Thursday, April 19, 2018

Open letter to the mayor of Auburn MI

Dear Mr. Mayor,

I am a resident of ******* MI and grew up in ******* MI, where I still spend winters. Please know that I love this area a great deal.

Unless you were misquoted (were you?) your statements to the media regarding the recent confederate flag episode at an unnamed Auburn MI high school seemed confusing and somewhat contradictory; therefore, I'm guessing what you were actually trying to say might have been that hate speech is --- while vile and rank and aptly named --- protected speech per SCOTUS. I would only ask that you state this more clearly in future, lest you send the wrong message to both sides of this contentious issue. Please allow me to explain.

The Rawstory article I read --- and, again, assuming you were not misquoted by whomever claims to have quoted you --- mentions that you, "...aren’t sure whether the flag demonstrations are racially motivated." 

 "Not sure?" Really? 

What might their motivations have been? Simply out exercising their right to free expression? Airing out their musty flags after a long winter's hibernation in storage? Doing their part for the local economy by burning gasoline they bought in Auburn?

Yes indeed, these confederate-flag wavers are exercising First Amendment rights; waving a racist symbol at people (for whom it is, in fact, nothing but a racist symbol) is protected free speech. In other words, the flag wavers were just doing something anyone can do, legally. But you might at least consider that doing a thing simply because you can do it is rarely, if ever, a sufficient rationale for the doing of that thing. And when you said "they're doing their legal constitutional duty," I'm almost certain you didn't mean exactly this and that you'd like to amend it to "exercising their constitutional rights," because no one has a "constitutional duty" to be hateful, rude, racist, and mean-spirited. But they do have a constitutional right to actually be all these things and to prove it openly and publicly.

Hooray for our freedoms!

I'll leave you with a thought experiment: imagine someone drove around your church --- off private property, of course --- waving flags that said, "Christians are delusional!" or "Jesus Christ is a fictional character!" or that showed upside-down crucifixes. How would you feel? Would you think the flag wavers to be doing their "constitutional duty?" Would you say you weren't sure if their flag demonstration was religiously motivated? Or would you simply smile and say, "Look at those darn freedom-loving guys exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression?"

I'm pretty sure how you would feel is mighty close to if not exactly how those African-American kids felt the other day having the plainest, most obvious symbol of a long-defunct, slavery promoting, and unarguably racist and illegal shadow government flown in their faces, being shouted at, and being made to feel the hatred and contempt of hateful and contemptible "demonstrators."

I see that your term ends in November of this year. I wish you good luck with the remainder of your term, sir.

Sincerely and respectfully,
Open Mike

Ed. Note: I sent this to the mayor via the email address listed at the Auburn MI webpage.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Do whatever we can for whomever we can do it...

Some friends of mine are not doing well at all, and I'm struggling with how to help them, or if I'm even able to help them.

A friend from high school was diagnosed with ALS about two years ago. Another friend was recently diagnosed with leukemia. A third friend just found out his 85-year-old mom probably has late-stage lymphoma and she passed away barely 24 hours later. 

I've been able to do little things for each of them, but I'm not sure what else, if anything, I can do, or, candidly, if I'm even emotionally or physically able to do it. I know their travails are indicative of the state of things at our age, which for us all is 65, but the range in which these predicaments present themselves swings dramatically. Other friends have gone through their own struggles... with brain cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart disease... and they've passed away from those illnesses. They no longer need our assistance. But there are plenty of others who do and this is a trend to continue for many of us.

My friend whose mom passed away can be helped simply by lending him an ear and a shoulder when they're needed. He was trying to do so much for her, and faced the reality that there simply was nothing else that could be done. My friend with leukemia is in remission, but is now faced with the ironic secondary issues that have arisen from his heavy chemotherapy; however, he seems to be staying positive and is moving forward, getting stronger every day. 

But for my friend with ALS, it's as if he's physically vanishing before our eyes. Little by little, inexorably, he's less able to do much of anything for himself. He has to rely on so many others to do so many things for him. Little things. But make no mistake. He's still very much in there. He's still whip smart and still extremely --- and sometimes wickedly --- funny. But his other challenge comes just in finding reliable people to help him, and I include myself in this category. His contemporaries are unable to do much for him because they're his age and perhaps not fit or available enough for the physical demands that his situation requires. And his wonderful wife is struggling as well because so many things have fallen to her, and spouses who are care givers always seem to be affected as they suffer along with the one who is ill, mainly because of the effort and strain required to give care and the pain in watching their loved ones fail.

I called a great friend today to talk about things. I lost it on the phone with him. I broke down, unable to speak for a moment; I guess my heart is breaking, but this is not about me. After a really good cry, I've resolved just to do what I can, even if it's just to write some checks to related support organizations, to make calls and write letters to legislators who can affect change, to just sit with a friend and discuss whatever that friend wants to discuss, or to just listen and not speak.

It's all we can do, sometimes: to do whatever we can for whomever we can do it.