Saturday, February 28, 2015

Just When We Thought We Had Dodged Winter...

...9 inches of snow fell by this morning here in the Foothills.  Used to seeing this up on the mountain where we used to live, but this is the most I've seen in Albuquerque.


My daughter left Albuquerque about 8PM last night for Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  Normally a 4 hour car ride, she just called me to say it took her 7 hours and was the scariest drive of her life.   She will hopefully relax today at Wolf Creek snowboarding or in the hot springs in Pagosa.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mississippi Still Suffering Today for Past Sins

An antebellum mansion in Mississippi


I've been to Mississippi but one time in my life so I cannot tell you much first-hand about that state beyond the history we explored at a Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg, the gracious hospitality of the people we met, the beautifully preserved antebellum homes, and the delicious southern cooking we enjoyed. 




 Finishing up a great southern dinner with coffee and pie




The USS Cairo gunboat preserved at Vicksburg museum






























I do know that a horrific history of racial injustice still lives on in the lives of many of the people who live in Mississippi today.  


James Craig Anderson
One sordid story from 2011 is that of a group of 10 white young people who drove to "Jafrica" [the term they used for largely black Jackson, Mississippi] to "fuck with some niggers" that resulted in the murder of an African-American man named James Craig Anderson.    The case again re-ignited the old wound of "racial hatred" in Mississippi.  

Last week, three of the most culpable defendants received sentences from 7 1/2 to 50 years in federal prison.  Judge Carlton Reeves, a black Mississippi District Judge, delivered an amazing speech during his sentencing of those three men.  It is a moving condemnation of the senseless acts that he ties to the history of Mississippi racial injustice.  It's worth reading because Mississippi indeed still suffers today from its bloody and hateful past.  

When my husband and I visited Vicksburg, Mississippi in March of 2008, we had dinner at a local dining establishment where we joined a large table of local white citizens.  Upon finding we were from out-of-state, one older gentleman asked what we thought of Mississippi?  Did we believe all the terrible stories about the state's racial history?  Did we think they were racists?  I can't remember our response to this man's concerns but I do remember his story well.  He explained that Mississippi was "misunderstood" and that the black people were ignorant and did not value education. He especially mentioned that giving black people anything of value like "a better education was lost on them."   He said they were lazy and lacked moral values and that outsiders didn't understand that.  

It was clear to me from what he shared about his own life that this man was well-educated, wealthy and probably a "pillar" in his community.  At the time, I shuttered at what kind of society had such individuals making the laws and setting such examples for their children and other young people to follow.  Judge Reeves, a native Mississipian himself, spoke exactly on the fallout of such beliefs.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Road Trip to California

Last October, we decided to do a little more "down-sizing" in our lives.  We had two cars for two retired people taking up two spaces in the garage and with two insurance bills. So we went to the Toyota dealer and traded both cars in for a fire-engine red 2014 4Runner. The subtraction of one car finally gave me a space to paint, too.

Ron's been itching to take the new car on a road trip.  In January, we took the grandchildren and Ron's daughter to Angel Fire Ski resort (near Taos, NM) complete with our new Thule ski rack to carry four sets of skis.  Ron had just had cataract surgery so he didn't drive too much on that trip.

Over the long Presidents' Day weekend last week, we decided to drive to San Diego, California to visit our friends, Laurie and Page.  We had gotten married in Laurie and Page's backyard 9 years ago.
   
Ron and Vicki wedding January 14, 2006 in Poway, CA
We set out Friday morning at 9:15 AM for Sedona, Arizona (about 6 1/2 hours by car).  Driving I-40 west just before Holbrook, we were alerted to a highway closure 85 miles ahead due to a fatal accident.  This was at a spot just east of Flagstaff where we were headed to take I-17 south.   Using our new GPS navigation system, we re-routed ourselves from Winslow SR 87 to  SR  260 towards Payson.  This was a scenic road through the Coconino National Forest and Mongollon Rim country.  I thought we'd end up in Camp Verde, but the navigation system took us the most direct route to a 14 mile mostly unpaved forest road (Stoneman Lake Rd., FR 213) to I-17 from Lake Mary's Road and Happy Jack, AZ.  This would not be the first time that a navigation system took a car to an unintended route!  But the road was fairly dry and we managed to get to Sedona by about 3:45PM.  The afternoon sun was warm and inviting.  So after we checked into the Villas at Poco Diablo, I opened a bottle of 7 Deadly Zins wine I had brought to celebrate Valentine's Day.  We sat down with a couple of wine glasses on a deck overlooking Oak Creek, basking in the late afternoon sun.

Sedona, AZ panorama from the airport
We headed to San Diego the next day and arrived in Poway by 4PM on Valentine's Day.

