Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

I used to answer telephone calls directed for my husband. The caller would settle for my opinion should he be away. Sometimes a parent of a prospective student called. I could reassure and offer to schedule my home and tour, or explain why hot water was in the toilet in the dorms. If you have followed this blog, you may have read about some creative ideas I come up with.

Late one night, the caller identified herself as a White House scheduler for President Nixon. I was friends with her parents and other family members. But this was a business call for my husband. Not finding him, she asked for my opinion.

Nixon was looking for an African-American (assumed to be male) who had two Ph.ds. One degree in Biophysics and the other in  Psychology.  My initial reaction was what? Yes, in the ’70s more advanced degrees were being earned by African-Americans, both male and female. But it would narrow the field. It seemed a curious combination, but what did I know?

After sharing my confusion, I assured her it would be better to contact John in his office. i also said, in my opinion, this would be a difficulr search. 

I did understand the value Nixon hoped to get. He wanted to understand how his pronouncements would be processed. His headlines on the front pages of newspapers (google ‘newspapers’), in the strongest way, told readers  what he would do.  Then, near the obituaries, a much smaller article would describe how Nixon would take the opposite position.

This allowed President Nixon to do either of these things. If your were for the first action, you were satisfied. Also the opposite action. This left it so  one or neither action could be taken wiithout too much dissent.

This was my opinion and now it helps me understand current politicians and their inconsistent promises. One way to keep the masses happy. 

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What did you talk about around the table on Thanksgiving?
Predictions were that current elections and the possibility of war would be top topics. After the sumptuous meal, for the fortunate ones, the grown-up table talk increases. 
We were among guests who shared personal experiences, opinions, and concerns. A small group of adults who spanned five generations. Our common characteristics: African American. We were all employed. (The most senior are employed at staying well and alive.) We shared our middle class-ness, regardless of the path to arrive there. Each person speaking from their own generation: spokes in a wheel.
I have been trying to find symbols that represent what was most important, and disturbing. Were I a composer, I think I would make music. A better writer, perhaps a pamphlet of opinion, a summary and possible conclusions. I might save characterization for a future novel. 
But I am primarily a visual artist. One who usually thinks content before making art. I want symbols where there were no cymbals at the table. The words radiated out from the heat off the sun and cooled as they were politely spoken. Drawn childlike. At the center, each of us spoke from the core of hurts, large, small, deep. Too painful to admit. Lava-like flowing on the outside of a hardened inner core. Too painful to go deeply.
Perhaps, a ball of twine wrapped around a stone. Sometimes a ribbon of velvet and silk, sometimes the roughened rope.

Perhaps a basket made by gichee mothers or for Moses. Safe passage except for a tiny hole. 
Perhaps, a fire burned down to ashes and then getting new life, reigniting. How do you express the cycles of history? The collective rebellions shut down by guns? The passiveness of fear? Not telling our children the full extent of the law and its historic significance? Jacob Lawrence painted the tables but could not record the talk around it. Karin Walker’s silhouettes are just eye candy without the words behind them. 
Or, the broken chains. We are left with the comfort meal, some understanding of how we are all connected but no workable solution.

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Every shooting. Every death by gun. Every person clinging for life after gun shots. Every person with physical problems after being shot. Every person living in fear being trapped by a villan with a gun.

Fill in the blanks. We dither along waiting for another gunner, shooting randomly, wounding and kiling. Each time we think of prayer. We call our children home from danger as we know it.but home has villans who we know. School and work have the villan who is a stranger.

We know his gun. It is most often a man. We know he can buy a gun, more weapons, protective clothing and…bullets. We know neither him nor his guns are able to function without bullets.

The Constitution is brought up in every tragic time. The confusing second amendment  talks about being armed and a militia. It was a different time. It was meant to provide security for the citizens in their homes. 

At that time, men made their own bullets.  The materials cost money, needed time and care. Houeholds used a gun for food in rough territory.  Men had a gun to protect the wife and children. The enemies were Native Americans and drunkards. They knew they had to be ready to fight for the country. See the early town histories online like Ashburton, MA. Even in war, when called to serve, they brought their own gun and a few precious bullets. There was time between battles to replace the used bullets.

