Silence as I wander in the Valley of Death

 

“Yea as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” I hear nothing.

I first wrote and posted about Silence in December 2015.  Here it is May 2019, and the silence persists when I talk to my God.  The silence reverberates even more loudly than before as more hatred floods the airways sweeping up more and more in its wake.

My God doesn’t answer me.  Daily I give him an opportunity.  I usually converse with him as I perform my walkabout.  Out in the open, in the elements, in his creation…it should be a good time to talk, a good time for answers.  Wish he or she would answer a few questions…maybe it’s the way I frame them…I’m sure it is my fault. Sometimes my questions to him just pop out from nowhere…or from everywhere.

There are many times when I wish the voices in my head would shut up, this is not one of those occasions.  I’m waiting for a Saul/Paul moment. Maybe it is the voices in my head asking the questions instead of me or my road doesn’t lead to Damascus.

I grew up in the church…and then like so many young people wandered down a divergent path.  Later I would come back and then diverge again…a couple of times. I fear I might be in the divergent mode again.   

During those divergent days, my issues weren’t with Jesus, it was with organized religion…it still is.  I have problems with the “My God is greater than your god” group.

I have problems with people who are so sure of their beliefs whether it is a minister, layman or political pundit.  My issues were or are with Christians who spread their hate in the name of God, seemingly forgetting the love of Jesus, many masquerading as political pundits.  Is it hate or am I missing the point of Christian generosity? Can you quote from Leviticus and the teachings of Jesus?

My first divergence occurred because of a young minister who was so sure that if my mother truly believed she’d be cured of her terminal disease.  Well, she wasn’t cured, she did believe, and I was an angry young man whose religious beliefs had been shattered.

Now my confidence is being tested by the hatred I see…good people pulled to the fringes of their religion while I, if anything, seem to move in the other direction.   Hellfire and brimstone seem to swirl about me as I ask my questions. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air of my head. The punishing God of the Old Testament seems to be loading up his burning stones and aiming them at anyone not toeing the fundamentalist line…I should be ready to duck.

If you believe in a fundamental, punishing god that is your right.  I will not attempt to convert you. I just can’t believe in or worship that kind of god.  I promise I won’t attempt to transmute you to my way of thinking. Please give me the same consideration.

Generally, I’m not very open about my religious beliefs…nor outspoken at all.  Writing this is an unbelievable stretch for me. Yesterday I stretched even further as I engaged a very good friend, metaphorically laying myself bare.  She is a non-believer…maybe, sometimes I wonder. She has better than a good heart.

After laying myself bare, she attempted to apply a soothing balm, “(You are) a caring human being and a spiritual soul. The goodness I see in you doesn’t require a grand biblical gesture or event to validate or verify what and who you are.”

Her comment lifted my spirits but this morning I wonder.  I don’t feel very spiritual or validated but I do keep asking myself questions and mulling while waiting, hoping for an answer.

Rewritten From December 2015

I worry. Worry for family, country, and friends. Friends of all races, creeds, sexual preferences and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.  

I ask, What happened to “live and let live?”

I agonize over students having to face death in what should be one of the safest places in the world.  Students giving their lives to protect others when the people we entrust with their safety seem to only to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  While we have plenty of suppositions, we offer little else other than “It is God’s will.” It’s this, it’s that, it’s not something else but we do nothing.  The silence is becoming oppressive.

I worry about worshippers of all religions, unable to praise their god for fear of bombings, burnings or the sound of rapid-fire weapons echoing in the foreground.  There seems to be no answer from above or here on earth. Does God help those who help themselves? We might try that.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray and then I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Liberals, Conservatives, anyone in between and any religion I failed to mention.

I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. From myself and from people I don’t even know.  It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? Why do we do the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome?  It is insanity.

Why do we do nothing but wait until the next episode of terror…? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

I pray to look “unto the hills” but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto the hills. I will keep praying…hoping God will take the silence away.

Thanks, Lynn, for listening.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://gravitycenter.com/silence/

 

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Wake up?  I am Awake What About You?

I was told to wake up by a former student.  I hold no ill will toward him and am happy he gave me a topic and a reason to vent.

I realize I don’t know everything, but I am awake.  Sometimes I wish wasn’t, just caught in a bad nightmare or watching bad horror movies.

