Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Being a Creative Maladjusted

This week George Zimmerman was released on bail.  His family had to come up with about $15,000 to get him bonded out on $150,000, and he was responsible for his own security. He did not tell the court that he had over $200,000 in a Pay Pal account donated by supporters of his fatal action. I so wanted to believe this man was a good man who made a terrible, irrevocable error, even knowing that he continued to trail Trayvon Martin after the police told him not to. I wanted to believe he was truly remorseful when he publicly apologized in court to Trayvon’s parents. But sometimes I give people too much credit. Then the disappointment I wear like a shroud smothers me in reality.
Wake Forest University announced the 50th anniversary of its integration on April 27, 1962. It was the first private Southern university to allow integration of students. Prior to the integration effort many (all white) Wake Forest students had joined a lunch counter protest, similar to the historically famous one staged in Greensboro, by students of the historic black college Winston Salem State University. The timing and the environment were right for university officials to open Wake Forest to integration before the federal government forced them to. Martin Luther King would deliver a speech on campus just months later on October 12th, nine months before he organized the March on Washington in 1963, an event that propelled him to national prominence.
The Charlotte Observer published a short AP wire story on October 13, 1962.
“Maladjustment is Needed – King.” 
Rev. Martin Luther King, 35-year-old Negro integrationist, told 2,200 white and Negro persons here Thursday night that the biblical prophets, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus were all “maladjusted to the evils around them.”  The Baptist minister said the hope of the world lies in the emergence of “a society of the creative maladjusted.”  King received a standing ovation after his talk in Wake Forest College’s Wait Chapel.

I was about to turn five in April 1962 in a suburb of Albany, NY, and I had no idea that there were places some people weren’t allowed to be. My father’s best friend, Harold VanZandt, was a black man, and I loved him and he me. I had no reason to think he would be treated differently than my father. It wouldn’t occur to me, that fall when I entered kindergarten, that there was not a single black child in my class. Nor would there be for my entire school career, although there were a few black children in the district – about forty in my high school of 3000 students. I also never had a black teacher. Was Wake Forest progressive and caring or were they simply bending under the tide of change?
I read a great post, A Complete Guide to 'Hipster Racism', by Lindy West on It’s over the top, comical, honest, well written, and a must read. I wish I could find my humor about this shit. But I can’t, not in public at any rate because I worry that the people who need to won’t get the joke. Besides, I’ve lived this, and most incidents weren’t funny; they were scary. In private is another story – we joke about it all the time.
I read about Peter Keller in the news, a survivalist who lives in the state of Washington and who killed his wife and daughter, set the house on fire to cover up the murders, and headed to the underground bunker he spent eight years constructing and stockpiling with food, supplies, and arms.  What is an American trying to survive? And why didn’t he include his wife and daughter? Perhaps it is the perceived war being waged against his socio-political beliefs and status as a white man. I find it confusing and irrational, since we are a country rich in resources, enough for everyone and more, if we were of a generous collective mind, a be like Jesus collective mind. In some ways it makes more sense for the have-nots to be in survivalist mode – but I guess they don’t stand to lose what the haves stand to lose – wealth, power, and the ability to oppress others. But survivalists often feel disenfranchised and excluded from the elite. It’s tough to be white and not feel the privilege that one expects will go with whiteness. Disenfranchisement creates angry white men, although those same men cannot understand the anger of disenfranchised minorities.
Amendment One is up for vote in North Carolina on May 8th. If it passes it will change the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Same sex marriages are already illegal in this state, but this is a last holdout state in the South as far as amendment changes, and some people don’t care to be different about it. They want the power of the Bible in their constitution, to forget the necessary and legal separation of church and state, so they can say they’ve saved sinners from themselves. But we are all sinners and we could all use saving when you look at us from the Old Testament point of view, which is the section of the Bible many proponents of this amendment are quoting from. Forget the good news of the New Testament.
I remember my Catholic upbringing. I imagined my soul like a glass bottle of milk, white with dark spots like rot or cancer or the floaters that now obscure my vision sometimes when I awaken in the gray of dusk. Those spots represented the sins tarnishing my spiritual pureness. In the Catholic religion there are different kinds of sins.
Mortal sins are grave sins, they destroy a person’s charity, and they were listed as follows up until 2008: lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride. In 2008 Bishop Girotti redefined them as follows: polluting, genetic engineering, being obscenely rich, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia, and social injustice.
For a sin to be considered mortal, three conditions must exist: it is a grave matter; it is committed with full knowledge that it is a mortal sin; and that it is committed with full consent.
Venial sins are less serious. While mortal sins destroy a person’s charity, venial sins merely weaken it. Both can be forgiven, as well as original sin (which is forgiven through Baptism), but not blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That is considered an eternal sin.
Those that blaspheme the Holy Spirit, for example, by claiming God wants them to be elected or that they are speaking for God against others, are facing certain damnation. Legislate that.
This past week while Ronald and I were out, we saw a truck with its grill decorated with a Confederate flag and a car with a Confederate flag vanity plate just a few minutes later. A photograph of a lynching in Marion, IN, popularly used as a postcard in the 1930s, popped up on my computer screen as I was doing a search. The burned bodies of two black men hanging from a tree, surrounded by a mob of white men, women, and children, some of whom smile at the camera, inspired the poem and song Strange Fruit penned by Abel Meeropol and sung by Billie Holiday. Every time I see the photograph my stomach turns and my disappointment in humanity turns to horror.
Last night I watched a show on the history channel, Third Reich. The first world leader to use “the communist threat” to strike fear in the masses was Adolf Hitler in 1933. He systematically eradicated communists, then Jews (six million by the end of the war), from Germany. He ordered the involuntary sterilization of over 400,000 people in 1934 alone for reasons such as blindness, deafness, homosexuality, promiscuity, alcoholism, and physical deformity in the quest to eradicate genetically inferior humans. Aryan couples were encouraged to have as many children as possible. Germany needed “better Germans [and] more of them.” Teenage Aryan girls were placed in camps where they were impregnated. The unwed girls were known as “the Fuehrer’s brides.”
I learned the interesting fact that Hitler rose to power with only 37% of the people’s support of the Nazi party. Take note. Sounds like conservative right numbers here in America. The Moral Majority that is really the Moral Minority shouts louder and more vehemently to deliver its subliminal message of hate and oppression.
Within fifty-two days of Hitler coming to power, the government suspended freedom of the presses, tapped telephones, and opened and read mail. People supported the effort because they believed it was for the greater good, and they turned in neighbors and even family members in their vehemence to be accepted into the Reich. Time Magazine named Hitler Man of the Year in 1935. By 1938 he planned to conquer the world. Many people around the world, including many Americans, were philosophically in agreement with him. The US also engaged in involuntary sterilization and human subject experiments.
Today is my twin daughters’ birthday. I had hoped for a better world when I gave birth to them. Someone showed me a book soon after Ronald and I started dating in 1976 titled The Browning of America. I remember telling the person that showed it to me that Ron and I were doing our part. I thought that trend would stop racism and further the civil rights movement. I thought feminism would rid the world of gender oppression. But both movements have only brought out how very racist and misogynistic the fabric of our society is, and in many ways our progress has created a nasty backlash.
I realize I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m from some other planet, wishing for it, perhaps, as I witness this world that appears like a science experiment gone terribly wrong. In his speech at Wake Forest, King said he was maladjusted to “some things in our social order . . . and would hope that men of goodwill all over would be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized.” I am one of the creative maladjusted.

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