This was before the Wild West because the West was KY. I enjoy the emails from  a gifted researcher on KY history.

Today our politicians are unwilling to make a plan for homeland safety when the danger is from the gun. It is not an original idea with me. It skirts the Constitutional mythology. It removes individual responibility. It protects the weakness in our government. It avoids the issue of not being able to change people’s behavior. It may do nothing but limit the gun by restrcting the sale of bullets.

How many bullets did early citizens have on average? How many bullets are used to kill one person?  How many bullets do police use to take down a Michael Brown?  Take the best measure. 5? Ten? 20?

Make the legal amount one that can be sold at any one time.  Compare that to what we learn mass shooters, mass killers, bring to te scene. We must sign at Walgreens for drugs taken off the shelves. You no longer can buy enough to make meth. And if you do, there may be a knock at the door.

We must love ourselves and our families enough to find ways to stop the carnage of our children.  By allowing it to continue, to increase in numbers, we become the lawless also. If you go with a bank robber but stay outdoors, you get the same justice. If we do not solve this puzzle, there will be no justice.

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Women Series

Iola (Ida B. Wells)
Oil by Bettye W. Harwell

Lynching is the act of hanging an individual by a group.

I may not post this because this is my personal opinion.  I want to write this for my own clarity. Lynching was never something I came into personal contact with. Living in the North with southern-raised relatives, children were protected from scary things. Still there were the conversations in the corners which made us fearful.

As I became an adult, I came to know about the practice of killing Black men for any reason. These were spontaneously organized by groups of men. No judge, no jury. We are familiar with the Ku Klux Clan formed after the Civil War. By wearing a covering of white, each person remained anonymous. Burning crosses, shooting into homes, culminating with hanging spectacles terrorized communities across the country.

Earlier, the Wild West set the template of justice. Those early hangings, viewed by women and children, were public events. The Law and Order of an earlier day was horrible but at least the hangings were equal opportunity. Lynching became racial and intimidation events. Officials were not acting in their authority but were part of the mob.

These unexpected and unsanctioned attacks deprived families of breadwinners, caused loss of property. They were used to ensure that others knew their ‘place.’ It also caused displacement: Blacks fled their homes looking for safe shelter far away from the dangers. (Finding dangers of another kind?)

Long before Emmit Till, part of my family left the south in small  groups. A great uncle, age 20 and looking white, was being chased for talking to a white woman. The sister was separated from her brother. His former slave mother spent her last years without his comfort. The doctor husband remained in a nearby southern state. What resulted from this new normal?

Finally, the practice of lynching was curtailed by federal laws.

But now we have a new version of lawlessness. Our children are killing each other. In this form, it is also an equal opportunity event. Children of color, with guns, kill those closest to themselves. It is the lawlessness of the Wild West and no one is safe.

By my definition the New Lynchings are encouraged by our laws. It is an individual ‘being the MAN’ event. When there is no accountability for taking a life, our children have no expectation of living a long time. The model is ‘give me respect’, or, with my gun, you lose your life. How sad. Parents live in anguish when cast as polite, understanding people; cast into the TV limelight due to the killing of their child. What effort to face the public with the approved image only to curse the dark when alone.

And if you have other children, yours or your neighbors?  What court? What jury? What comfort for their safety? What price for raising good kids? And if not so good, would that make a killing justified?

In the celebration of Black History Month, we look away from the bad past and the bad today. Will we remember that within some of our lifetimes, in Florida, Blacks had a curfew, could not walk on the sidewalk, and could be arrested without a ‘passport.’ Not slavery times, not too long ago. Will we see the signs on water fountains because some people buy into being separate means safety?

Who knew?

I used to say (facetiously) that you had lived a good life if your son did not ring the doorbell and shoot you. (That happened in our town.) Now you may have to live to bury your child. This is my opinion, but it does not change anything today. Perhaps tomorrow.

Painting: Ida Wells became a civil right leader after learning of the lynching  of three Black men in TN.

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Encaustic wax on Paper

Out of the Dark is Light
by Bettye W. Harwell

In art, as in life, the darkest dark forms the brightest light. A painter sets aside a painting that does not ‘work’. Imperfect  Impulses with Aaron (wordpress.com) is a website demonstrating journaling techniques. A recent post, no video, describes a failed technique. When he attempted something new, it did not get the hoped for results.