I was young, but I wasn’t asleep during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, used to stoke up war fever against Vietnam and communism.  I watched Cronkite describe the Tet Offensive and the destruction of any belief in victory. I cringed at the Mai Lai Massacre and its attempted cover-up.  I read the Pentagon Papers which uncovered the secrets of our clandestine involvement in Vietnam and its neighbors from Truman to Nixon.

I watched hollow-eyed veterans come home to a disrespect they didn’t deserve.  I saw the aftermath of the student massacres at Kent State and Orangeburg…something we the people didn’t deserve.  I viewed the Vietnam protests on my black and white TV.

The evening news showed protesters threatened with thirty caliber machine guns in Chicago and journalist Mike Wallace thrown to the floor for asking a question before being escorted out of the Democratic Convention.  Carnage raged outside the convention center as Daily’s minions used batons and tear gas to disperse protestors.

I experienced the Civil Rights era with government attempts to discredit Black leaders and the Black Panthers…something we still attempt to do today unless we need a good quote to make a point or someone to focus hatred upon.  1968 WAS a time when we really shouldn’t have believed our FBI.  No J. Edger Hoover probably wasn’t a crossdresser, but he was a paranoid racist at his best.

In real time, I watched people of color marginalized, beaten, bombed, and their buses set on fire.  Their votes suppressed by men who looked like me flying a flag from old time’s there not forgotten.  With reports from several states, how has that changed?

I lived through the assassinations of two Kennedys, a King and attempted assassinations on two Presidents.  I don’t believe Oswald or Jones did their evil alone but have no definitive proof, so I don’t spout off about it or embrace conspiracy theories.  I don’t believe in conspiracy theories about bombs being sent through the mail.

I witnessed, in black and white, the murder of a sovereign Asian countries’ president and a military coup but didn’t know we were complicit until well after the fact.  Complicit in attempted assassinations on Castro and the Bay of Pigs?  Yeah, those two and others.  Still, until the Seventies, I believed we wore the white hat in our gunfights at high noon and were better than assassinations, coups, and invasions.

Watergate and Contragate?  I witnessed the hearings that followed, a President riding off into the sunset and a Marine Colonel falling on his own sword so another President didn’t have to ride off to California.

Wake up?  Bullshit!

Gerald Ford told the nation their great nightmare was over.  Bill Clinton comforted the people of Oklahoma City and the nation after a mad bomber killed over a hundred and sixty.  George W. Bush left an elementary school reading to reassure a nation when planes crashed into skyscrapers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.  Yes, as we continue to point out, they were imperfect men, but they knew how to act in times of national distress.  They knew how to calm and unify.

Why do I need to wake up?  There is plenty of evil to go around, and I’ve lived through much of it, much of it created and covered up by our own government.  I don’t need to embrace loudmouths who make a living spouting conspiracy and pointing fingers at the other side.  Maybe we should wake up and realize they are nothing more than small-minded hatemongers attempting to make a buck.

When you share their hatred and conspiracies, you become a part of the problem.  Maybe you should wake up and realize when you share hate you become the problem that is undermining the nation and your friends and neighbors.  We need compromise, not a conspiracy.

More rants and musings at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image was liberated fromhttps://www.lifehack.org/648887/how-to-detect-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing

DONALD TRUMP RACIST? QUIT IT! HE’S NOT THE PROBLEM!

Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President-Elect Donald Trump. Nine hundred documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our lame duck executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.

I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, or any other -ism or -phobia de jure came into being. They may well have been around since a Neanderthal looked at a Cro-Magnon and said “Hey man you are different.” Yes, Neanderthals had a language and could have said such although I’m sure we would have needed a translator.

I believe our bigotry, anti-Semitism, etc., etc., etc., were just covered up in the same way that a person might add a layer of fresh kitty litter to a soiled cat box. Everything appears well, might even smell well…until your favorite feline steps in and begins to cover up its leavings. The more it tries to cover, the more the unsavory stuff gets uncovered. When Felix gives up, nobody is happy including the cat.

Our racism, bigotry, etc., etc., etc. simply got uncovered. It had been just under the surface waiting to be exposed to the light of day. No amount of legislation or executive action can actually bury it until those three fingers point in some other direction. We must want to change and some of us have tried. The problem is, when the litter box gets uncovered, even those of us who are not overtly racist, anti-Semitic, etc., etc. etc., suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves with statements like “Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” or “People just need to let go of (fill in the blank)”

Just because we have a few (fill in the blank) friends doesn’t mean we are not part of the problem, so just quit trying to deflect from the problem and quit pointing fingers at Donald Trump. Our country has been anti-whatever since before we were a country. Until we actually believe, deep in our hearts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (women and those unsure) are created equal” it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We should worry about the cleanliness of our own home (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.

