Category Archives: Society

Race Determines Race Perspectives

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This election cycle race has become a major topic of discussion. Adding fuel to the emphasis on race has been the number of people of color killed in confrontation of police.

Yet, for all the news headlines about race, the protests, the riots, the upheaval in big cities across the country, Pew Research has uncovered some interesting information. How people talk about and view race relations in the nation is largely determined by one’s race.

For the majority of whites, race seldom if ever enters the conversation on social media. For the majority of blacks, race occupies a majority focus on social media.

Check out this chart:

socialmediaraceAs is readily seen, for whites race is something of an afterthought. For blacks, race is an integral part of life on and off the web. The saying goes that perception is reality.

For most blacks, the perception is that life in the US of A is pitted with systemic racism. For most whites, the perception is that the race issue was long settled and not worth discussing.

It is our perceptions, whether from the Cornfield or from the inner city, which taints our reality to one view or the other. Thus our reality is skewed toward what we see when we look out the door. This also has an impact on what we hear from and see on the campaign trail from the candidates.

Another saying is you cannot have your own facts, but the fact is the facts are even colored by our perception which is also colored by our color or race.

Because of our perspectives being different, do our perspectives end up being self-fulfilling prophecies?

From the Cornfield, whites believe we are well on our way to that color blind society where people are accepted as people without a regard to race. Blacks believe the mountain is still far off in the distance.

Can the two perceptions ever meet and become a reality for all?

Or will we continue to struggle day by day in either ignorant bliss or fearful existence?

Read more about the Pew study: http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/08/15/social-media-conversations-about-race/

Ran Out of Gas!

Morning Mark!
Right now in Rochester it’s 80 degrees and the humidity is 56 percent. Another hot one, yuck! All across the country we’ve been dealing with this heat wave and not much relief in sight.
And true to tradition people are running to the beach.
Yesterday while on the road I came across a family en route to the beach and they ran out of gas. (Old Chevy picture) But they called their Old Uncle Hank and he saved the day. He picked the family up and got them to the beach. (Old Caddy picture)
Old Chevy.

Old Caddy

Updated State of Our Union

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This Sunday afternoon I sit in Mark’s Den watching and listening intently to heartbreaking news coming out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Three police officers have been killed in an apparent ambush. Three other officers have been shot with at least one in critical condition. One suspect has been killed. Two other suspects are being sought.

It is a little over a week since five officers were killed by a mad snipe in Dallas, Texas. Now this.

It is the eve of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. There is concern that protesters may come armed with rifles and shotguns since Ohio is an open-carry state.

Will we see a repeat of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention?

One year ago today, I wrote about The State of Our Union.

It bears repeating:

As President Gerald Ford told Congress and the American people in 1975, The State of our Union is not good.

The same can be said as I sit here in the Desert and look out across our land from sea to shining sea in July of 2015, 40 years, a generation, later.

The country is at its most divisive since the mid 1960s. The country is nearly as torn as it was in the mid 1860s. But so far, insurrection, taking up arms, has not occurred.

For the past few years there have been calls by some quarters to secede once more from the Union. There was a movement, including an online campaign with thousands of signatures, for Texas, which once was a republic in its own right, to pull out of the national association of states and return to the time of Sam Houston.

At times over this last year, where many of us had thought the racial divide was giving into the melting pot, we have learned that there is a segment out there where we have a white America and a black America. There is an abyss between suburban, small town and rural areas of the country and the inner cities and areas of urban concentration.

Even between suburbia and rural, small town communities there is a divide.  The more liberal occupy urban America and much of suburbia, while conservatives claim rural and small town America.

Each day we turn on the television and go online with trepidation wondering if we will be dismayed, our hearts torn, by yet another mass killing or disaster. Each day we wonder if a rogue country will launch the bomb.

Radicalism is growing and not just with those pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Some threats are homegrown. Some threats are white supremacists, black power enthusiasts, free nationalist anarchists and so on.

Crime may be down over all, but police are backing off from serving and protecting. In many parts of the country – urban areas predominantly – police are under fire, afraid doing their job will lead to being arrested.

Politicians are playing to our baser nature, garnering large crowds. Politicians are playing on our fears to keep us in an uproar. Politicians have forgotten their duty to do best for the nation and not for their personal careers.

Then there are the millions going about life, ignoring it all. If it does not knock on their door, these millions stay in blissful ignorance, dashing toward the cliff and destruction.

