills of bridging differences in those moments when surface synergy becomes unharmonic, when the rhythm shifts to an unfamiliar score or the beat changes from a familiar cadence to one which feels discomfitting or even threatening. If we are to build hope of overcoming the entrenched systemic inertia of industrial civilization with its myriad comforts and diversions, we must learn to embrace and adopt the explorer’s ethos and curiosity about what’s going on right here right now so that we can discover how to get along into the future in profoundly new ways.

The “intersection” in this blog entry on social resilience involves computer science and brain science.

What if we gamed Twitter?

What if we gamed Twitter?

While Professor Beverly Woolf and colleagues from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst presented on smart tutoring at the Artificial Intelligence in Education conference, I listened to a webinar from Dr Dennis S. Charney, MD, from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai present data supporting his “resilience prescription” for individuals.

Stimulating processes of social resilience

Two of Charney’s eight resilience principles, however, involve other people: role models and a supportive social network. Combining the social aspect of resilience with the human-computer interface and education has potential to enhance sophisticated problem-solving around the globe.

The developing world has 4 billion mobile phone subscriptions. In Africa, average penetration is a third of the population, and in north Africa it is almost two-thirds. South Africa now has almost 100% penetration. In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile phone ownership is 30%. ~ Dr Beverly P. Woolf

The potentials for knowledge communication through savvy tele-education exceed youth. These technologies can also enable adults who care about intercultural social networking and mass organizing for social justice. Read the rest of this entry »

(Not) rushing into the urgency of now (while still arriving)

Turning the World Upside Down

Turning the World Upside Down

Every day I face the irony of needing to hurry up to slow down, or perhaps it is the other way around, of slowing down in order to speed up my alignment with lifeforce—call it chi or God or Gaia or maybe it is just with other humans in society, thinking of society as a verb—the actions of living together through culture, work and art. Read the rest of this entry »

   Life Affirming & Life Enhancing

cows save the planet

It is the stuff of Douglas Adams-style science fiction, but what if it were true? That cows could save the planet? Not by themselves, but with a little help from their biped friends–especially everyone who has ever harbored a herding fantasy or wants their children and grandchildren to enjoy special elements of the natural world.

Large-scale rotational grazing would require a massive leap of imagination and concerted effort of collective will.  Humans–lots of us–would have to decide to choose to salvage a living planet rather than continue to pretend catastrophic climate change isn’t happening. While most people delay, many people all around the world—alone and in groups—are already acting on the decision to try. Read the rest of this entry »

This transcript is offered instead of captions for a 14 minute videotaped conversation in American Sign Language with Deaf elders Winchell and Ruth Moore.

View the ASL vlog at  http://vimeo.com/loosevariable/holdingtime Read the rest of this entry »

Fox News, Boston affiliate channel 25, and Doug VB Goudie should be sued for hate speech. Seriously. Denying Deaf people the right to information in a language they can understand is violence. Ridicule of their language is an act of violence on a continumm that begins with disregard and ends with people dying because they are excluded from public communication.

Watch the ASL version of this blogentry.

What's happening VB? You just realized the beauty of communication using a visual-gestural human language!

VB discovers American Sign Language – Where has he been?

The Deaf community in Massachusetts has been lobbying for live simultaneous interpretation of emergency press conferences for decades. Finally, Governor Patrick and his staff figure out the logistics of providing quality professional interpretation and VB makes a mockery of it? First, you’d think VB just discovered he has eyes. Welcome to the world of visual noise! Second, what’s wrong with multitasking? You can’t watch and listen to two different things at the same time? Come on, VB, join the modern world. Third, if he has the hots for Deval, he should take it elsewhere. No, VB, “Deval Deval Deval” is not where people’s attention should be during a PUBLIC EMERGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT. People’s attention should be on the information, not the messenger.

American Sign Language performed by a Certified Deaf Interpreter: This is ASL!

Title should read: The best ASL we’ve ever seen!

Which is why it is so insulting that you would even consider asking the ASL interpreter to “tone it down.” You, a non-deaf (“hearing”) person with access to who knows how many communication channels? You can find the information again easily and with no language barrier. Deaf people get one chance to see the information in their own language. And you want to begrudge them the opportunity because you can’t concentrate? Get a grip, man.

Not only does the provision of live simultaneous interpretation during crises give access to the Deaf community to information that you take for granted, it could become a signal to the hearing world that something important is going on and maybe everyone should pay attention too!  Precisely because it isn’t every day that an interpreter shows up on the television screen is a fantastic way to let everyone know there’s a situation where personal safety is at risk.

Watch VB’s news commentary.

