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Sat May 30, 2020, 01:01 PM

Today's Hurricane

"In those days, I identified with the ideas of Malcolm X, his philosophy of 'by any means necessary,' rather than what I misinterpreted as the passivity of Dr. Martin Luther King" Rubin "Hurricane" Carter; Eye of the Hurricane; Lawrence Hill Books; 2011; page 62.

In the past couple of days, two of my best friends -- people who I've been close to for many years -- have contacted me, asking for some encouragement in these difficult days. I wish that I had some meaningful insight, and I do anticipate that in the future, things will improve. But I suspect that in the near future, say the summer of 2020, a number of significant social dynamics will get worse.
Until Trump is defeated in November, and removed from office in January, there will be more destruction to the foundation of our society. Intelligent people question if when defeated, Trump will cooperate with the peaceful transition of power that as defined the previous changes in administrations. I think that's a valid question. But before our nation reaches that point, we have to deal with what will be the long, hot summer of 2020.

Older forum members know the implications of the phase "long, hot summer." Malcolm used to speak about when conditions created a powder keg. He noted that you could toss burning matches at that keg, and nothing would happen. But if a spark hit a little fuse, there would be a big explosion. He knew that sparks fly during long, hot summers.

The brutal murder of George Floyd is highly disturbing to all good people. To me as an individual, it makes me physically sick to see even a still shot of that thug's knee on that man's neck. Yet that physical reaction is mild compared to the psychological pain of that single picture. It brings back memories that haunt me, of family and friends who have suffered similar attacks by vicious thugs. I feel every thing.

I experience mixed emotions while watching the protests in the streets of our nation's cities. I am encouraged to see young people on the front lines, demanding social justice. My mind wanders back in time, to when I was young and on those front lines. I think about one afternoon, when a small group of friends gathered at Onondaga Chief Oren Lyon's cabin. Two close friends, Lisa and Jim, along with myself and my two small sons, drove Chief Paul Waterman to this meeting.

It was a crazy time, really, but inside Oren's home, it was peaceful. Paul gave an outline about the specifics of the struggle we were involved in, and what Lis, Jim, and I were doing. I remember Oren smiling, and saying he was reminded of back when Paul and him were on the front lines when they were our age. Now, he said, they were Elders, and played a different role, one that coordinated with young adults to produce the best possible outcomes. For they had confronted te same issues, in different contexts, and could thus provide a voice of experience for us, as well as speaking to the larger society.

Both Martin and Malcolm were young men on the front lines. History records Martin being involved in protests in the streets more often than Malcolm, but there is a chapter in Malcolm's career that is important, one that I think too few young people know about. In 1957, the NYC police violently attacked three NOI members, causing Hinton Johnson severe head injuries. The police were holding Johnson at a station, denying him the emergency medical treatment required to save his life.

Soon, black citizens were gathering outside that police station, including a large number of NOI members. At first, the police denied Malcolm's attempts to get Johnson medical attention. But when the chief saw more than 500 people, in single file, surrounding the station, the dynamics changed. The police could not get the crowd to disperse. But after agreeing to get the victim of police brutality the medical attention, Malcolm shocked the police by giving a simple wave that got the crowd to leave in an orderly manner. A cop who was watching told a reporter, "No man should have that much power." As Malcolm later noted, he meant no black man.

Both Malcolm and Martin began to see the problem as being one of "human right," rather than simply "civil rights." I think that answers any question about why white people are protesting with black and brown people in America's streets today. I find myself thinking about the many marches and protests that I participated in as a young man. I am honest enough with myself to recognize that while I generally used good judgement, that wasn't always the case after the sun went down if I had been consuming alcohol.

My older daughter called me Thursday morning. She had just been hired to work for the head of the city council in one of America's largest cities. She'll be doing community outreach to marginalized populations. We talk about that, and then about other current events. When we get off the phone, I find myself thinking about being older than Oren and Paul were that afternoon they met with three young adults in Oren's cabin.

My adult sons remember that meeting primarily for all the treats Oren had for them while the adults were busy. Now it's their turn to be the young adults. (Note: any person 50 or under is "young" in my opinion.) Both are horrified by the brutal murder of George Floyd. It is a constant topic of conversation. During the week, I get more time to speak with my younger son, who has a passion for understanding systems -- including how dysfunction impacts them. At this point in time, he is better at organizing the various factors involved, and I enjoy listening to him present his ideas for orderly, systematic change. He understands that consequences are never coincidence.

I listen to him as I work on expanding my garden. Actually, he does any and all of the heavy work. Last year, he built a large labyrinth, with raised beds, that tells a story of history as one approaches the center. Being both Irish and Taurus, his stone work has perfect balance, down to the smallest detail. And even in the huge boulders -- the ones my friends my age shake their heads at, and ask how one person could have moved them such a distance.

I have purposely made the expanded beds outside of the labyrinth off-balance. Since he notices detail, I explained this is because the outside world always seems somewhat out of balance, and that one must go inside in order to be able to maintain balance. When the outside world is spinning faster and faster, seemingly out of control, Find your center. And that's not just a physical place -- a labyrinth, a sweat lodge, or where ever -- it is inside yourself.

Find that balance inside, recognizing what role you are currently in, and then and only then can we see what it is that we can and must do at this strange and dangerous time.

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