By Joseph P. Badame
It has been a trying decade to say the least. The eight years of Phyliss’ stroke from 2005 to 2013 were about as awful as one can imagine. The eight years were filled with horror none of us believes can ever happen to us. But, it does, and it did. We all fear that moment when we have to helplessly watch our love die. We never give a thought that the two of us may have to relive that unspeakable vision of suffering nine times – yes, I counted them. Finally, mercifully, the ninth was the last. I have told this story many times in great detail in other books. I’ll not torture you, or myself with the details.
Finally, peace for Phyliss and her eight years and her nine lives were over.
Then, the indefinite years followed – as I slowly died without her. Who knows how many more of those there will be? Various attempts at resuming a normal life have all met with little or no success. Actually, you are now reading the one and only success in three years, that of discovering a new “career.” I guess I am being somewhat self-aggrandizing. A career is usually thought of as an occupation or employment with a reasonable expectation of some compensation. The words “author” and “compensation” really don’t belong in the same sentence for most. Very few can make a living at authoring and even fewer can make a good living. But, maybe that’s to be covered in another free e-book.
My basement office has become my world, my sanctuary. Now that Phyliss is gone, this keyboard has become my constant companion. It always does what I tell it, and it never disagrees with me. We have never had an argument or disagreement, and we converse very well. We seem to have the same tastes and think alike. We are constantly “in touch.” What a friend it is. It is always there when I need it, and it is a superior communicator.
All these years, I am not sure why I have referred to “it” as “it.” Now that I think of it, I don’t even know if is an “it,” or a “she,” or a “he,” or for that matter “something in between.” Now I know why the keyboard and I are so close. My perfect companion is a true contemporary for today’s identity-confused world. A keyboard can be a friend to everyone and at the same time offend no one – a perfect entity. That’s a great word. We should all be considered “entities.” Why has no one thought of that? Wow, that would save a lot of conflict and confusion. In those intrusive boxes on applications labeled “M” or “F” we can now write, “entity.”
But, I digress. What does all of this have to do with chicken sandwiches?
Oh, I was alone in the basement office with my keyboard. Naturally, I had to leave the basement sometime, you know eat, bathroom, feed the cat, feed the chickens, sleep, go to the mail box, see if the sun was still doing its, her job, his job, oh this is getting confusing. Today, I thought I would venture out. I am not much of a meat eater, but I do like chicken and coincidently eggs as well.
Sadly, I am not the only one who likes chicken and eggs. I went out yesterday to feed the chickens and found a bunch of neat piles of white chicken feathers. Apparently, the local raccoons enjoy the lady “leghorns” as much as I do. This event instigated what I would do to venture out. I thought, “If the raccoons can enjoy a chicken dinner, why can’t I?” “How about having a meal at “Chicken-fil-A?” The cows will be happy.
But, I reconsidered, “Aren’t they part of that conglomerate that wants to kill large portions of the wildlife population and make sandwiches out of them.? – sort of like soylent green from the dystopian society in the movie – only in this case soylent white meat. But, what do I care, everyone has some little defect in their past that they want to hide. Don’t they? So, off I went on my demented venture without even a tinge of morality or conscience about killing and eating living things or destroying the planet for future generations standing in my way.
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I arrived before lunch. The restaurant was not crowded. There was no line. Since I had never eaten there before, it took a few minutes to look at all the pictures and prices. I was impressed with how much the chain was involved in community service. And, my goodness they were closed on Sunday’s. What planet had I landed on? But, alas, I had to decide how much I wanted to harm my body and the Earth. I decided I would harm my body and the Earth a great deal.
I looked up and there were six eager young people with smiles, ready to serve me. They were of every type, color, and gender. I thought I was at the United Nations. I had a hard time deciding who should wait on me. Of course, being the disgusting, perverted, chauvinist that I am, I picked the loveliest female among them. The others looked so forlorned and rejected that I had not selected them. I didn’t feel too bad about my selfish action since I was sure there soon would be other opportunities and other patrons to calm their disappointment. Wow, the lovely lass asked if she could help the next client. I was a client. I don’t ever remember being a client – at least not in a restaurant.
Even though I had made my selection using attractiveness alone as the major criterion, it turned out to be a superior choice. She was efficient, and knew all the right questions to ask. She gave me a tray and a funny cone-shaped object that had some secret qualities about it that told the server which meal was mine. I asked her about it, but the explanation was too complicated for my ageing brain to figure out. She seemed to know her job very well despite her good looks. (Oh, will I get into trouble for that one. Just kidding, honestly, lovely ladies)
I paid for the meal, (she wouldn’t give me the meal for free no matter how charming I tried to be) and as I was ready to leave for my table, somehow, magically another young lady appeared with my meal. How she got the message, I have no idea. As far as I could tell there were no under counter buttons, lights, signs or verbal commands. I looked around to see if anyone else was noticing. They were not even aware of the magic. It was somewhat creepy. I suspect it was some sort of mental communication that they started teaching after I left school. It was a little frightening. The cashier took my payment and the funny cone, imagine. The encounter ended with, “It was my pleasure to serve you.” Oh, my. I couldn’t help wondering if she were being entirely honest about the pleasure part.