Here’s a transcript:

WOMAN: Alright, Welcome back 6:25 this morning. It’s time to “Let it Rip” on Fox 25 morning news, VB joining us in studio here. A treat, 2 days in a row we’ve had him here. And we have Bonnie here as well as we Let It Rip on the press conference. Meant to be a serious thing here, we’re talking about a serious blizzard heading our way. But if you watched this thing yesterday, I…I don’t know how you couldn’t be distracted by everything (laughing) that was going on in the background of this. You had Andrea Cabral in the background who was obviously very warm. And is fanning herself, which by the way, was a very nice fan. Looks like she must bring this with her everywhere
Gene: fashionable
Woman: very fashionable fan…then you have this (laughs) sign language person, who is very, very animated and VB I think you said it best before, “she’s at like an 11 and maybe she needs to bring it down to like a 6”.
VB: Look, at one point during this thing, my wife and I were like not listening at all to the governor and we were trying to caption HER. Because this, this stuff is so over the top and so exaggerated. Maybe it is, I don’t even know, but from my viewpoint it was. I was just fascinated on her the whole time, and I don’t know what I was supposed to do because I wasn’t listening to the Governor.
Woman: (laughing)
Bonnie: You know what? This came up with Hurricane Sandy too because the interpreter who was at Mayor Blumberg’s press conference was also very, very animated. It actually prompted a lot of articles. There was actually one in ‘The Atlantic’ answering the question “why are these interpreters so animated?”
Woman: They did a whole SNL skit on it, remember? (laughing)
VB: (laughing) what is that whole motion there? (laughing) Look at that!?
Gene: (laughing)
Bonnie: Yeah, you know but other than the hand motions, their facial expressions actually modify what is going on. So, if there’s going to be snow, then they can say ‘there’s going to be a lot of snow’. Or its ‘really bad snow’ or ‘you need to hurry’. So, I think that the dramatic interpretation doesn’t bother me at all. I mean, you listen. These people, have…have the pressure of having to translate, on the spot and make sure they capture it dramatically so that people can understand. So if you find it distracting, I don’t know, just focus on the governor. Listen, walk away. you can hear, so VB walk away from the TV and just listen
Gene: (talking over Bonnie) I’ve seen others that have done it and haven’t been that distracting,
Woman: yeah…I have too.
Gene: So I don’t buy that, I don’t buy that at all. I mean, listen, I know she has important information to put out there. And to people who have issues and need that service that’s being provided, but I think it could be done so in a way…that’s all you’re talking about this morning, you know? The Governor is passing along some important information…and you’re trying to listen…and you know, there’s so many other things going on how could you NOT be distracted by it all?
Woman: We’ve obviously seen it at other press conferences..
Gene: (talking over) It’s all everyone is talking about, twitter has all these comments about it
Woman: hashtags for people who are all of a sudden stealing the show, and no one was tweeting any of the information that was coming out of the press conference.
VB: I guarantee you when Richard Davey walked off that stage, whoever greeted him, the first thing Davey says “ Was it me, or was that really distracting?” (woman laughing) Andrea Cabral is fanning him as much as she’s fanning herself. (woman lauging) And second of all, you can see Davey periodically looking out the corner of his eye like “wow! I didn’t see that one coming” and if HE’s distracted? We’re going to be distracted! Let’s say this was 9/11…YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS! There are times, when …
Woman: right, right
VB: its gotta absolutely be focused on the speaker and that was the LAST thing I was focused on here.
Woman: yeah, that’s true.
Gene: right
Woman: Alright, well MYFOXBOSTON.COM or our facebook page if you’d like to weigh in on this we’d love to hear from you…

 

 

“There’s a context to this. When you don’t have a talent, wear something.”

~  Yossarian

It was the Human Sushi Platter’s birthday party. I had thought of suggesting we sing Hey Jude in order to spread a unique tradition, but admiration for the icing completely filled the space between singing the usual ditty and cutting the cake. This was just after the Chammak Challo, of which we were warned: “It’s gonna be fast, it’s gonna be hectic!”

"...to live in the company of wise people..." (from the Buddha's "Discourse on Happiness")

“…to live in the company of wise people…” (from the Buddha’s “Discourse on Happiness”)

Which pretty much summed up the party. The early round of appetizers and aperitifs accompanied spirited conversation on topics which ranged from climate shift (if you happened to talk with me) t0 whatever everybody else (the ‘normal’ people?) talked about. Next came the main dishes (a food extravaganza) and more conversations. Eventually this example of “smart partying” (thank you Greg Robie) morphed into

  • a collective reading of the discourse on happiness,
  • concern about who’s on the Human Sushi Platter’s mom’s list of people to buy clothing for (and, later, for whom John will bake),
  • a meditation on lovingkindness (interrupted perfectly by the late arriving Bulgarian and Israeli, about whom it was said, “Just when you’re trying to focus on one thing some lovely people come into your life!”
  • a discussion of socially engaged Buddhism,
  • extraordinary international cuisine (“celery raw drops the jaw”),
  • an Amherst Salon talent show,
  • exceptionally extraordinary cakes,
  • and gifts for the birthday girl. (There turned out to be a butterfly theme. If the game of #KRKTR ever takes off, some massive amount of points should go to the first person who identifies the five people who received butterfly plates from me. Perhaps that’s one of the entry gates for joining the actual competition?!  I’ve got Ready Player One in mind….)