Page and Ron enjoying a sunny day in the backyard


 
Laurie watering her beautiful garden
The next day Laurie and Page took us to the beach in Del Mar.  It was a gorgeous clear day.  Ron even doffed a hat that he borrowed from Page (Ron never wears hats).

Ron and I in Del Mar soaking up the rays
The beach in Del Mar

We then headed for Mr.  A's in downtown San Diego for drinks and a panoramic view of San Diego. 

Our lovely table on the balcony of Mr.A's looking west toward the airport and harbor
    
Laurie at Mr.A's

Page at Mr. A's


The view

Downtown San Diego view to the southwest



Page and Laurie, Ron and Vicki at Mr. A's

After a couple of days of wonderful hospitality by Laurie and Page, we headed home Monday morning via I-8 to Casa Grande, AZ and then to US Hwy 60 east to Globe, AZ where the copper mines are.

The views on Hwy 60 to Superior/Miami/Globe mining towns











We continued on US 60 through the mountains northeast of Globe.  We wanted to make it to the scenic Salt River canyon before dark, but the sun was already sinking toward the west and I took a video of the road just southwest of the Salt River canyon.

video



 Unfortunately, we arrived at the scenic Salt River Canyon just after dark.  The next few miles took us on a scary night-time descent down and up a twisting mountain road.   Here is another person's You Tube video of the road through the Salt River Canyon in the daylight to offer you the experience of driving through this mini-version of a Grand Canyon:


We spent the night in Show Low and the next day at about 7:30 AM took SR77 to Holbrook and onto I-40 east for our return to Albuquerque by 12:30 PM on Tuesday, February 17th.

Ron enjoyed the whole driving experience in our shakedown cruise in the new 4Runner.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Rope That Must Be Cut

I believe that the failure of America to address "truth and reconciliation" on historic issues of racial relations has a direct link to why we see so many unjust killings of black people today. The nation of South Africa knew that the racial hatred and bitterness of its citizens would not simply disappear with the elimination of apartheid and the election of a black President. The implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in 1995 was key in bringing together all South Africans to share a common understanding of the true facts of their violent history of racial relations.   
 "... a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.Mr Dullah Omar, former Minister of Justice    

In the United States there were efforts to provide "legal" solutions to slavery and inequality of black people: President Lincoln's Executive Order in 1963 called the  Emancipation Proclamation, the states' ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and the laws passed during the Reconstruction Era post-Civil War.   The Reconstruction Era was a largely botched effort that impoverished and humiliated white southerners.  There was no commission to enable white and black alike "to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation." The result was the creation of the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizen Councils and a reign of organized white terror using violence and lynching to keep black people "in their place".  

Today's New York Times article on the history of lynchings in the south brings back a horrifying history of racial injustice and brutality in America:
"DALLAS — A block from the tourist-swarmed headquarters of the former Texas School Book Depository sits the old county courthouse, now a museum. In 1910, a group of men rushed into the courthouse, threw a rope around the neck of a black man accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old white girl, and threw the other end of the rope out a window. A mob outside yanked the man, Allen Brooks, to the ground and strung him up at a ceremonial arch a few blocks down Main Street."


Although Mr. Brooks' lynching is marked in that Dallas museum, thousands of lynchings are not remembered except in the shared history of families who lived in that period between 1877 and 1950 when 12 Southern states had nearly 4,000 “racial terror lynchings” according to a  comprehensive report of the Equal Justice Initiative published recently.  The key findings of the report all lead to a final conclusion: 
"...the Equal Justice Initiative believes that our nation must fully address our history of racial terror and the legacy of racial inequality it has created. This report explores the power of “truth and reconciliation” or transitional justice to address oppressive histories by urging communities to honestly and soberly recognize the pain of the past. Only when we concretize the experience through discourse, memorials, monuments, and other acts of reconciliation can we overcome the shadows cast by these grievous events."

Map of 73 Years of Lynchings

The Report points out that the Southern states where most of the lynchings occurred have done little, if anything, to memorialize those events while grandly celebrating the history of those political leaders who supported racial segregation and white supremacy:
"... in all of the subject states, we observed that there is an astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching. Many of the communities where lynchings took place have gone to great lengths to erect markers and monuments that memorialize the Civil War, the Confederacy, and historical events during which local power was violently reclaimed by white Southerners. These communities celebrate and honor the architects of racial subordination and political leaders known for their belief in white supremacy. There are very few monuments or memorials that address the history and legacy of lynching in particular or the struggle for racial equality more generally. Most communities do not actively or visibly recognize how their race relations were shaped by terror lynching."
By the mid-twentieth century,  many southern black people moved to the northern and western states for survival and, as the fear began to subside, they began to speak out against the lynchings and racial acts of terror.  One particularly heinous and highly publicized killing,  the torture and murder of 14 year old Emmett Till in 1955 in Mississippi, helped to spark a multi-racial Civil Rights Movement against the terrible injustice for black people in the South.










