Not One To "Leave Well Enough Alone"...

I've been thinking about the responses I got to my "I Hate Black History Month" post, but I've been trying to be productive about my fate. You know, look for a job or something. Which I've been doing. And of course (continually) trying to figure out my obsession (cuz yeah, I admitted right from jump it was an obsession) with Nene and really what to expect from it. I obsess about being obsessed.

But actually, what I obsess about is answers to things. I always have. Some people think my questioning is an annoying habit. When I was in grammar school in Jamaica, I got in trouble with the teacher and was called a "chatterbox", because I was always questioning. Her reasoning. Her methods. Why I had to do what she said. I got slapped in the palm with a ruler once, because of it. I was incensed. I told her I would tell my mother. She laughed at me. Can't remember her name, but I'll never forget her; she was tall and thin and a dark chocolate brown, and wore a bun on the top of her head. I was four.

I got in trouble when I worked at MTV, looked upon as a troublemaker, because I was always encouraging the sales support staff to ask why we were routinely abused.

I had an IT manager when I worked at BET, who when I pressed him to explain his asinine reasoning as to why the computers in my office had virtually no hardrives but were connected to a network in Washington D.C that was constantly down so we were forever sitting around with our thumbs up our asses, asked me "MUST you always ask so many questions?" He said it with annoyance. "Yes!" I said. I was amazed he thought questions were a bad thing.

When I worked at A&E, I asked the IT guys to explain to me why I couldn't email documents or transfer files across the network, when we were supposedly connected. This was way back in the early days of networking, and it was a little more complicated than it is now. Because of me, they figured it out. To shut me up, they offered me a position in the IT department. That way I could figure out the answers my own damn self.

I got fired once because I questioned my manager (well, actually I told him I thought it was dumb) on why he wanted me and my co-worker to both work from 8a-5p, instead of the 10a-6p I had been working while my co-worker worked from 7a-4P. Especially since we had offices in California, and this meant that someone was in the office until at least 3P California time.

People have pretty much stopped sending me those Urban Legend emails... you know the ones that scream "THIS VIRUS WILL ERASE SECTOR ZERO ON YOUR COMPUTER!!!!" because I'll go look it up on Snopes, and then I'll hit "reply all" and embarrass you with what I've found. I often sign those emails "Your friendly neighborhood myth debunker" when I'm feeling particularly obnoxious.

Google is my favorite search engine, and I probably use it 20 or 30 times a day.

I question. I may not like your answer, but I want one. I want to hear it. I want to know how you think. I may not even like your question... but chances are pretty good if you ask me a question, eventually I will answer you because I am compelled to. But in researching my answer, I'll ask many more questions.

And then there are the voices... and the Fat Lady said to me once (as did the Professor, I think) that I should just tell them to shut the hell up... but the thing about them is that they are always questioning. Questioning God, myself, the things I believe in, what I think I know. The things I'm obsessed about. I must obsess because the voices compel me to question. Sometimes, it's not so good for the mental health. But sometimes, I get interesting answers.

What has this got to do with how I started this post?

Natalie's question: "And I think both sides have a point, but how you breach the chasm?"

I've been thinking about that for the past few days, asking questions. I remember being about seven years old, in Jamaica. I know it was before I was 8, because 8 is when we got evicted from the house on Montgomery Avenue, and I'm pretty sure it was earlier rather than later, because when we first moved into the house, the Professor and I shared the front bedroom. Then later, the parents moved us into the center bedroom, and the parents took the back room cuz it had a small bathroom in it. And I distinctly remember sitting in the front bedroom... asking God why the world was so mean. I'm pretty sure that I had read about a pretty horrific fire (I read really well by the time I was 7, and could read the newspaper) that was related to some political violence in Jamaica. I remember that the paper reported that people, children, were forced back into the fire and not allowed to come out. I remember thinking what an awful awful thing... how could something like that happen?

I remember thinking that the only way the world could right itself after a tragedy like that, would be if God himself stopped time, and righted all the pieces. Like a child stops a game, re-sets all the pieces, and starts the game again. But at the same time, I remember at some point realizing that given enough time, the game would go awry again. Because I figured out very early in my life, that human beings are self-destructive:

John Connor: We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.
The Terminator: It's in your nature to destroy yourselves.

John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?
- Terminator 2: Judgement Day

So what do we do? How do we right wrongs? End wars, poverty, hunger, disease, fight racism? Can we ever?

In all honesty, I don't ever think there will be "world peace." If we eradicated racism it would rear it's head in another way... it's in our nature to destroy ourselves. Destroy each other. What we don't realize until it's too late is that by destroying someone else, we destroy ourselves.

From the time I was about 8, until I was 25 or so, I read the Old Testament every Saturday. I'm not sure when I stopped (and I constantly remind myself it's really something I ought to do again). People tend to look at the Bible with various preconceived notions based on their religious bias, but if you read the Bible as a study on human interaction, and interaction between a Higher Power and a human, one thing becomes abundantly clear... we have been the same since recorded history. We have the same needs, the same impulses, the same emotions and reactions to each other that we have always had. There is perfection in this, if you think about it. We were created in our entirety... we are what we are and we haven't changed much. Despite what the Evolutionists would have you believe. (And yes, I have questioned my belief in God... just in case you were wondering. I question why I'm an "Old Testament kind of chick", instead of a New Testament. But my answers have satisfied me...)

