Friday, July 3, 2015

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro
by Frederick Douglass

A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say that I am to deliver a Fourth of July Oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for me. It is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to he overcome in getting from the latter to the former are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birth day of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, as what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. l am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot's heart might be sadder, and the reformer's brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young.-Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is, that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your "sovereign people" (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

It's Father's Day today. It seems like the thing to do is dig through photo albums and post some vintage paternal deliciousness of our childhoods. So dig I did, as I did with Mother's Day, finding some of my favorite pictures of my dad.

It's a little startling to look back at this pictures. Looking back I'm shocked that I've not ever really noticed how much I look like my father. We aren't doppelgängers, but if I look closely at his hands and arms, or especially his eyes, I can see my own.

And that hair. That unruly hair. It has been the bane of my existence, requiring highly trained professions to shape and a cabinet full of products to seal in place. Dark--almost black--when I was young and now slowly softening into the same white hair.

While my mom is outrageous and direct with her humor, my dad has always been a little more on the quiet side. He is the trixter of the family, always seeming to have secret knowledge of what is at hand (or about to be at hand) and engages in some sort of shenanigans behind the scenes.


We all that Maggie Russell Berkes to thanks for this little memory. She made me think of it and add it to this blog post. I have a feeling she's a trickster, too. It's why I like her.

One year my father, sister, and I drove to Florida from our home in Ohio. Normal families might stop somewhere and spend the night. I'd even settle for a semi-normal family that stopped for a civilized meal and restroom break. Things worked differently in the Mihalko family.

My dad appears to have had a bladder that could make it all the way to Florida. Our rest stops would last only long enough to fuel his car up (the worst trip ever was when we had a diesel car (I think I sustained permeant damage to my pistachio sized bladder). That, however, is a story for another day.

We were just underway--somewhere in Ohio--and I already had to pee. I was trying to distract myself. I noticed out the window a particular bird that was flying backward.

"Dad! What kind of bird is that that is flying backward?"

"It's an Olentangy Bird, son. They are very rare."


I believed my dad, of course. I was in grade school and my dad knew everything. My how things change.

I was in my late 30s when I next thought of the Olentangy Birds. I was driving down the highway looking for a place to stop and pee and noticed some birds flying backward.

"That god damned trickster."

I called my dad and probably called him a god damned trickster.

Profanity is generally accepted in my family and expressed as a sign of love. My mother once called me a little prick. I responded that some day I hoped to be a big prick just like my daddy. Laughter ensued and we forgot whatever it was we were arguing about.

"You remember those god damned birds that fly backward? Do you have any idea how many people I've told about the birds?

My dad starts laughing. I could picture exactly how he looks when he laughs. He gets this trickster look in his eyes that is pure delight--his, not necessarily mine.

"You're just figuring this out now? We were passing over the Olentangy River and I saw the sign."

I wonder what else I'll discover to be another one of my father's jokes?

welcoming me to the world
shoulder rights are the best--wish I still fit
napping appropriate at any age
my first of endless shaves....
getting ready for Niagra Falls
gone fishing
(note our complimentary hats)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Happy Pride

As Pride month begins, social media is filled with images and experiences representing the experiences of [mostly white] LGBT people in the United Sates. I try to spend some time looking outside of our shores to learn about the experiences of LGBT people in other countries, as well as the experiences of LGBT people in the United States that are not often represented in mainstream media.

It is one way that I remind myself of the richness of our shared human experience.

This clip comes from Pink Dot SG. Started in Singapore, Pink Dot festivals are being held through Asia (in in Toronto, Canada, and Utah, USA).

Friday, May 29, 2015

I am waiting

I Am Waiting
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Do I listen?

Take a listen to Lalita Amos talk on two radical ideas about listening. She is magical.

"What I figured out is that I had had been bumping up against two broad common listening barriers... That is listening for agreement and listening for threat."

I hope you take a few minutes to listen to her, and think of the commentary in your mind that creates some of the noise that prevents us from truly listening to the other. You'll learn something--and laugh too. I promise.

Maybe we can all learn to "squint with our ears to really hear what people are saying by listening more deeply and completely." Make your next conversation one that opens you to a "new future."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Mom and me when I was 12 hours old
I was looking through Facebook this evening and it was replete of funny, heartwarming, and bittersweet images friends with their mothers. A few years back I took custody of most of my childhood photos when my parents downsized and moved into a smaller home. My mom thought my Civil War era closet-free home might have more storage options than their new downsized home. 

I digress.

If we paid attention in high school biology class we know the stuff our bodies and minds are made up of come from the genetic material of our mother and father. 

Did you know that the genetic material of a baby spreads throughout the body of its mother and circulates around her body for the rest of her life

Happy mother's day, mom. Is it a surprise that I grew up to become anything other than the irreverent psychologist? 

Halloween with my sister, mom, and unidentified elf.

My mom graduating from BW with a degree in psychology
My dad in all his 70s glory
My sister demonstrating her early superiority

Graduating from BW with my degree in psychology

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Do you know Yusor Abu-Salha?

Take a few moments out of your day to listen to this heartbreaking interview Yusor Abu-Salha did with her teacher for Story Corps. Yusor, if you don't know, was recently murdered in North Carolina. 

A man "upset about parking" stormed into her apartment and murdered Yusor along with her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. 

There are so many senseless murders. Every day, more happen, and we lose more voices as the death toll adds up. Take a moment to learn what the world lost here and here

From the Story Corps interview:

Read more here:

"I would like people to know and remember her as a practicing Muslim, as a daughter, and above all, as a good human being. When we write our comments on report cards we say they exceeded our expectations. She exceeded our expectations."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Gay and Lesbian Senior Citizens Share Some Advice

Just the other day I was talking to my mother about how damaging it is that gay men lost nearly a whole generation of men who would have been the elders of my community now.

...and now I come across this video. Take a listen to the touching advice shared by a group of gay and lesbian senior citizens.