More of Don Miller’s misplaced rantings maybe accessed at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

DISSENT AND WHY?

In a previous blog, I presented the post REPUGNANT. I am not going to repost it but it’s still there if you would like to read it. I did write the following and I quote…should one quote themselves? Anyway…

“The United States has a long tradition of protest. It actually dates back to before the United States was the United States. Anyone remember the Boston Massacre? It began as a protest by a group of people who believed an unjust government and its “minions” was marginalizing them. Granted the protest probably began with one or five too many drinks at a local tavern but it escalated to the hurling of insults and snowballs (maybe rocks too) at British Redcoats guarding the Customs House on Kings Street in Boston. It ended with five dead colonists and was heavily used as propaganda by the likes of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. In a “no matter how much things change, they remain the same” moment, six of the soldiers were acquitted of their “crimes” and two others were given light sentences. Five dead colonists along with six wounded didn’t seem to amount to much.”

I now ask the question why did we protest? The answer is easy because we all have 20/20 hindsight and the benefit of great teachers and texts…well hopefully. Since we all know why I won’t waste time repeating it and simply go on to the point of this essay, DISSENT AND WHY?

Much has been written, posted, telegraphed or smoke signaled about Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful dissent along with certain allies’ such as Megan Rapinoe and a lot of it ain’t been good…and I guess that would depend on which side of the argument you are on. I don’t have an opinion; I just want to find answers to questions like why do Colin and Megan feel the need to dissent, would our Founding Father’s not also proud of their protest since our Founding Fathers are responsible for our having the old First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech placed in the constitution, and why whenever a person of color, Muslim, transgender, lesbian, gay or three-eyed green alien with antenna dissents, the overwhelming suggestion is “If you ain’t happy here why don’t you leave?”

Dissent involving patriotism or the flag has never been popular, just ask John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Muhammad Ali…or the thousands of Vietnam War protesters. But they had real reasons to protest, right? Old Number Seven makes millions, has adopted white parents, blah, blah, blah. I posed the question to a friend of color and he answered my question with a question and this is his quote, not mine. “Do you know the difference between a rich n!@@#$ and a n!@@#$?” After pondering what I thought was a trick question I answered, “Money?” He was quick to respond “No, there is no difference. A rich n!@@#$ is just a n!@@#$ to some folk.” I will just throw out a question for you to ponder, “Why is that?”

The second question is a slam dunk. Our Founding Fathers are spinning with glee in their graves…well maybe. If I remember my history courses focusing on the period before our biggest example of dissent, The Civil War, The War Between the States, The War of Northern Aggression or The War of Southern Independence…see we still can’t agree and neither could our Founding Fathers, but they knew how to compromise…well except for the Burr-Hamilton duel. Again dissent used to be a good thing…well except for Alexander Hamilton.

The third question deals with the pitfalls of social media I hope. There seems to be a small, what I hope is small, group who wants the fabric of the United States to be the same…as in white. Diversity be damned. My question is why are we not calling them out. What happened to the so-called “Moral Majority” because I believe such suggestions to be immoral! We should be able to disagree without the suggestion that we should just leave. During my first year of teaching in 1973 our black assistant principal was disciplining one of our white students. This period was just three years after forced desegregation and people were still…a…bit…irritated. When the discipline was administered, the young man expressed his displeasure with her by stating, “I wish you’d go back to ‘whare’ you ‘come’ from!” She replied, “Why do you want me to go back to Greenwood?” The young man was silent…and I just don’t think he meant anywhere in the United States.

Dissent creates conversation…and hopefully THOUGHT! It should create an open dialogue for most of us. It should provide an opportunity to study and learn. None of us are perfect nor is the United States. Instead of “Making the United States Great Again” maybe we should have a little dialogue on how to correct our ills to simply make the United States great period.

No I am not moving back to Indian Land because you disagree with me. Again don’t just disagree, ponder why we disagree.

