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Conceptual Irregularities

The modern composer refuses to die – Edgar Varese

Category

race

The End Of September

It’s the end of September and the rich palette of our neighborhood is coming into full bloom before it all dies. This is a beautiful time in our part of the world. The rich reds and browns are accented with bursts of gold and yellow. The texture of the burrs and desiccating pods are brittle and sharp and all the dry life rattles in the wind.

Looking west on Sky Farm Rd

I got to see live music outside the other night. Peter Mulvey at The Barn in Egremont. After October this won’t happen so we savored it. Peter is a Milwaukee kid who cut his musical teeth in the subways of Boston, usually Davis Square in Somerville so I never got to see him, never having a reason to be there and living in East Somerville, from where there is no good way to get to West Somerville.

Regardless, I saw him from time to time at open mics and Tiffany and I opened for him down in Plymouth once. He is an excellent guitarist and has the gift of gab, able to relate well to his audience, a must for a busker.

I was busking at the same time, usually in Harvard Square or Park St. It was hard for me; was not comfortable joshing with the crowd. I didn’t have any self confidence and was usually very nervous. I’m the same way now but I hide it better.

I had a song I’d written called OJ In White Car about the infamous slow speed Bronco chase we all watched on TV in ‘94. I had written it before the trial had even happened. It wasn’t anti-OJ, in fact at the time I felt a little bad for him, not knowing what was even happening yet.

I was playing it in Harvard Square on morning and a Black kid walked by and got pretty pissed off. “Lay off the Juice” he yelled. I told him to listen to the song, it wasn’t critical but he wasn’t having it. I was just some white guy assuming the black guy was guilty.

A year and a half later when the verdict came in and he was acquitted, I was working in a hospital in the South End. I remember it was lunch and all the Black staff had gathered around a TV in the lobby and they cheered when they heard the news. From the shouts I could tell that for many, this was a rare vindication of their racial and cultural identity. It is interesting that to this day, I have yet to meet a white person who doesn’t think he was guilty.

Missional Training

I’m at a three day Lutheran training about missional work, which I guess means going out in the community and doing good works. This is such a different experience from what I’m used to. I am so uncomfortable with talk about God outside of church. I want to become comfortable with this throughout this time.

Who were the people who nurtured me in my faith. Fr Rosseau had a big effect during youth ministry. And I struggled with the very concept of faith. I couldn’t really understand what he was talking about. To this day I still consider faith a firm belief in something you know couldn’t be true. Yet I have no doubt God is with me all the time. Fr. Rosseau tried to explain faith to me and I never got it. But in Catholicism there was no tradition of scripture. Maybe if the bible was involved it would have illustrated it better.
I’m not comfortable talking to people and I am particularly uncomfortable with evangelizing. Spirituality is a very inner thing for me. I am pretty much okay with whatever people want to believe, within reason. I guess that where I can help here is by being able to offer people a spiritual home if they need one.

On the first day, a woman from Chile by way of Mexico told us about her first call in the US, in the South Bronx. It was getting to be Easter time. They had Good Friday services and only a few people showed up, whereas on Easter Sunday, the church was packed. It occurred to her that this was the opposite of South America, where Good Friday was packed but Easter not so much. It was like the south was able to embrace the burden of the cross whereas the north was more interested in the resurrection. She wondered if this was reflective of the economic differences between the two hemispheres; that the struggle under the cross kept the south from success while the optimism of resurrection gave the north the attitude to make more money. But moreover, the inability of each society to recognize the other’s day belied a breach in the integrity of whole spiritual identity of the society.

Maybe if we made a bigger deal of Good Friday we would be better able to empathize with the struggles of the poor. However, it is interesting to note that one of the last American institutions that still treats Good Friday as a holiday is Wall Street.

Would South America gain some hope and confidence if they were able to embrace the resurrection? Is that what they need or do the need to emerge from under the cross?

Today we went to a church in Baltimore that was the product of a white parish and a black parish coming together. When they merged they were 50/50 but now they were mostly black. Again and again I have seen this: white flight. Black folks really scare us.

After the end of the conference when we were waiting outside at the airport having a final cigar I saw this twenty something hippie chick driving along in an old blue Volvo firing up an already half smoked joint. Had she just dropped off her parents and was just embracing the moment of freedom?

Florida

The fact that a black boy in a hoodie got killed by a creepy security guard wannabe who then gets to walk doesn’t bode well for the stature if the African-American in the US today. But, in my view, there are far worse examples of the state of race relations.
Twenty six white children get killed in Newtown and it sparks a national conversation on gun control. But how often do twenty six black kids get killed? And how often do we take to the streets in protest of this tragedy? What if, every time a black kid got caught in the crossfire, throngs of white folks would descend upon the black neighborhoods and march alongside the black preachers, youth workers and neighbors who mourn their loss? What if we made it a “big fucking deal!” every time it happened? What if we were to show our fellow citizens that we really cared and that we were willing to act on it? What if we gathered outside the known gang hangouts and yelled, at the top of our lungs, that this was not acceptable? Would this make a difference?
The pre-clearance clause in the Voting Rights Act gets struck down by the Supreme Court. Mere hours after this happens, Texas moves to limit the ability of black folks to vote. And how do they propose to do this? By requiring an ID at the voting booth? An ID! White kids in college have a veritable industry producing fake ID’s to buy booze, yet the lack of one is seen as a viable way to prevent an entire class of people from exercising the most basic right in a democracy. That is mass disenfranchisement at its most hideous. We’ve got to get these people ID’s. I’m actually less disturbed by their inability to vote than I am about their lack of ID. In today’s world, if we have people walking around without the basic means of participating in this electronic society, then we are not looking out for our brothers.
I worked in human services for years and I was very aware of the fact that most of my clients were people of color and most of my co-workers were white. One needs to tread lightly and not try to be the great white hope or something. But we can do a better job of trying to work alongside the people of color who are working in the neighborhoods and give them support and numbers. We are still a segregated society but we need to overcome our fears and get out into the streets and do the work of God and man.

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