These millions will wake up, but will it be too late?

While the annual budget deficit may continue to track downward, not a word about the national debt of $18 trillion plus and growing. Not a word about the generations to come already buried in red ink. We run merrily along from bubble to bubble, from crash to crash.

Yes, my friends, the State of our Union is not good.

From the Cornfield, should the national anthem be changed to “God Bless America, Again?

Or have we traveled to far down the road of perdition where even the Almighty cannot intervene?

However, in light of Dallas and now Baton Rouge, the question is being raised if some within our American family have taken up arms in insurrection targeting law enforcement?

From the Cornfield, perhaps what is needed is to heed II Chronicles 7:14,

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Surely if ever for the sake of the State of our Union, our land, the US of A, needs healing.

A Blended America?

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As I sit and listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the memorial service for the slain Dallas, Texas police officers, who were brutally killed by hate last Thursday night, I wonder if a blended America, a color-blind America is possible.

The great American experiment has been one of a melting pot where diverse peoples and cultures have come to these shores “in order to form a more perfect union.

The national motto is E pluribus unum – out of many one.

On the base of the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the US known around the globe, are the words, “…give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The country has had its first non-white President for almost eight years now, but the racial divides seem to be worse now than when President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

A little over a week ago, a study from Pew Research was highlighted in the July 3rd The Sunday Paper on racial divisions in the US of A. There is a wide disparity in how whites view race relations and blacks and other people of color view those relations.

Most whites see improvement. Most blacks see a deterioration.

Most whites think the nation has recovered from past sins. Most blacks think those sins are still being visited on the children and the children of the children.

Can we actually have a blended society?

Can I as an older, white male understand?

My thoughts: Guilty: Failure to Understand, Incapable of Empathy

The President had the difficult task today of trying to bring together three separate incidents over a little more than a week which has brought the divisions in our American society to the forefront – the killing of two, young, black men in Louisiana and Minnesota by white police officers and the ambushing of the Dallas police, which left five officers dead.

Not an easy task.

Often as he has been speaking, the President has found the right tone, maneuvered to play the correct notes, but occasionally slipping into more political and ideological positions.

Yet, as the President speaks, the question rises more in my mind if  a blended America, an America without divisiveness is possible.

I hear the rhetoric on the campaign trail. I hear the words of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

I see the lines being drawn in the halls of Congress.

On social media there is the blistering commentary, the lack of empathy, the shouting too loud to hear the other side.

From the Cornfield, does this great divide that seems to be impossible of being bridged have its roots back in the annals of time?

Is a blended America not a reality which can be accomplished because of the dispersal at the Tower of Babel, where the tongues were confused and people pushed to differing parts of the globe?

I do not have the answer.

Memories of Yesteryear

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Before retiring last night and after I rose this morning, I have not been able to stop the memories of yesteryear from flooding my mind.

It was the summer of 1968, prior to my returning to school for my freshman year of high school. We were living in Aurora, Illinois at the time.

It was a summer of unrest. Riots and demonstrations in the streets flooded the nightly newscasts on all three of the only networks of the time – ABC, CBS and NBC.

I was already something of a history and political buff. So I watched intently to the scenes playing out on our color television.

The images were much more real than what they were that other July night watching on a black-and-white screen as President John F. Kennedy warned the nation about the Red Scare 70 miles off our coast, which I had watched as a second grader living in Anderson, Indiana.

Come to think of it – it had been a decade of unrest.

The standoff with the USSR, the assassination of President Kennedy, the social upheaval of the hippies and flower children, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the marches of those seeking civil rights for all, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the burning of bras and draft cards, the running away to Canada, the protests against the Viet Nam War, Woodstock – all were part of this decade.

Now in July of 1968, transfixed I watched the National Guard on the streets of Chicago a mere 60 miles away. I saw mounted police trampling on protesters. I saw the barricades, the smoke from tear gas, from Molotov cocktails, bloodied faces outside the Democratic National Convention.

I watched protesters dragged out of the convention. I saw the inability of nominee Hubert Humphrey to quell the unrest.

It was total chaos. A couple of weeks later, I remember Everett Dirksen, our own Senator, take control at the Republican National Convention. I watched as if in a trance as Dirksen had the hall on its feet reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

But it was still a summer, a decade of unrest.

Over the past week, once more I have been transfixed seeing reminders of that summer nearly 50 years ago.

