Farewell, old friends

black women friends

A friend is feeling sad these days because of the loss of her long time companions. People who know you from 30 or more years ago are really special. The people who were there through different hair colors, relationships, songs, concerts, having children and having grandchildren and stuff in between. The ones who you could tell anything. People who know what to bring and what not to say.

We meet these people at a certain stage, maybe when we have just arrived in the city and are wondering what will happen. Or maybe we meet them when they move into our neighborhood at a potluck and ask, who made that dish. And before weknow it we are sitting down and talking together.

A lot of this is theory for me because I have difficulty maintaining close friendships. I remember an old girl friend asking me about who were my close friends and not being able to figure that out. But for people who do remain close over a long time, letting go is so painful. But at some point our bodies give way. It can be sudden, in an accident or it could be the gradual wearing away due to diseases. And then there is sadness.

You will always have those many years of memories but you won’t always have those friends. This is the circle of life. Farewell, old friends. Know that you are loved and will be in one another’s dreams.

 

Old Friends

by Simon and Garfunkel, who ironically, were not friends

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears

Why did his son kill himself

I have been reading facebook posts promoting suicide prevention and talking about the need to look after one another. The need to offer support, empathy and resources. But there are so many places where vulnerable are most at risk.

Youths are at risk, people in mental hospitals are at even more risk and the most at risk of violence are in prison. I just read a story in the New Yorker about the story of a young man in the New York state prison system whose father was preparing to send of him a care package only to discover he had been buried 6 weeks earlier. The article by Jennifer Gonnerman, told how Lonnie Hamilton II learned that his son had died on March 18, 2016 when he went to the prison website. His son, Lonnie Hamilton III, had hung himself after becoming increasingly depressed in the Marcy Correctional Facility.

This is a story about an involved father who worked long hours to provide for his children only to lose one of them to crime and seeing his son torn away from the community. It is a story about failure to notify the next of kin about what was happening. There were signs especially self mutilation that should have set off a thousand alarm bells. I don’t think that the prison tried everything possible to assist Lonnie.

These kinds of tragedies happen all too often. I don’t think the prison was set up to meet the needs of a deeply troubled African American young man so he became a casualty. This is a cry for help, action and a replacement for the deconstruction. I would hate for this to happen to one of my nephews and hope people will use these stories

I am the fortunate son

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As many people know, mental illness runs in the family.  All of us in my family have experienced different types of illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia and manic depression. I was more fortunate than my brother in being able to recover and develop resources. I have friends who struggled along with their siblings cycling in and out of the hospital including forced treatment.  i was never subjected to a mental hospital or picked up on the street for engaging in some bizarre behavior. Instead, I recognized that I was not the person who I had been told I would become.

I saw all the warning signs and decided to heed them. Again, I see a positive in my deciding I didn’t want to live like that. Recognizing that you need help and then actually need help can be painful. Some people literally may need to crash into a wall. And others unfortunately, may crash through the wall, leaving their loved ones behind to cry and wish that there something more they could have done. I am a peer support specialist certified by the State of Wisconsin and I can help see you through the woods.

What more is there to say?

black woman with blue eyes

 

 

This has been one of those horrible weeks where one looks out into the city and sees chaos. I am not going to repeat everything here because if you have been awake you have seen the murders of two black men and the equally horrendous murders of police yesterday. It seems that we are making the same move over and over. A black person encounters the police for seemingly innocuous reasons: routine traffic stop, for example, and the police officer becomes unusually aggressive. When the black person attempts to respond he or she is either pulled out of their vehicle or shot while still in the car. The person may also be tackled, pepper sprayed and shot dead. The family becomes angry and asks for justice for their loved one. There is an investigation, very rarely a trial and even there there is no conviction for the taking of black lives on the street.

The president is often part of this scenario as white racists claim that having a black president has divided the country. One former congressman even threatened to kill President Obama and then deleted it. This most recent tragedy was twisted by the fact a one or more snipers in Dallas took advantage of a peaceful protest to begin opening fire, killing and wounding.

So, those are the facts. The NRA and the politicians they own will saw, how dare anyone try to limit unfettered access to deadly weapons, high powered magazines and everything that goes with it. One possible answer came during the press conference held by the Dallas chief of police and the mayor who mentioned that their police department is trained to de-escalate conflict. That was part of the sadness that they must be feeling. They want to be able to protect citizen’s rights. That sounds like a reasonable and sound approach to take.

It is not time for war, as the New York Post screamed. It is time for comfort, sorrow and solutions. Black lives matter is not about murder. It’s about freedom and dignity. We want the police to treat us the way you would want to be treated.

Are you excited about the end times yet?

I  have heard that there are Christian evangelicals who thinking about the so-called end times in which there will be a major battle between Christians and Muslims. When I worked for a progressive agency years ago one of my coworkers discussed this idea. I was scared and repulsed by the idea.

In a fight between two religious beliefs I would choose neither one. I’m not surprised that the so-called Islamic State is drawing on the idea of the big war between Christian and Muslim forces in their version of an end times. Humans, for your own sake, you must choose neither. Atheists don’t start wars and we don’t enjoy blowing ourselves to bits.

 

Is terror a bigger horror than imperialism?

I have been consumed with the horror of the destruction in Paris on Friday. And yet many of my progressive friends and various Africa news sites remind us of the ongoing relationship between France and its former African colonies.

Benin
Burkina Faso
Guinea
Ivory Coast
Mali
Niger
Senegal
Togo
Cameroon
Central African Republic
Chad
Congo-Brazzaville
Equatorial Guinea
Gabon

Due to a series of unequal relationships these countries are independent in name only. When we ask ourselves, why are African countries experiencing poverty and instability, we must look at the roots stemming back to the horrendous scramble for Africa in the late 1800s.

There was a book written called Not Yet Uhuru about the struggle for freedom in Kenya after independent from England. The title applies to most of these countries. And if the horrors of colonialism weren’t enough, radical Islamic groups are carrying out bombings. Africa must be free from imperialism and religious fanaticism. As we help the people of France to heal, they must recognize their duty to remove the yoke of neo-colonialism I am hopeful that a new generation of African leaders will emerge to help make independence a reality.

When a friend is wounded

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America goes back a long ways with France. In fact even before we became the United States large chunks of our country were a French colony. France fought in the French and Indian War. France made some of the same horrible mistakes as the rest of the world, in Haiti, Vietnam, Algeria and elsewhere colonizing and enriching itself on the labor of peoples of color. Bloody wars were fought against France in order to free these people. Sadly, in the case of Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, America blundered in right behind France.The French ideals have been more difficult to live up to in practice.

France has also been a cultural center where American writers and musicians moved to escape the oppressive atmosphere at home. America has come to the aid of France to in wars and that is what we are doing now. But unlike World War II, it is harder to tell where are the front lines and who are the enemies. France sounds like a different country full of expatriates once more. It is hard to say that France must expel a certain group of people because there are more types of French people than ever before.

So in a sense, the terrorists have succeeded. France had begun to recover after the massacre earlier this year at the satirical newspaper. They were going about the country and enjoying autumn nightlife. Now they are in mourning and many of the world’s people will mourn with them. We must do whatever it takes to recapture that sense of safety.