“Make Yours a Happy Home” in 2017

On New Year’s Eve I happened to be driving from Austin Texas back to San Antonio, when a disc jockey on Soul Town 49, Sirius XM Radio (I couldn’t live in San Antonio without XM radio) played one of my favorite songs from the past. My spirits were lifted as I heard the melodic voice of the great Gladys Knight, sang “Make Yours a Happy Home.” Most of you probably know the song comes straight out of the 1975 movie, Claudine, starring Dianne Carroll and James Earl Jones and the musical score was written by Curtis Mayfield. The title to that song is rather simplistic but has profound meaning for all of us. It not only refers to our personal family life, but to the larger community of this country and the world. When we think of the United States as one home with many disparate races, people of different religions and sexual orientations, then it becomes quite clear that we have a gigantic task to try to make our home a happy one.

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Looking back over our history, the years of discontent, anger and turbulence far outweigh the happy ones. This home is always in turmoil and the last year is a perfect example. We just witnessed one of the most contentious political elections in our over two hundred-year-history. As a family with various and differing viewpoints, the presidential race reached deep into the gutter, where congeniality and a decent decorum were lost on both sides of the political spectrum. Much of this dissension is fueled by the age old weakness of racism, a sickness that has plagued this country since its inception.

statue-of-liberty-cryingWith the election of President Barack Obama, we had our best opportunity to actually move forward into a post racial society. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead the animosity against Black Americans increased. In his farewell address the President alluded to this problem when he exclaimed, “Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard working white middle class and undeserving minorities.”  That anger also manifests against religious groups, our LBGT community, our neighbors south of the border, and for the first time in our history a certain segment of the population insisted on a wall to divide the countries. I imagine the Statue of Liberty must be shedding a few tears, for the democracy she once represented. The home that she watched over for over a century is in turmoil. King’s dream has actually become Malcolm X’s nightmare.

The United States has always welcomed most racial groups of the world, as well as most religions, people with various sexual preferences, and various cultures to its shores. That makes this country one of the greatest experiments in civilized history. Never before have so many different men, women and children lived under one roof and had to make theirs a happy home. As this country prepares to turn over the power to a man whose success was built on feeding our differences and not what we have in common, the next four years may test this experiment in ways that none of us have ever known. We may become a much more dysfunctional family, during this president’s tenure.

What is just as depressing to this writer is the savagery that has plagued my community. The fact that police all over this country have decided to use our young for target practice is bad enough, but it becomes even a greater crisis when our young do the same to each other. Seven hundred black men, women and children murdered in Chicago, surely tells us that ours is not a happy home.

The major question that confronts all of us is whether we can endure, and will this experiment in civilization ultimately be successful. Given the history of the world, we are still a very young country; the new kids on the block. But we have a tendency to stick our chest out at the rest of the world and brag about our great political and economic system. That claim may be rather premature. Given the direction in which we seem to be going, the future looks rather dismal and we may not survive the test of time.

However, hope is the one universal principal that most writers must possess. In order to create good literature, the writer must look beyond the world as it is and write about a world that can be much better for all the inhabitants. If we would adapt that principle, then maybe our condition can change and even survive the next four years, free of any additional turmoil than what we have faced for the past year. And just maybe this experiment in history will endure, and sometime in the future we can sing along with Gladys Knight to “Make Yours a Happy Home.”

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Santa Claus at Christmas

black-santa-clausThis Christmas, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Santa Claus. Yes, Santa Claus. And for all of you who might think I am digressing to a time in my life when Mr. Claus was relevant, that is not the case. But I have thought about the jolly ole Saint Nick in relation to his symbolic meaning, and exactly where we are as a country this late in a very turbulent year. As I recall from my much younger days in the past, Santa Claus spied on all of us from his perch in the North Pole, and kept a record as to whether we had been naughty or nice. On Christmas Eve, as he loaded all the toys into his sleigh and fed the reindeer who would take him all over the world, he also reviewed the list of young folks whose chimneys he would come down and leave requested gifts, under the Christmas tree.

Using our creative imagination, let’s consider our country as one big kid who has been under surveillance by Santa and his helpers for the past twelve months. As early as January 2016, he knew there might be problems with this child. The bickering was getting out of hand, as the country prepared for what would be a nasty election. This was something that Santa did not condone. After all, he was always jovial and happy and wanted others to display the same demeanor all the time. One man in particular caught his attention. He sought the highest elected office in the country, and was willing to use bully tactics against his opponents to achieve his goal. According to Santa’s standards, he never made a stop at the homes where bullies resided.

The other person seeking the highest office wasn’t quite as bad as her opponent, but she also lacked the kind of values that Santa expected from anyone who would receive a visit from him. She often stretched the truth to cover up her misdeeds, especially with her use of emails. As of Christmas Eve, he wasn’t sure if she would get a visit from him because of the ambivalence he felt toward her.

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Then there is the rest of the country, divided in support of these candidates.  Both sides were willing to step outside the bounds of civility in support of their candidate. In fact, grown men often went to blows in the heat of the battle. But according to Santa Claus, it should never have been a battle, but simply an election. They all lost a sense of comity, and carried on in a manner unsatisfactory to Santa. There was a slight possibility that the old man might just skip over the United States, and keep on South into Mexico.

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But on second thought, as he prepared to take off, he considered that maybe his presence could make a difference and bring peace, love, and unity back to this country, desperately in need of help. Maybe he could influence this obstreperous child to change its ways, and help the occupants of this country to understand that they all have too much to lose to carry on in this manner. Maybe his presence for just a little while, on the eve of the birth of the person who came to earth to save mankind from its own self-destruction, would make a difference in how they treat each other, going into the new year. Maybe in 2017 they would all come to their senses, and realize this selfish and vicious behavior must end.

He thought he might leave gifts of a different nature than in the past. These gifts would be for a better understanding that we all must reach out, and do what is in our power to make sure that Santa returns every year. A gift to understand that it would be cruel and deplorable for the country to repeal Obamacare and leave over twenty million men and women without health care coverage. A gift to understand that it is necessary to raise the minimum wage, so that those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder might live more prosperous lives. Instead of the top one percent hording the resources, they should be shared more equitably among all the people. Santa could remind the country that Jesus left the message, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.”  Yes, Santa might be able to get us back on the right track, and live up to all the promises made in the United States Constitution that all men (and women) are created equal and should be treated as such. And that the values found in the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments far exceed the perceived guarantees of the Second. Maybe, just maybe Santa Claus could bring all of us back to our senses and recognize we must give, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill toward men and women.” And we all will be better off as we head into a new year.

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL FROM SANTA CLAUS

AND

THE WRITER FRED AND FAMILY!

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