Sunday, July 21, 2013

Obama and the Truth!

I couldn’t help reviewing over and over Obama’s heartfelt off the cuff words on racism in America.

Truly, it’s why Kris and I returned to Canada in 1979. Racism makes the stomach churn then boil and infuriate.

Those three and half years back in USA showed us - through all the sorrow and hard fought victories of the sixties and hundreds years back – the Great Society, We Shall Overcome – March on Selma – a certain segment of America refuses to embrace and engage the future.

Race is incredibly difficult to discuss – one misplaced word will toss you unknowingly in one camp or another.

The core to all of this is history.

My dad was of a generation of white men who mocked and incited. Why? He was dirt poor – the family hit the bottom of the rung during the Great Depression – before that they were tobacco farmers – a long history of hands in the earth. Life down South played by established rules. There had to be a class below. Those were the rules.

Most days we sat opposite ends of the living room. When he began the racial tirades I slipped from view and hid away. We eventually parted company for long stretches of a time.

Eventually, we ran into each other at a family reunion in Pennsylvania years later. Talk was difficult until I thought about the old walk in the woods – air it out stuff.

We did just that. It was the most humble he’d ever been.

I asked him why he carried so much hate in his heart. He didn’t know – only that his daddy did and he was a drunk and lost everything – then died. So, I asked “you need to target someone for this.”

He got defensive..” You can’t feed all those faces in the world – there’s those who survive and those who die.”

I looked at him and asked – “You love Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong” – they are black men.

“Yeah, they’re different.”

In what way I asked… no answer!

Dad never missed a Cassius Clay bout – and ranted for days about the loud mouth and how a white man should shut him down. He would never allow him be Ali. Why a white man?

No response.

I thought about this and how dad fit in this world. He honestly loved the culture of black. What he couldn’t accept was his declining role calling the shots. The world was expanding and he wasn’t.

Dad had many black friends which posed a moral dilemma. He traveled, he fished and bragged about his friends. But history wouldn’t allow him fully embrace.

He was a far better man the last ten years of his life. Much more open and his tirades cartoonish. Brother Wayne and I took it in stride. The screaming at Tiger Woods sporting that noxious green Augusta golf jacket which by his account belong to white men reminded us the guy would ride his racist DNA to the grave in a chariot.

Change comes slowly, only when dead skin sheds and a new one is born.

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