As I turned to search for a comfortable table, a couple of young black men with dark colored hoodies with their hands in their pocket whispering to each other came in. No one jumped, nobody screamed, nobody reacted, and no one jumped them and I don’t believe anyone called 911. The patrons and the staff all just treated them like the real people that they were. I am embarrassed to admit that my first instinct was to run for the door. I am kidding of course. Really, I am. I guess the reality of the circumstance has very little humor.
I could not help but think, “The world seems to have lost its collective mind.” Everyone is fighting to get to the front of the line – “Black Lives Matter,” “White Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter.” Sometimes it appears that while everyone is yelling his or her slogan louder and louder and with more and more anger, the more the reality becomes that just possibly, “No Lives Matter.”
As I walked to a table, I noticed that the “clients” were indeed a cross section of the family of man. It was truly a melting pot of genders, sizes, shapes, races, and even languages. It reminded me of Rodney King of “Can’t we all just get along” fame during the Los Angeles Riots. Indeed, it appeared that we were all just getting along after all. I thought, “Why can’t we just be left alone by our leaders and special interest groups, so that “We can all continue to just get along.”
What we see in the real world seems incongruent with what we see in the media every day. Was “Chick-fil-A” a tiny island of harmony in the vicious sea of life – a tiny oasis of peace and tranquility in the unforgiving desert of bias, bigotry, and discrimination? I never thought so, I still don’t think so.
Every place I went before stopping to eat and every place I went after was the same. All I saw was not just civility but downright harmony. It seemed to be the norm, not the exception.]
Then why are there so many factions getting disproportionate attention in the media telling us that there is nothing but disharmony and conflict. And some are apparently beginning to believe that. It appears that the only disharmony and conflict is that created by those who control the media. It seems that we are constantly being told and led to believe that we deserve something we are not getting or we are giving something we should not be giving. Everyone is keeping score, making sure that he or she gets “his or her share” and even someone else’s share. Why? We live in the most prosperous nation in the history of mankind. There is plenty for everyone if we just were not being taught to be such introspective and self-centered bean counters grabbing everything we can get and making sure that it is more than what the next guy is getting.
We are being brainwashed into to believing that life is a zero sum game. That in order for us to be successful and have abundance means that others must be unsuccessful and needy. Where is that written? There is plenty for all who are willing to work for it. And, for those who have fallen on hard times? There is plenty for them as well, if only those of us who are more fortunate than they just lend a helping hand.
What is not needed is a cold, anemic, and detached helping hand with “sticky fingers” to skim most of the benevolence off for its own gratification. Generosity transmitted through the insatiable government monster fed with our taxes and programs seems to always encounter a lengthy detour on its way to the downtrodden and those with a broken spirit. Rather what is needed is person to person, one on one, human to human helping hands – millions of them to comfort those who are adrift in a sea of hopelessness, many times through no fault of their own.
[_ The week before, I was privileged to participate in Habitat for Humanity in Baltimore with 40 young people and many of their parents from our church. The trip was preceded by a year of fundraising and planning and organization. It was executed at a human scale but with the precision of a well-planned military exercise. The result was a truly life- changing experience and joy observing these young people and counselors function like an unstoppable machine of compassion. Their energy was boundless, working to benefit those they never met and who would never meet them – hundreds of anonymous offerings of kindness of time and energy, freely given. The good works all happened under a blanket of generosity that appeared and disappeared without a ripple in the human psyche. _]
Every day, thousands of these acts of kindness are occurring in America and all around the world – mostly executed serendipitously, mostly without notice, praise, acclaim or reward, and without expectation of recompense or adulation.
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One of the more recent major outbursts of racial discord surfaced during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The riots resulted in 55 deaths, thousands of injuries and arrests and engendered millions of pages of commentary in the last 24 years. The public perception was that it was focused on race. That is correct, but there is a sub-story seldom told.
Over the years, two names seem to stand out – Rodney King and Reginald Denny. The reason for the riots fermented over a period of decades. But, the story of the riots started with Rodney King. Rodney King did not instigate the riots, but his unfortunate encounter with police is what ignited the tinderbox of racial unrest and smoldering feelings between the citizenry and the police.
King had been incarcerated for robbery and was on parole when police began pursuing him for speeding one night. He attempted to evade the police and a high-speed chase ensued. When it ended, King wound up on the ground with a half-dozen police surrounding him and four white police officers attempting to subdue him. The intoxicated and uncooperative King resisted arrest, however the police officers were caught on video tape brutally kicking him and beating him with batons. Eventually they took him into custody, lying by the roadside until he was removed.
Later, King said he attempted to evade police to prevent loosing his job and going back to prison for violating his parole for a DUI infraction and previous robbery. The brutal and unwarranted attack fomented national outrage and later culminated in the riots when the community exploded after the four white officers were acquitted of any wrongdoing.
