A visit to the Civil Rights Museum at the Greensboro sit-in site (a reprise in honor of brave young people)

Yesterday, I had some free time in the Greensboro, North Carolina area and decided to revisit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Why Greensboro? For those of you are old enough to remember or know your history, the museum incorporates and builds off the actual Woolworth’s lunch counter where four African-Americans started a movement of non-violent sit-ins. The story of this daily sit-in helped bring about change along with many other efforts. Our tour guide whose mother used to bring her to Woolworth’s to shop, said the operative word they had to overcome was “separatism.”

In an attempt to protect the whites from the significant misconceptions about African-American citizens, “separate, but equal” laws were passed to allow discrimination to continue under the guise of the law. These Jim Crow laws, as they were called, came about to show that society need not have to integrate to give rights to its African-American citizens. The ugly truth is separatism was not very equal and continued to put down and discriminate against African-Americans in perceived legal and moral ways. There were some whites who spoke out before the overt discrimination became more apparent, but we had far too many leaders in business, government and faith communities who perpetuated this maltreatment.

The list of examples in the museum of discrimination and the fight to alleviate it are significant in number and impact. It makes you feel ashamed, disillusioned and angry that our fellow citizens were treated this way. The bombings, the lynchings, and the beatings are well documented and illustrated. The separate, but very unequal, train station terminals where whites had bigger waiting rooms, restrooms and easements are eye-opening. The separate, but unequal restrooms in stores, where our guide said her mother would tell her to go at home before they went to the store, are indicative. Sitting in the back of the bus, yielding your seat to white person and even the leather straps for standers in the back of the bus versus cushioned straps in the front showed the lack of equality. The Coke machine with two sides, one for whites at 5 cents with the opposite side for African-Americans at 10 cents is separate and very unequal. The voter laws that made it so very difficult for an African-American to register and vote were definitely not equal. And, so on and so on.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) pushed through the Civil Rights Act in the United States. The next year he followed up with the Voters Rights Act. These key pieces of legislation changed the long term and horrible course of inequality America was on. Forced busing to allow for fair and equal education was passed in 1970 sixteen years following the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. LBJ helped change the future in response to the efforts of many from Martin Luther King to John Lewis to Rosa Parks. It was critical that LBJ, a white southerner working with a coalition across political parties was able to shame leaders into doing something for America.

We are much further along than before, but our work is not done. We each need to be mindful of our biases and prejudices we have to various groups of people. We need to be active to voice our concerns over recent state actions by conservatively led states (ironically and sadly like the one in NC) to limit the voting rights of people who are primarily African-American, under the disguise of doing something against voter fraud. Rampant voter fraud has been proven not to exist, even as recently as last week with touted data in an attempt to show it does. Some of these laws have been ruled unconstitutional and others are being sued for such as of the time of this post. Make no mistake, these laws are designed to suppress voters who tend not to vote with the conservative side of the ledger. This is masked cheating, which is straight out of Jim Crow book.

What makes this further disturbing is our Supreme Court ruled that parts of the Voters Rights Act are no longer needed. This is one of several decisions made by this court which puzzle and frustrate me. What country do they live in? I see or hear examples of discrimination almost every day. It often is masked with code words or followed by words like “but, I am not a racist.” It would surprise these folks to learn most food stamp recipients are white. Even Senator Paul Ryan parlayed that misconception in some of recent speeches and interviews. The bottom line is it should not matter, as poverty knows no color. I use this as an example of unstated racism in America. It is those people who are in need of aid, so it is OK to cut benefits.

There are Civil Rights museums in several cities. Please frequent them with your children and friends. If you’re near Greensboro, please stop by and tour this well crafted museum. I was pleased to see two bus loads of school children of all stripes leaving the museum when I arrived. This stuff really did happen and discrimination still exists today. Use these occasions as opportunities to discuss what is happening today with others. Per the play and movie “South Pacific” bigotry has to be carefully taught. The converse of this is also true. Let’s carefully teach that discrimination is not right.

Here is a link to the Greensboro Civil Rights Museum. http://sitinmovement.org/

A few thoughts on a rainy Tuesday

It seems like we cannot escape the rain, but at least it is better than ice and snow. Take care and drive safely. Here are a couple of thoughts on this rainy Tuesday.

In the first Harry Potter movie, one of Potter’s dorm mates won his group extra points by standing up to his friends when they were about to do something wrong. The headmaster noted standing up to one’s friends shows more courage than standing up to one’s enemies. Senator Mitt Romney should be awarded more points for his political courage for standing alone as he spoke truth to power. Like Romney, the public servants who testified under oath and at great risk showed courage when they knew they would be punished by “he who should not be named.”

There is an old saying “one should never argue with a street preacher.” Why? If someone is going to stand on a corner and yell for several hours, they may be a tad zealous. Online or on social media, it is hard to identify the street preachers (a metaphor for zealous people). Their views are given too much weight, especially when they are elected officials. Unfortunately, with gerrymandering and tribal politics, some authors of ludicrous statements are better left ignored. When an official advocates killing people for their beliefs, that is not only asinine, it is hate speech. I wish the press would ignore much of the BS spewed by the US president, yet they feel obligated to report it.

Since my computer seems to be hiccupping this morning, let me leave you with those two thoughts. Have a great day.

Courage should be applauded

In the first Harry Potter movie, points were awarded to the young boy who stood up to his friends saying what you are doing is wrong. We should reflect on his courage.

Representative Justin Amash used Independence Day to announce his independence from rhe Republican Party. He cited the hyper-partisan nature of both parties. This follows his lone voice in the Republican caucus saying the president has committee impeachable offenses. No one else in the House or Senate GOP caucus joined him.