But at the same time, we repeat ourselves, and if we don't, as individuals, actively try NOT to repeat ourselves, we will repeat mistakes that have been made millions of times for hundreds of thousands of years. We are creatures of habit. But this is why I love history--looking back at people's lives from the distance of time. I didn't always love history, especially when taught by dry-ass history teachers (yeah, Rich, I had a "Mr. Scott", too--several, in fact) ... but I think my love of history began with reading the Old Testament. And asking questions...

Why would Cain kill Abel, his brother? How could Noah have that much faith? What would it be like to be stuck in a grey and rainy world with your family and a bunch of animals? Where is the ark? Did it really happen? Why did Moses get so mad seeing a slave abused--mad enough to kill? How freaked out was he to see a bush in flames but not burn? Why would his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron be so willing to help him and not think he was crazy? Was he scared, Moses, confronting Pharaoh... someone he most probably knew? Was he discouraged when the Pharaoh's magicians could duplicate what God made him do? Did it make him question his own faith in God?

Reading the Bible every Saturday for years and years I read about love, and faith, and jealousy... and racism. The Egyptians threatened by the growth and expansion of the Children of Israel, systematically broke them down so that between the time of Joseph (of the Coat of Many Colors Fame) and the time of Moses' birth, a mighty nation had been reduced to a nation of slaves. And in turn, once the Children of Israel broke free, they were promised a land of milk and honey... Canaan. But how did the Canaanites feel about being pushed out of their land? If you accept on faith that the Children of Israel were promised that land and had a right granted by God to take it over... um, where did that leave everyone else? How could you tell a Canaanite from one of the Children of Israel anyhow (assuming you didn't get to peek at the fact that they were uncircumcised)?

And why does this all sound depressingly familiar to current events???

Why is it that history repeats itself? Is still repeating itself? And how can you remain unjaded, unbiased, hold on to hope and faith knowing that history WILL repeat itself?

Maybe because out of tragedy and hopelessness, there will always be someone who is driven to right a wrong.... there will always be a Moses, a Solomon, a Jesus, a Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King. On the other hand, there are thousands and thousands of people who never do any of those things... never question anything or make a stand for anything. Who is the next one to make a stand? Is it you? Why couldn't it be you?

Who will be the next one to question? To seek answers? Push limits? What can you ask of yourself? What limits can you push yourself to? Where do you draw the line in yourself?

The only thing I can think of to bridge the gap, Natalie, is that you have to decide in your own heart to stand for something. You can't control what others do, you can only control yourself. Sometimes, if you're blessed with charisma or maybe Divine grace, you can persuade others to do the same. But most of us are just ordinary people living ordinary lives... but maybe if each person made a stand, made a commitment to living their life to the best of their ability, maybe it would change things, bridge chasms. If every day you get up, and make a decision to stand for something, and every day remind yourself to stick to that decision, and every day call yourself out if you fail to live up to what you've decided to stand for, maybe it will make a difference.

It's like there are certain things I won't do.
  • I won't use the word "nigger" (though I have no problem listening to JayZ cuz I like him... but I tell you I cringe every time I hear him use the word).
  • I will do my best to describe people in ways that don't automatically say they are a race (and that's very hard to do. VERY hard.)
  • I won't ever buy Uncle Ben's products or Aunt Jemima pancake mix or syrup because they still hearken back to a time when people of African descent were referred to as "mammies"and "uncles" and the early versions of Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima were less than accurate.
  • I will do my best not to support Nestle, because they have unfairly and inaccurately promoted the use of infant formula in Third World countries, and actively discouraged women from breastfeeding in nations where it would benefit a baby to be breastfed, even when sanctioned by the World Health Organization. Among other things. And this is also hard to do, since Nestle is a HUGE company and owns a lot of other things like Stouffers and Lancome and Purina.
  • I won't ever again say someone isn't "really Black" (and I've said that before... in particular about Condi Rice. Now I just say she's evil but that's another post).
  • I will do my best to research emails and stories and rumors that pass my email box, before I pass them on. If I find out they are inaccurate, I will let people know.
  • I will continue to question, myself, my friends.
  • I will hold high expectations of myself.
  • I will refuse to feed into racism. I won't answer those stupid "what are you?" questions unless there's no way around it; I will love whoever I feel to, regardless of skintone.
  • I will continue to consider myself an American--a sum of my parts, no matter what the world thinks of me or thinks I am.
  • And I will raise my Sun to stand for something. To be dedicated and loyal and kind.

I know these things may never make a difference... but then again they might. I might make a difference, and every day I will live my life to the best of my ability. Maybe my small effort will help to bridge a chasm.

I know that idea is INCREDIBLY corny, and voiced a million times. Michael Jackson sang about "Starting with the man in the mirror" and then proceeded to change his face. I know it's almost a cliche to talk about living an upstanding life. I'm embarrassed to even write it... cuz I'm always the first to say I am one amazingly jaded beeatch. And I really do think people suck. But you never know... you have to hold on to hope somehow.