The killings.

The marches in the streets.

Presidential nominating conventions in the wings.

The saying goes that history repeats itself.

We are also admonished to learn from the past so as not to make the same mistakes.

Have we learned nothing?

From the Cornfield, America the Beautiful, God shed His grace on Thee.

Guilty: Failure to Understand, Incapable of Empathy

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The truth is staring me in the mirror.

I am an older, white male.

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As such, I have a failure to understand, an incapability of empathy and am justifiably labeled guilty.

Why deny it?

How can I as an older, white male be able to “get it”?

How can I as an older, white male know how it feels to be abused both verbally and physically?

How can I as an older, white male know the hurt of being turned down for employment or fired from employment because of being who one is?

How can I as an older, white male be able to relate to police hostility or brutality?

How can I as an older, white male think I can be party to healing wounds that cross time?

How can I as an older, white male have the gall to talk about injustice and inequality?

How can I as an older, white male discover my options limited in achieving the great American Dream?

How can I as an older, white male know the humiliation of mothers pulling their children close to them when passing by?

How can I as an older, white male relate to the shame as people cross to the other side of the street in avoidance?

How can I as an older, white male comprehend being refused service in a restaurant or store simply for being alive?

Anyone can see it clearly in the photo that I am an older, white male – thus I am suspect.

It is plain to see that I have no seat at the table with the downtrodden.

The only participation I can have in the conversation is to admit my guilt and complicity for actions perpetrated 50, 100, 200, 300 years ago.

Those actions surely were committed by someone like me. I am guilty whether I am blood-related or not to the perpetrator.

I am guilty whether any thoughts of malice have ever crossed my mind or not.

I am guilty whether I have ever committed any acts of inhumanity or not.

I am the spitting image of the guilty.

From the Cornfield, not sure if I mentioned it, but I am also gay.

I have been asked to move from where I lived.

I have been beaten.

I have been threatened with jail time.

I have been met at the church door and told I was not welcome.

I have seen employment opportunities disappear.

I have been called things which would make the most vile person blush.

None of that matters.

I am betrayed by my appearance in the picture.

I am an old, white male.

Nothing matters except for what is so obvious by one look.

But don’t call it profiling.

A New Day, A New Week

Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
Delve into the light and dark that is Mark
It’s a new day.
It’s a new week.
A blank piece of paper lies before us.
What shall we write on it this day, this week?
After the horror that shook the nation last week, can we move forward this week?
There is a disconnect among the facets, the people who make up this fabric we call America. Our perspectives are shaped by our own lives, our own experiences. It is difficult to understand another person’s concerns and issues when our own concerns and issues do not mirror those of others.
How does this great American experiment, this melting pot of humanity manage to be what our national motto, E pluribus unum, states – Out of many one?
It’s a new day.
It’s a new week.
What shall I write upon this empty page?
That’s the way it is in Mark’s Den.
And how is your Monday going?

Happy Birthday, US of A!

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On Monday, the US of A celebrates its 240th birthday.

It was, like with any birth, one that was born out of travail, crying, shouts of glee, bloodshed and even death. Truly the continent was in heavy labor as the push and screams of thousands were heard around the world.

That sorrow and agony gave way, however, to jubilation as the nation emerged covered with the scars and trappings of nativity. But as difficult as that birth was, the struggle was not over.

There would be growing pains, illnesses and diseases to overcome. There would be those who would attempt to reclaim and to destroy that life which was born out of a pledge to devote honor, lives and fortunes to see this epic birth come to be and last through all time.

Through the years, as with any baby maturing to toddler to child to teen to adult, this great nation of states joined to form a “more perfect union” had to go through its share of perils, tests and trials. In each instance, in the end, the US of A emerged on the other side a better nation.

The most trying time is undisputed, which is what occurred during what I would call the teenage years, puberty, when literally brother was pitted against brother, sister against sister, sons and daughters against mothers and fathers. The greatest and most costly toll of lives and bloodshed threatened to tear the nation apart. Yet through the trauma of the Civil War, the War Between the States, a united and stronger country came of age.

Dark days still lay ahead, but it seemed the worst had passed.

Through more battles and more wars, we find ourselves today celebrating the nation we’ve become and feeling the pain of the mistakes we have made. We honor the lives who gave their all to keep this nation the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Now, we look forward to the days and years ahead.