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In the case of Reginald Denny, he had the misfortune of unknowingly driving into the middle of the riot in his concrete truck. While stopped at a red light, he was pulled from the truck, beaten and attacked with a near fatal blow to the head with a brick by one of the rioters. As with King, the entire episode was captured on video tape, this time from a news helicopter. Unlike the four white officers who beat Rodney King, four local black men, some of whom saw the beating on live TV, are credited for rescuing Denny from scene. Another black resident was credited for rescuing an Hispanic man who had also been attacked. These events were not widely publicized by the press.
What was lost and/or “forgotten” in the unfortunate stories of Rodney King and Reginald Denny is the mercy of forgiveness of a white man and a black man for their brutal attacks by those of another race in the midst of this racially-charged tragedy.
In the middle of the days of rioting, Rodney King who was not known as a public speaker expressed a heartfelt and emotional plea for calm to everyone swept up in the medley. From his impassioned presentation came the, now famous, invocation, “Can’t we all just get along.” It was quite a profound and simple plea from a simple man who had his share of associations with law enforcement. While he had every right to demand revenge, his sincerity seemed to connote and intimate a feeling of dismay that he had been in the middle of a horrific event that had caused pain to thousands. And through all of that, he never expressed a tinge of anger toward the unwarranted police attack. His tone and his manner did much to quell the riots.
King seems to have been one of those souls described above as drifting in a sea of hopelessness in need of help. Twenty years later one might say the riots indirectly “killed” King when he drown in his swimming pool as the result of a drug overdose. The pool was built with the $3,500,000 suit against the attack by the police. How sad.
As for Reginald Denny, he displayed an equal measure of mercy and forgiveness for his attackers as well and concentrated on the four black men who saved his life. Despite his near death experience and years of considerable handicaps, he refused to express hatred toward those who released their anger on him, an innocent man who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The brave men who rescued him and the other man appear to be relegated to the legions of the forgotten – not newsworthy, I guess.
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Mankind learns many lessons as time passes. It is a pity that they are the very same lessons over and over again. It appears that a generation is just enough time to forget the lessons of the past for the next generation to start at the beginning to learn all over again. The lessons of social harmony and respecting our fellow man seem to be most difficult to learn and retain. We cling so tightly to our past transgressions and bias that they become so difficult to put away. If we could only learn from those wiser than we.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
1 Corinthians 13:11
It seems that few have learned little from this wise passage in the bible.
He who shuns wisdom shall have none.
The question is: if these two quite ordinary men of different races could put aside the horror of their unwarranted attacks both inflicted by others of another race, then why can’t all of us with just a little effort do the same thing. Why can we not just make the whole country one giant Chick-fil-A and “just get along?”
And you thought this was a story about a chicken sandwich.
Would you have read it if the title were, “A lesson from the L.A. Riots, 24 years later”?
I didn’t think so.
Sorry, I’ve been so naughty.
Reginald Denny at the time of the attack
With one of his attackers “rejoicing” about his “accomplishment”
Denny in the intensive care unit
Denny years later at his sole interview
Devoid of any animosity
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Rodney King being beaten by the police and the resulting injuries
King pleading for calm during the riots upon the acquittal of the police
Prophet of the street Rodney King “Can’t we all just get along.”
A photo remembrance of King after his death
I made a serious attempt to list serious groups that espoused a true end to racism of all sorts. I am sad to report that I could not find any that wanted to end real racism. All the groups that I researched seem to have the goal of ending perceived racism against their particular group, not all racism. Most seem to consider their group “immune” from racism against others. In their minds, they could not possibly be racist against a group substantially different from them. It appears that herein lies the difficulty in eliminating racism. Here seems to be the reason that Rodney King’s plea of “Can’t we all just get along?” will never be answered in the affirmative.
Apparently, we will never be able to “just get along” and eliminate racism as long as each group insists on declaring themselves the recipient of racism and never the cause.
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Having failed at resolving this issue, I am left only with attempting to address the demon that haunted King which he never concurred and millions of other have not – that of addiction which plays a major role in the problem. Below are some groups which are attempting to help solve this scourge on modern society. Seek them and others out and support the one of your choosing in which you have the most faith. More importantly in addition to supporting these groups, we should all attempt to solve the addition problem within our own sphere of family and friends. Unfortunately, this is not limited to helping those that are addicted. The fact of the matter is that helping the already addicted is not the most effective solution. The most helpful behavior is to help eliminate the conditions that caused the addition in the first place. Be a responsible child, adult, employee, parent, citizen, teacher. . . Be responsible in everything you do and assume blame for your own shortcomings rather than blaming others. Treat everyone, including yourself with respect and dignity and demand the same of them.
e-Books Published by Joseph P. Badame
8 – “Claustrophobia”
[* 11- “Daddy, Mommy! Are you awake?” *]
15 – “”
[* 33 -“Who Am I ????” *]
e-Books Published by Apollos Rivoire