I Got You, Babejack sparrow-attitude problem

The Sonny and Cher impersonation by Hot Mama and Alan followed the impromptu Beat generation-style interpretation by Knightly (fluent in English and French) of a series of satirical rhymes offered (in Spanish) by Rafael. We were treated to poetry from Ogden Nash, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and The Cat in the Hat.  Not to mention belly dance gyrations, a cautionary tale to “never play with gypsies in the woods,” and the story of a beloved grandmother’s uninvited visitor who was “not only a thief but also a liar!”

Motivated Living

I love my friends’ ability to bring pleasure to each other; such a long night of laughter we had! Do they have the secret of Zizek’s “third pill?” Rather than the dualistic choices presented in The Matrix, Zizek says we need a pill that helps us “perceive reality inside the illusion itself.”

Our fundamental delusion today is not to believe in what is only a fiction, to take fictions too seriously, it’s on the contrary—not to take fictions seriously enough: you think it’s just a game? It’s reality, it’s more real than it appears to be.

Slavoj Zizek

Values and activities of  meaning-making on the verge of collapse

Values and activities of meaning-making on the verge of collapse

The art is to discern which fictions to perceive and thus make more real. Bringing joy in the now is a skill at which my closest friends excel. But the now is always in flux – not just internally (the sway of mood and emotion) but externally too. By external, I’m not just referring to the complications of social interactions such as problems at work, with colleagues, roommates, family members, etc. These constants persist within a larger frame, call it civil society, that is an example of the kind of social fiction Zizek implies. What storyline are we actually living? What function does a spiritualist approach to the now contribute in the aggregate history humanity is producing?

A Reprieve?

When I told Yossarian that I was in ‘semi-blog-mode’ after my initial conversation with John, she pounced. “Sortof? You’re already making our lives hell with these [Facebook] posts every three days – ‘Australia is burning!’” Her teasing validated my decision, although I still feel conflicted, torn between the desire to remain accepted and compelled to keep issuing the warning. After securing authorization from the host, I announced to everyone that I was in the blogzone. No one objected; a few who were new to this gig of mine wanted to talk more about it. Ginger, for instance, engaged me vigorously on the topic of socially engaged Buddhism, and told me about Chris Martenson’s crash course, “What Should I Do? The Basics of Resilience.” Bombi (who admits he is a Part-time Schmoozer) may have just been poking fun at me/my main question when he exclaimed, “That’s the question that needs to be asked!”

“When are we going to become a superhero team that helps save the world?”

Maybe we cannot, or maybe we will not choose to transform together, or perhaps the transformation will occur but in a less-overtly-connected way than I can perceive. Talking with John, who is confident he can survive for a significant amount of time when the grid goes down for good, I was struck by the pragmatics of his outlook, especially when he said that you/I won’t be able to help everyone, that sometimes—for the sake of our own survival—we will have to say no.

Weather. It's coming. (Photo of a supercell snatched from a weather geek's Facebook page.)

Weather. It’s coming. (Photo of a supercell snatched from a weather geek’s Facebook page.)

Not a prospect I am looking forward to, at all. John also reflected on the week-long power outage for many people after last fall’s weird “snowtober” snowstorm. “This was a massive storm,” he said, marveling at the anger of people who clearly did not understand the extent of the damage and expected their electricity to simply be back on already! He recounted what an adventure the extended power loss was at first, comparing it to his “best ever” experience when he was in college. Then he said, “After the sixth or seventh day, it wasn’t fun anymore.”

I understand that ‘the now’ is the only timespace in which our actions matter; and, our behavior in the present correlates with outcomes in the future. Not only this, but our actions now ripple into other beings’ present—their now is our now/our now is theirs, too. This simultaneous co-presence extends beyond “regular contact with monks and nuns [which] is the greatest happiness” to humans whose suffering is directly linked to our comfort, and beyond homo sapiens to all the organisms with whom we share the planetary atmosphere.

Love may indeed be all that’s left. And so the fictions we choose are most meaningfully evaluated by how they interact within this period of reprieve.

At a multicultural community gathering this past weekend, Jen’s explanation about the absence of clean natural water reserves led to highlighting the one bright spot: the top layer of natural watersheds can still be saved. Since humans need water to survive, this is kinda a big deal!