For more unique outlooks on life by Don Miller visit his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

TOO LITTLE TIME TO HATE

It is easy to hate in today’s political climate it would seem. I see so much written or expressed in other ways that always seem to begin with “I hate….” You’re going to hate a lifelong friend because you have differing political views? With so much hatred being thrown around I began to think of my own hate. I don’t mean “strong dislike.” I mean “I wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire or dying of thirst” hatred. Hatred is something we should be experience up close and personal, not “I hate all of the libtards” on my Facebook page or “I hate all Trump supporters” on my Twitter feed. Don’t you really have to know someone to hate them? As I evaluated my hatred I could only come up with three people worthy of it. Two former bosses and the little “shit” bully who tormented me throughout my primary and junior high school years. That should give you a clue as to my age, we don’t call them primary or junior high schools anymore.

All three were bullies in their own right and I found out the hard way “sometimes when you confront a bully” he doesn’t just walk away. I stood up to all three. Despite my “bowing up”, one led to my resignation, another “fired” me out right and the little “shit” beat my ass every time I stood up to him and for some reason I never got the message that “He’s beating your ass because he can and that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.” He also stole my girlfriend in the seventh grade and had he wanted he could have kicked sand in my face. I remember daydreaming about ways to end my torment, pushing him down a long razor blade into a vat of alcohol was one memorable thought as was drowning him in a bucket of snot. A friend once told a story about three brothers. The two older brothers tormented their younger brother so badly that he waited until they slept one night and beat them senseless with a two liter Pepsi Cola bottle. Wish I had thought about that. Providence intervened when the little “shit” moved away after our eighth grade year.

I’m sixty-six and with age comes wisdom…sometimes…well, a blind hog sometimes finds an acorn. It dawned on me that despite my hatred, the focus of my hatred didn’t even know I am still alive and furthermore could care less. At sixty-six, the sands in my hour glass are running out and I have decided, if not able to forget, I can forgive and move on. Funny odd, not ha ha funny, but every time I was egregiously wounded by one of these bullies, something good came out of it. In some ways, they are responsible for the good life that I enjoy today. Moving on was always a better move it just took a little age to realize it.

So, I have decided to eliminate the word hatred from my vocabulary and my mind. I may still strongly dislike, especially in this political landscape, but for now at least, Mikey, Sammy and Willy…I forgive you and wish I could give you what you so justly deserve, which is…NOT ANOTHER THOUGHT.

A YEAR LATER

This was written one month after the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

“Evil is such an elusive quality…But no matter how you slice it, the earth itself isn’t evil, and neither is the sky or the sea. Evil always begins and ends with man.”
“The Dead Play On”-Heather Graham

“Evil always begins and ends with man” …and not with a square piece of cloth.

I don’t know why I have been hit so hard by the shooting deaths of nine innocents at “Mother Emanuel” Church in Charleston. While their deaths were horrific I feel that somehow I have failed even though I never knew Dylann Roof or the “Emanuel Nine.” How does a young man fall through the cracks of the educational system of which I was a part of for over forty years? In my heart the question is probably “How many have I let fall through the cracks that I could have saved or helped in some way?” All it might have taken was a hand. I know, it “Takes a village to raise a child” but where was his village or was the water so polluted that it didn’t matter? I guess only Dylann or God can answer that.

The families of those innocents showed monumental strength and the forgiving power of the human spirit while leading the people of South Carolina through what had proven to be a volatile minefield in other parts of the nation. All it might have taken was a single spark to cause the situation to explode like Ferguson had. I have hopes that the people of South Carolina are just better than that. The sideshow that became the cry to remove the Confederate Battle Flag may have diverted attention away from the suffering and questioning that was taking place by focusing that attention on that inanimate object which had been both a symbol of heritage for one group and a symbol of hatred for the other. While people raged back and forth on the issue of the flag the Emmanuel Nine were exalted for their love and care for a person who did not look like them and then one by one laid to rest.

While watching the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator, I could not help but feel pride in the way that South Carolina had handled this travesty…until the President spoke and suddenly my social media sites exploded after he mentioned gun control. So much venom was spouted and across a myriad of subjects. Do you suppose the President should go to every dead service member’s funeral? Wouldn’t it make more sense to end the war so there would be no dead service men or women? Between the murders, funerals, gun control, the flag and gay marriage it was a rough week and I suddenly wondered about my group of “friends.” I also realized that Dylann Roof may have been on his way to get what he professed to have wanted: “a race war.” Exactly one month later as I write this I have seen few assurances that this won’t happen.

We have had more death and suffering. An Islamic radical has shot and killed five Marine and Navy personnel and rather than focus on the dead and their family we seem to have more concern about whether the act is branded domestic or foreign terrorism, lone wolf or a cabal. More flag controversy has sprung up but this time it is over the tardiness of lowering the United States Flag to half-mast.