His courage should be applauded. He knew he would get a huge push back from a vindictive president and his sycophants. After his announcement yesterday, true to form, the president called him the “dumbest” member of Congress and said good riddance.

Setting aside the president’s typical childish and fact-starved retorts, let’s focus on four points.

– First, Amash is an attorney. People may not care for attorneys, but calling them dumb is not a good defense.

– Second, Amash read rhe Mueller Report. That makes him an outlier, in general, and from this president, who is renowned for not having the patience to study anything.

Third, of many offenses, Amash points to the president ordering White Counsel Don McGahn to alter the record to show the president did not order the firing of Robert Mueller. That is clear obstruction of justice among several others and Amash said it showed deceit.

– Fourth, he felt Attorney General William Barr’s whitewashing of the report is a disservice to Americans.

It should be noted two significant groups of people agree. Republicans for the Rule of Law feel there are grounds for impeachment and have forwarded each member of Congress a highlighted copy of the Mueller Report. Also, over 1,000 former federal prosecutors have signed a letter calling for the same.

The president’s followers tout his toughness. I believe they are mistaking his false bravado for toughness. Lack of accountabilty, lack of truthfulness, lack of decency and lack of courage to fire someone to their face are all evidence to support my contention. When I think of this president, toughness or character are not top of mind.

Amash is standing up against a fervent base of people. His fellow Republican lawmakers should be ashamed for their sycophancy. They know Amash is right, with many saying so privately, but are too scared to publicly agree. Some will even abet the president’s crime by trying to vilify Mueller when he testifies later in the month. Members of both parties applauded Mueller when he was appointed as a man of integrity – please keep that in mind.

Ending with another movie, “The Post,” about The Washington Post publishing the Pentagon Papers after The New York Times was barred from doing so, Katherine Graham is cautioned by a friend who worked for the then president not to run afoul of Richard Nixon. He used the term “ruthless” among more colorful metaphors. Amash knows Trump is ruthless, so his courage is not unlike Ms. Graham’s. Please let your Senators and Congressional representatives know how much you admire Amash’s courage. It is rare.

We bought a zoo – worth the watch

Our blogging friend Holly posted a poem about being courageous, which reminded me of a quote from the movie “We bought a zoo.” The quote is from the father, played by Matt Damon, when he passed on this piece of wisdom to his children, “All you need is twenty seconds of courage.”

But, I am getting ahead of myself. The movie also stars Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Stephanie Szostak and a host of others. It is about the true story of a widowed father buying a run down, small zoo in a bold attempt to reconnect with his kids after they lost their mother.

It is a feel good movie about relationships between families, friends, colleagues and animals. It is peppered with poignant scenes, which I will forego to avoid spoiling it for others.

It is one of those movies I could watch again as there are multitude of interesting characters. The brother, played by Thomas Hayden Church, is the appointed steward of his brother’s wife’s money, as she knew of her husband impulsive behavior. Hayden Smith usually plays a comic foil, so it is a different kind of role for him as he is a conscience to Damon’s character.

Twenty seconds of courage plays a pivotal role in the movie. In essence, the key to making any kind of change is summoning up twenty seconds to act on it. If you can do that, the path forward will open or you will at least have an answer if it does not.

Give it a chance if you have not seen in it. If you have, let me know what you think. For those who have not, you may want to steer clear of the comments to avoid plot reveals.

Courage comes from unexpected sources

Watching the movie “Hacksaw Ridge” for a second time serves as a reminder that you should not underestimate people. The movie reflects the true story of a conscientious objector in World War II who was awarded the Medal of Honor, even though he refused to pick up a weapon.

Desmond Doss enlisted to become a medic, but was almost court martialed for refusing to use his rifle. He was deemed a coward. After his case was dismissed, he went with his fellow troops to Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, a devil of a place where many Americans died. Doss was able to save over 75 wounded Americans, many left for dead, risking his own life. His mantra was “God, let me get one more.”

His courage astounded his fellow troops, some of whom had deemed him a coward before. This speaks volumes to me as courage is not often exhibited by the rah-rah type or the John Wayne like hero. It is the quiet strength to do something, whether it is death defying or standing up for a cause against a tide of popular opinion.

Senator John McCain is a true hero as he survived torture and stood strong with his fellow prisoners to overcome his North Vietnamese captors. In spite of a now-President, who never served, saying McCain was not a hero because he was captured, he was indeed one. And, McCain continues to show his courage throughout his career standing up with unpopular, but morally right opinions.

Former Virginia Senator and Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb is one of these people. Admittedly not perfect, he wrote an OpEd piece in 2002 saying if the US invades Iraq, we better be prepared to remain there 30 to 50 years. He said we need to ask questions such as will this help us diminish terrorism and what will this do to our role in other parts of the world? His position was unpopular, but he was dead on accurate in hindsight. But, even at the time he was posing questions that needed better answers.

Courage is more often exhibited by quiet strength. Some of the most courageous people are women. Female mathematicians who made a difference, like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, the African-American women portrayed in “Hidden Figures,” fought huge uphill battles. Margaret Thatcher, Shirley Chisolm, Rosa Parks, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Gloria Steinem et al all had heavy doses of courage to overcome obstacles.

Mary Sherman Morgan, the first female rocket scientist, is also one of those people. In 1957, she invented a rocket fuel that powered the first Explorer rocket. She noted she was always the only female in her science and math classes, which was intimidating, but her courage helped her persevere.

Maybe that is the appropriate word for having inner strength to “persevere.” So, rather than beat on your chest, just suck it up, do your job, follow your conscience and persevere.