I wanted to contact him and say, keep working on it. Put on more layers. In a scrape-off technique, some residue and texture remain. Continue to add, sand, add, scrape to create unexpected glow and depth. Then find the dark that will reveal the light. (A later post uses that page successfully.)

A result will present itself totally unplanned. Then the work will be done. I use a mat to find the best part to save. (Harder to select on canvas. Works on paper can be cut or torn to show the strongest composition.)

If after reworking, you still feel it is hopeless, you have not failed. It was a teachable experience. Start over and apply what was learned. Keep the failure. It may show more promise later.

Why the light in life?
I wondered how long it would take before the reputation of Nelson Mandela, first Black President of South Africa, would be attacked. His services are to cover ten days. World dignitaries and regular people will show their respect for an amazing life. Any death is an opportunity for self-reflection. Are we living our best life?

I wondered if it would take the full ten days before the knives came out. No. Not even two. The words used in the past by people, who themselves were protective of terrible atrocities, dredged up names he was called long ago. Questions have been raised. When did Mandela become a man of peace? When did he stop being a rebel? Was he a communist? And more.

The dark terrible history of the people of South Africa, both Black and white, forced the brightest light. It shaped the man. It shaped a government.

Lessons are learned from both the bad and the good. Some are influenced to emulate the political successes of Mandela, the leader. Others have taken on the resistance skills of the apartheid government. Is America using tactics which limit the apirations of all its citizens? Will we be the model for other governments?

Why compare one leader to anyone but his (or her) own self? Obama/Mandela or Washington/Mandela? Mandela paid his dues after personally enduring his country’s power. Obama has lived a very different life.

Mandela was not chosen to form an army and fight a revolution. He did not form another country, as Washington did. He used freedom and the rights of citizenship for all to make the country of his birth better. Washington and the Founding Fathers used an army and a new government to defeat the British. They accepted a constitution and government calling a large part of the population 2/3 of a man, had no universal right to vote and no recognition of women as full citizens. Mandela used his election to include all citizens fairly.

Who knew?
No man is better or has a higher station than any other.

Newt Gingrich and Senator Cruz are getting a backlash for speaking about the loss of a leader, Nelson Mandela.

Written December 8, 2103

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Did many-times presidential aspirant, really say that he is recruiting billionaires to run for office? Yes, he did. Ralph Nader has decided to pass his mantel to some deserving billionaire. The movement will be decided by a judge of one. Ralph Nader.

His new theory is that a billionaire, as president, would bring forward all of the solutions Nader has promoted. This is based on the realization that he is not the best in the political heat. He did make an effort strong enough to stop Gore from winning. At least, that has been one post-election theory. No one can carry the election without a 51 state organization. Obama has proved that.

But why recruit from billionaires who will answer his call? He said he has received some interest to evaluate. He did say they were in the optimal group because they have demonstrated the welfare of others is important. I can not quote him, but I am certain his words are on the internet.

Nader has, without doubt,a greater knowledge of billionaires than most of us. And there are some good guys. They have the option of spending their money on good causes as they see fit. Or not. They have learned the value of the bottom line. And for some, getting there may not be from being overly generous with workers, consumers, or the under-employed.

But, who am I to have an opinion? Ralph Nader will pick his rich puppet and the voters will decide. I hope to learn the criteria used in his or her selection.

Of the pool of billionaires, how many were born in the U.S.? What business and inheritances made their financial successes? Where and how is their wealth invested? What public statements indicate knowledge and expertise in governing?

In other words, how would a hand-picked candidate, responsible to one man’s idealism, stand up against polished politicians? It might be refreshing. Who knows?

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No Need To Change

Keep your attitudes
Hold onto the fears
Believe what you believe.

Keep your justice
Hold onto the laws
Believe you are safe.

Keep your gates
Hold onto your guns
Believe you are safe.

Keep your children
Hold them close
Believe they are safe.

Keep the verdict
Hold onto Trayvon
Believe he was your son.

Sent from my iPad

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