Ann, meanwhile, is getting ready to move to her next position in DC. The great bat die-off may not be absolute: some colonies in the northeastern US have managed (so far) not to contract the fatal white-nose disease. From what I understand, this is a big deal because we need bats to eat mosquitoes. Without a sufficiently massive natural predator, mosquitoes breed all out of proportion – leading humans (who reject discomfort) to increase the use of pesticides – which (by the way), poisons the top layer of the watershed.

Linkages

Self-paced distance learning about Emergency Management.

Incontrovertible evidence of the increasingly rapid rate of climate change has visited the continental United States in the past few weeks:  Hurricane Sandy, a follow-up nor’easter which dumped nearly a foot of snow across some areas still engaged in recovery, earthquakes on both coasts, and then another one in the south just the other day.

FEMA has ramped up considerably since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. As shocked as New Yorkers and other Sandy victims are with the proof of vulnerability, the number of domestic fatalities from Sandy stands at 109 (138 total to date), while Katrina claimed 1,833. Many of Katrina’s victims were poor, disabled, or elderly.  Joan Sutton, writing for the Huffington Post, describes Sandy’s impact on the elderly: “Now, we see pictures of what is called a mountain of debris. Surely it is a mountain of heartache.”

Creative Design

If there was ever a time for creative strategizing at the global scale; this is it. We have to begin piecing together the scattered ecological bright spots, establishing institutional connections among them, and crafting scenarios that can guide the assessment of essential priorities and timelines. All of the things that need to happen (if we want to avert an ugly science fiction future) are not going to happen unless and until a comprehensive plan can be sufficiently sketched out – and we need  such a vision of possibility soon.

It is always time for public accountability to progress, and – to date – there have not been enough of us in America thoughtfully considering how to solve this ultimate technological challenge. Roosevelt inspired Americans to prevail in World War II; Kennedy inspired us to the moon. Obama has not yet inspired America writ large, though the potential now exists. To succeed, we will have to learn how, as a society, to move together, better.

The technological solutions required by climate change will probably not be adequately addressed unless

1) such multicultural gatherings as this past weekend’s celebration of Diwali become more common, and

2) participants carry conversations about our knowledge from these safe multicultural spaces forward into productive, public dialogues.

There are people out there from all kinds of backgrounds with special and particular areas of expertise, like Ann and Jen, who are skilled in establishing relationships across social identity differences and equally capable of contributing thought leadership to the invention and implementation of creative scientific and political solutions for today’s complex problems. ‘Cuz here’s the real deal: human societies might somehow manage to do okay without bats, but if the top layer of the watershed goes? The game is going to get a whole lot rougher than it needs to be.

Guest of Honor

Samdog showed me a couple of his music videos after telling me a little bit about where he’s coming from. ”I made this one in an alley.”

Election Eve 2012

Samdog came over with his boys, two of whom are regulars at the weekly Friendship Dinner. CNN’s coverage of election results droned in the background while the kids bounced around the living room and Samdog’s stories rumbled my mind. Friends from Kansas City touched base, hearkening back to the 1988 election when I had been a delegate for Jesse Jackson at the Democratic convention.

“People are always leaving,” my brother said. “But some always come back!”

Nostalgia

It feels strange to have a small personal connection to such historic events. I remember talking with mom about Jesse Jackson’s tears at Obama’s victory speech in 2008. I hope the re-election of black Barack Obama secures something unalterable for the nation’s future. An end, at last, to the effectiveness of the southern strategy of race-baiting and mass incarceration of black and brown men.

Last week I was privileged to simultaneously interpret (into American Sign Language) Michelle Alexander talking about her book, The New Jim Crow, for the annual Eqbal Ahmad lecture at Hampshire College. Her explanation of the intentional imprisonment of African American men through the War on Drugs campaign dovetails perfectly with Lawrence Lessig’s lessons regarding Lyndon B Johnson’s support of civil rights in the 1960s – which was controversial among the white leaders of the Democratic party because they recognized it as an opening the Republicans would exploit. Alexander uncovers how that competitive opening was pursued with a racial southern strategy aimed at getting the black (male) working class out of competition with white working class men. In order to be effective nationwide, the strategy had to play to white stereotypes without appearing to be race-based.

Rehumanization Policies

“Athena” may or may not hit us hard in western MA.

Obama has a high bar to cross during his second term in office. Chris Rock isn’t just lampooning the president for the sake of easing white fear; there’s real work to be done in the ‘hood: all of them, from gated communities to neighborhoods in every town, large and small. It is hard to imagine how the nation can rise to face the great challenges of this era if we continue to support intentionally discriminatory federal programs. In the meantime, plenty of other programs need investment, such as emergency management and first responders involved in recovery and mitigation from Hurricane Sandy even as a new nor’easter bears down upon significant sections of the damaged region. There are enough social challenges to keep Americans and our guests thoroughly occupied without stirring pots of old wounds. The times demand us to be bigger than the dynamics we get caught up in. If Samdog can do it, so can I, and so can you, too.

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