We are traveling the rough and choppy sea of economic uncertainty, but which seems to be slowly recovering.

The ship of state must traverse the gulf as the skipper maneuvers the ship to avoid crashing on the rocks of lost hope, despair, keeping an eye on the course and the port of serenity which lies in the distance.

The tides of global unrest threaten to engulf us. We must stay resolute and strong. Together we can ride the waves and dock in safe harbor.

Many have lost hope.

Many no longer aspire to the American Dream.

Many wonder if the flag will still wave for much longer.

But we are Americans.

We will survive.

From the Cornfield, America, may she always be that shining city on a hill to which others seek to aspire.

Happy Independence Day!

Rochester history.

Here in Rochester, many famed industries were started as many of you know. One of them being Bausch & Lomb. It’s founders both lived here.
On Memorial day in 1932 a monument was constructed and dedicated for Henry Lomb honoring his service in the American Civil War. Lomb served as a sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. The monument sets in a meridian on Upper Falls Blvd and St. Paul street in front of the original Bausch & Lomb plant.
For over 30 years the lights were turned off for unknown reasons. But recently, just last Monday (Memorial day) thanks to donations from local merchants, the lights were back on.
It’s nice to see history continually honored as it should be.

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A Debt We Can Never Repay

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Today is Memorial Day.

It is a time to stop, reflect and remember those military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain and protect our freedom and way of life in the US of A.

The tradition of Memorial Day originally began in commemoration of those soldiers lost during the Civil War. It was known in various communities and states as Decoration Day. The date set aside was May 30. This was later changed to allow for a 3-day weekend by Congress to be the last Monday in May.

For the vast majority of Americans it is just another holiday weekend and the unofficial start to the summer vacation season. For many others it’s the weekend when millions around the world tune in to watch or listen to the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indy 500.

To too many it’s just a day to get together with family, have picnics and barbecues, go to the opening of community pools across the nation.

It’s a time to lay back and enjoy having three days off in a row with no worries.

Yet, Memorial Day symbolizes much more.

Ask any veterans’ organization or any military person in uniform or any family member who has lost a loved one in war, whether declared or undeclared, in peacetime or wartime.

Memorial Day was meant to be a day upon which a grateful nation pauses to remember those who donned a uniform and gave their lives in defense of our American way of life.

These brave men and women paid the ultimate price to make sure we could have our picnics, our barbecues, our splashing around in the pool.

The sacrifice of those who gave their lives is honored with each election where not by coup, but by ordinary Americans casting a ballot and choosing those who will lead and represent them.

The power and authority of those officials are transferred from one elected official to the next, from the precinct level to the highest office in the land, the Presidency, without the need for troops in the streets because of those who answered the call to duty, honor and service.

The ability to vote, the ability to choose, the ability to speak our minds, the ability to worship or not worship, the ability to write these words without fear, the ability to work, to succeed, to fail, to rise above our circumstances, all of this we owe to those men and women who fought and died for peace, justice and freedom.

None of our liberties came without cost and thus we owe a debt to those men and women who died in defense of our freedom.

On a personal note:

In those dark days following the sneak attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, four brothers from Nashville, Brown County, Indiana lined up at the recruiting office and joined the US Navy. These four brothers went off to save the world for democracy both in the European Theater and in the Pacific.

Three made it back home at the close of the war. The one who didn’t return was my Great-Uncle Hobert. My grandfather and his other two brothers, Herman and Wesley, came home, but changed, never to be the same.

I never was afforded the pleasure of meeting my Great-Uncle Hobert Powell, a sailor who gave his life for our nation during World War II and long before I was born. The family seldom mentioned his name, but it was apparent Great-Uncle Hobert was not forgotten. His picture, in uniform, hung proudly in my Great-Grandpa Ancil Powell’s living room. In silence, his memory was honored.

Today thousands still are in the fight to keep us safe. Over the past 10+ years, thousands more have shed their blood and forfeited their lives. We must never forget their sacrifice, their bravery, the lives they lived.

This is why we owe a debt of gratitude we can never repay and should never stop repaying.

This is why the deaths of veterans waiting on care from the Veterans Affairs medical facilities is such a gaping wound on the American conscious and must be addressed not after another study, but with action now.

From the Cornfield, I hope each of you will take time from the barbecuing, the playing games with family, watching reruns of yesterday’s race or enjoying the water and sun to stop – remember our heroes who gave their all so that we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.