And Jacqui, if you know your own heart, the substance of yourself and who you are, what does it matter that people step back? YOU stand for you, for your American heritage, who you are. I get "called out" on a regular basis, and sometimes I get mad. But I hold on to what I know, what I've decided to stand for. Like the Professor, there are many "slights" that I don't immediately notice, especially when they are directed at me. I do more often now, though, because I have trained myself to pay attention. Not to racial injustices in particular, but injustice everywhere. I don't think it's my calling to address it or stop it... but it is certainly my calling to think about it, to question it. To wonder what compels people to do certain things... even when they KNOW it will hurt someone. And I resolve not to feed into it...

so the the last part of all this is that my previous post was about the random interview with the Obama supporter who broke it down. But then of course I started thinking, particularly after a posted comment on another blog indicated he was a fake, suppose the guy was a fake? Planted?

So you know I had to go look up the kid. I don't think he was planted because the interviewer had three interviews that day and I encourage you to watch them all. You can view them here. And actually, when you look at him within the context of the other videos, Derrick Ashong is even more compelling. Even if he was a "plant." And it actually makes the interviewer look less "racist".

Then I found Derrick's music site Solfege (music's pretty good. Not my favorite genre, but some of the songs grow on you, Sweetremix in particular). He also blogs. And he's done some acting and some speaking.

Maybe he was a "plant"... he went to Harvard, where Obama went. But then again, Poppy went there too and he's not yet an Obama supporter.

But he's been outspoken for quite some time... and even if he was "picked" or "planted"... it seems that there has always been a light burning in him, that he decided early on to stand for something... and maybe that was his moment to make a stand. And he was ready for it. Would you be ready if something like that was to happen to you?


Regina said…
Maybe it is the common birthday - because I am a questioner too - although I would probably not have described it as eloquently as you just did. I admire your list of what you stand for - I guess in all my questioning I have not really questioned myself. It is something that needs answering - I will get back to you on that.
Job said…
oh man... I have so many things I want to say... one of them is Bear Maiden and Regina, I don't think it's necessarily a "birthdate" thing - maybe it's a February/Aquarius thing cuz oh yeah... question, question, question! As Ms Frizzle from The Magic School Bus says, "Keep asking questions, and you'll keep getting [or finding] answers!"

It often feels to *me* as if people have a need to categorize others and pigeonhole them... I say, "No thanks. I do not live in a [pardon the pun] black and white world. My world is FULL of grays. Don't put me in a box." [not that you are... I'm speaking to the collective society/people as a whole, here...]

love your questions regarding the Old Testament... and yes, I have seen and felt the correlation between then and now believing that nothing and no one has really changed. IMO, back then, all God wanted was faithfulness to Him. He "proved" himself MANY times with miracles and His people still questioned Him and doubted Him. We do the same thing today.

Your questions regarding the Children of Israel and Canaanites and how could anyone tell the difference between them... my *guess* is if nothing else, the difference in their cultures and therefore, dress would have shown the distinction between the two peoples.

And yes, I believe history does repeat itself... teaching history to my children reminds me of all the wars our PLANET has endured... and even though one was coined the "Cold War", it was still a "so-and-so is our enemy" mindset. What I try and emphasize is that no one is perfect. No gov't is perfect. No gov't is the be-all end-all.

I love your list of certain things you won't do. and will they make a difference? Absolutely. If not for anyone or anything else, for YOURSELF and for those around you who learn from you and your witness and example of your life. Have you read my blog about the TV show Joan of Arcadia? "It's all the process, Joan." "We all have and make ripples, Joan." We need to leave behind "good" ripples...

And yes, BearMaiden, I know in my heart who I am and who I choose to serve. You are right... I do stand for who I am. I just wish others could and would accept me and others for our HEARTS and nothing else.
The Bear Maiden said…
Jacqui, Regina, I do think it's a Feb thing, this questioning thing. But Regina I warn you, that self-questioning thing can keep you up late at night...

Humans DO need to categorize. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing; in fact it's a very useful, uniquely human thing to do. But it's our need to set ourselves up above others in order to make ourselves feel good/justified that's the problem.

I had seen your Joan of Arcadia posts; I keep meaning to check out the show. I like the idea (a lot) of making ripples. That appeals to me :)
Natalie said…
So much to say, and if I start, I'll be here for an hour.

But I appreciated all the good thoughts in the post. And I agree about standing for something/s; when you don't, or when you lose your commitment, I think you risk losing yourself.

I'm not a questioner; my dad was a Marine and you just did what he said or else...kwim? But my Sun is, and as it turns out, he's an Aquarian (on the cusp, but it counts, right?). I have a hard time with his questions, too; not that I want to quash them, but because it is so hard to try to be something for which you have not had the good fortune of it being modeled for you. Or, at least it is for me. But it's a struggle worth fighting, I know, if for no other reason than I don't want to 'lose' my kid, yk?

There's more but if I don't go to bed, I'll never get up in time.

I love what you've got going on here, though...

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