I always taught that period leading up to and including 1968 was the most divisive and dangerous period of our existence as a country since the Civil War. Civil Rights legislation, the Viet Nam War protest, Mai Lai and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy all combined for a low point in my life. I believe that we are in a much more dangerous period with ISIS, The New Black Panthers, KKK, Texas Secessionist and (fill in the blank with any wing nut hate group) have all surfaced like turds in the toilet bowl. Add to those groups the discussion on illegal aliens, gay marriage, a more militant NAACP, #BlackLivesMatter, too many Republican hopefuls, not enough Democratic hopefuls and a president who can’t poop without someone disagreeing with the time, color or texture. The word divisive just doesn’t cover the situation that we are facing.

There are other issues within our country that have to long been overlooked and as I have learned, the longer you let something tend to itself it tends to do nothing but spiral downward. To me none of that matters. It starts and ends with hate and a particularly galling aspect are the statements of history that are being bandied about that are “apologist” or “protagonist” half-truths to make each side feel better and their points more embraceable. To me they are still out and out lies or half-truths at best.

I don’t want this to be a history book. I want it more to be a series of stories that support history but I also know that I am old enough for “my wants not to hurt me” and will supply footnotes and citing’s as I need to. I will also attempt to provide humor wherever I can…and maybe, just maybe a little understanding.

POSTSCRIPT
Since originally writing this piece, divisiveness continues. Cities have erupted over seemingly unjustified police shootings, terrorists have been active all over the world including the US, the NRA battles supporters of gun control over mass shootings and now we have an uproar over transgender bathroom rights.

In the greatest measure of dissatisfaction, Donald Trump has risen to the top of the Republican heap amid controversy and protest swirling around him. He has managed to disparage almost everyone except for whites who are not members of the Republican mainstream. Trump has uncovered an ugly truth; Our government is perceived to have ceased to function for a large portion of our people and people are mad. Trump has also employed a proven method of consolidating his political power: Scapegoating groups of people to focus our hatred upon. I believe Trump is using the fear and hatred that has always been there, our bigotry and racism. Trump is a manifestation of our ugly secret.

Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

HATRED

As Orlando is being debated, one thing IS apparent to me. Doing things over and over the same way while expecting a different outcome IS the definition of insanity. Albert Einstein WAS correct and it would appear we are one insane nation. How many times do we have to have the same type of press conference? Is our only option to wring our hands and shake our heads in disbelief as one terrorist after the other shoots up our citizens?

Immediately we polarized ourselves around gun control and expressed our hatred for the opposing side. Very few people expressed any concern for the fifty dead. There were a FEW so please don’t let me give you a reason to further hate me. First thing this morning, as in Monday morning, two people had already posted a half dozen memes…EACH…expressing their position in none too flattering terms to the opposite side. How many ways can you repeatedly call someone stupid or a sack of shit. Most haters weren’t quite that prolific BUT their hate was still apparent. Ruby Ridge and Wounded Knee were even brought up as the “greatest mass shooting” in American history rather than Orlando. Are we in some type of contest and should we EVEN be keeping score? What effect does that have on us in this situation? None! Their post were about hatred and fear.

Are we so hateful that we can’t even consider a holistic approach to the problem? Are we so spiteful that we can’t come to a compromise…or even consider a compromise? Is it all about the importance of keeping the
right to own a weapon that has only one function or is it all about President Obama using the words terror and hatred instead of radical terrorist? Is it about Muslims or Gays? Is it about Hillary or Donald? No it is about hatred. Do we just have to have someone to hate?

We need a Gandhi. Someone to address the hatred and… RELIGION IS NOT THE KEY so don’t come at me with we need to turn to God. “God helps those who help themselves” and we ain’t doing a very good job of helping ourselves. Until we pull together and get over the hate MY God will stay out of it.

Truthfully…I don’t believe this could have been prevented under the present conditions. How do you stop a New York born, Florida residing, “self-radicalized,” domestic abuser, “hot head,” on an FBI watch list, security guard who still LEGALLY obtained a high capacity, semi-automatic weapon? I’ll let you each answer the question yourselves but you need to put your hatred on hold and attempt to look at it sanely…AND WHILE YOU ARE AT IT…quit trying to fix blame on specific individuals. It seems there is a great deal of blame to go around. We don’t need blame, we need solutions and hating each other won’t get them.