2/22/15 Postscript:
NPR recently printed on-line the complete speech Judge Carlton Reeves, a black Mississippi District Judge, delivered during his sentencing of 3 young white Mississippi men who brutally murdered a black man in Jackson, MS in 2012.  It is a moving condemnation of the senseless acts that he ties to the history of Mississippi racial injustice.  It's worth reading because Mississippi indeed still suffers today from its bloody and hateful past .  My husband and I visited Vicksburg, Mississippi in 2008 and went out to a local dining establishment where we joined a large table of local white citizens.  Upon finding we were from out of state, one older gent asked what we thought of Mississippi?  Did we believe all the terrible stories about the state's racial history?  Did we think they were racists?  I can't remember our response to this man's concerns but I do remember his story well.  He explained that Mississippi was "misunderstood" and that the black people were ignorant and did not value education. He especially mentioned that giving black people anything of value like "a better education was lost on them."   He said they were lazy and lacked moral values and that outsiders didn't understand that.  It was clear to me from what he shared about his own life that this man was well-educated and wealthy and probably a "pillar" in his community.  I shuttered at what kind of society had such individuals making the laws and setting such examples for their children and other young people to follow.  Judge Reeves, a native Mississipian himself, spoke exactly on the fallout of such beliefs.


Friday, February 6, 2015

On The Right Wing Attack on President Obama for Speaking the Truth About Religious Extremism



Again, the Right Wing of America winds itself up for the repeated stoning of our President for being a "heretic" because he condemns violence used by religious zealots in the name of one god or another.  At the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2015, the U.S. President offered the following remarks (full transcript here):


From the White House Blog: "The President went on to explain how, although faith is constantly inspiring people to help others across the world, it is being "twisted and distorted" by some who use it as a wedge and sometimes as a weapon:
"From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism -- terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions. 
We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion."
Here now follows is the part of his remarks that so upset advocates of a Christian theocracy in America:

Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation. 

President Obama is brave and honest to raise the issue of religious violence at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual ritual of praising God (for many Americans, this means the Christian variety of God) and asking for his blessings on the United States of America. Politicians in America know that criticism of religion (particularly Christianity) is fraught with political suicide. But Mr. Obama is not running for any political office and he is right to raise such criticism of acts of violence committed in the name of a religion, especially given the times we live in.  He is the President of the the most powerful nation on earth and therefore his audience is the entire population of this planet.  In addressing the National Prayer Breakfast, he's not talking to a select group of American Christians, but is speaking to the people of many faiths and national origins.  If I were a Muslim in this country, I would want to hear my President condemn the use of Islam to justify religious violence, but I would feel wronged if he did not also condemn the violence done by zealots of other religions.  The fact remains that the majority of domestic terrorist attacks in America have been committed by Biblically-inspired Christian extremists against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious minorities.  If you look at the recent high profile murders of abortion doctors, LGBT and people of color committed in the name of Christianity, it's really appalling that more Christian ministers and leaders have not spoken out against such violence perpetuated in the name of Christ.

In his book, The End of Faith, Sam Harris, the American author and rationalist thinker, wrote about the dangers of a democratic society that self-censors itself on the subject of religion. Harris' most recent podcast after the Charlie Hebdo murders critiques liberal thinkers for their refusal to see that it was core Islamic scriptures that influenced the jihadi terrorists to murder the Charlie Hebdo journalists and innocent people in a Jewish market.  In this country and many western democracies, criticism of someone's religious beliefs (no matter how bizarre) is considered "inappropriate" because of our tradition of religious tolerance.  However, since 9/11/2001, we have seen an increase of criticism of religious practices and beliefs that seem totalitarian and incompatible with a democratic society.  We are living in times where death cults masquerading as the True Religion are larger and deadlier than the tiny suicidal cults like Peoples Temple or Heaven's Gate.  Today, groups like ISIS expand their poison across international borders through the internet and social media reaching millions of potential recruits.  And, through their capture of political power in failed states, these death cults have access to military weapons and possible weapons of mass destruction (including nuclear weapons) to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of the "heretical" world.

Wherever dialogue and free debate exists within societies about religious beliefs and the intolerant and violent practices that may be practiced in the name of such beliefs, then we have hope of stopping the death cults.  We cannot muzzle ourselves or others who speak the truth about the sordid side of religion. I am very proud that our President can see this and has no fear in speaking out against violence by religious extremists, no matter what God they profess in their practice of intolerance and violence against those who do not share their profession.  Let the light of rationalism expose the falsehoods of such beliefs.