Thursday, June 19, 2008

Getting the good kind of clap

During this year's presidential parade of candidates, I must confess I sometimes didn't listen to the speeches. I watched the crowd. Fascinating!
At first I searched for and counted faces of color. Then I studied concentration, to see if they were there just to be there or actually followed the cadence of their candidate. Sometimes small groups would waver or shutter like grass in the middle of an otherwise still crowd.
But then, I noticed something really different: almost every person has their own way of clapping.
Back in my teen years, I deliberately decided to clap with my hands slightly cupped and crisscrossed in order to produce a louder sound. Nobody else on the planet probably intentionally stylized how they would clap their hands besides me but I experimented until I got the right sound. Now, it's second nature to me and hasn't changed in 40 years.
But there, during somebody's rally, I watched and counted about eight different ways people clap. There may have been more but I started being creeped out watching other people so I stopped, but here are some examples:
*one woman lightly, daintily tapped her hands together like she wanted to participate but didn't want to offend
*one man almost seemed to be wristwrestling with himself as he pulled back his right elbow and repeatedly jammed one palm into the other as if to punish his exuberance
*another woman clapped her hands together as though they were cymbals, complete with retreating circles
*another kept her hands in close proximity and clapped vigorously like a speedy game of Patty Cake
There are more but I have to look away now, except to say I wonder if people's clapping styles mimic the way they live their lives....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

God in a card game

The title seems a little crazy but let me explain.
I've been having problems with my not-so high speed Internet access so I've developed a passion for the game FreeCell, one of those innocuous games that comes with Windows.
So I've been playing and playing and improving with each "hand" that's "dealt." It's a fun version of solitaire, in case you haven't played it. Anyway, I finally figured out that the object of the game is not just to get all the cards off the board. The object is to free all the aces first.
In my life, God is my ace. In the middle of sorting through my life, I realized that they best way to get a true path to satisfaction is to put Him first like I put getting the aces out first in FreeCell. Sometimes I'm not successful but I found out through trial and error that you can't win the game, you can't finish it, without having revealed all the aces and putting them in their rightful place. The other cards can go anywhere on the board but they can't come off the board before the ace in their suit does.
So I've decided to play my life like a game of solitaire: I'm the one who controls the cards but I know if I don't follow the correct steps, I won't win. The path is there; I just have to envision it and follow it to its conclusion and my success.
Who knew I could find His plan in a simple card game?

Pamela and Barack

It was like Christmas morning last night. My oldest sister Pam called me late last night to tell me of the experience of being at an Obama rally.
My other sisters know Pam has never been the least bit interested in politics before this year. This year, she is a volunteer for a presidential campaign. She sounded surprised when I told her how proud I was of her getting out of her 28th floor Detroit apartment and doing her part for the country.
Silly me, I was concerned Sunday when I couldn't reach her on the phone. Later that evening, she called to tell me she spent the day blowing up beach balls and counseling others on signmaking. She sounded totally invigorated describing the scene of people rushing around and smiling, working on a common cause.
During the network broadcast Monday night, I thought I saw her in the crowd clutching and feverishly waving an American flag, something else I'd never seen her do. She said she would try to get to the seats behind the stage so we could see her. Turned out it wasn't her but I knew Pam would have a great night, on or off camera.
And she did. Pam, or Tee as we call her, stood in the volunteer area before the rally admiring the physique of a tall man.
"He had his hands in his pants pockets so you could see the muscles in his thighs," she said wistfully. Being a fan of goodbodies, I totally appreciated her report.
And then he turned around.
It was Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons standing no more than 7 feet in front of her.
Was this heaven?
Then the crowd erupted and she turned to see if Sen. Obama had arrived. He had, and made his way through the crowd to shake her hand. Okay, not exactly but that's how it felt to her. He walked up, shook her hand with both of hers and said something her brain registered as English but she has no idea what he said. She offered her Audacity of Hope book to him ... and he signed it.
And there she stood, absorbing the reality of it all. Never cared about politics, never been to a rally from the inside, never met an actual candidate and there she was, staring at the first candidate of color who was actually charted to accept his party's nomination to become president of the United States.
She was so wafted away by the events of the day she missed her stop on the People Mover tram to take her back home. A group of women chattered near her about what they had gathered from the experience. Tee blew them away when she showed them her autographed book. I would have been afraid I'd get robbed of something so valuable but I think she would have snapped necks last night to keep that book.
Oh yeah. She also happily reported that Al Gore is even more devastatingly handsome than she thought.
"He is NOT fat," she insisted. "That man is foine."
We both laughed but I was pleased that she had finally brought something into her life that made her feel alive after a tumultuous one turned her against reaching out to others. She was laughing, she was exuberant, she was the excited big sister I remember being jealous of when we were kids because her 6-year advantage gave her experiences I could only hope for.
Damn if she didn't have another one....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

To spank or not to spank

One of the things I still get to enjoy while waiting for employment to get back to me is listening online to Al Sharpton's radio show. It's always good to hear other's opinions in response to the topics of the day. Today's "hot button topic" was corporal punishment.
The Rev. wondered whether current gang activity was related to the fact that there wasn't enough whippins, beatings or out-and-out non-sparing of the rod. Some callers agreed with him. I did not.
The sporatic forms of spankings my children received in their early years were handshakes compared to the skin-splitting reprimands my mother gave to me. While my now-ex believed in
it like a Sunday drive, I couldn't get the flashbacks out of my head when I tried to follow his rule.
"I got beat and I turned out fine," he'd say. Fine is such a relative term...
Anyway, I think I only touched my kids violently maybe twice each, mainly 'cause I lost the stomach for it and challenged my now-ex to not hit/spank/pop them again.
I instead concentrated on letting them know I respected them and anything they did wrong was their decision, that I would be disappointed if they did wrong and certain coveted things from their well-appointed rooms would disappear as punishment.
After a while, they would come to me in tears to tell me of my latest reason to be disappointed in them. And I showed them great disappointment with about 30 minutes of lecture. It was agony for them because I laid it on thick.
And I think that's what's missing from the psyche of today's kids: nobody respects them. Even the best-paid parents will try to buy their children's love with nothing but material things in return. You can't get a hug from an iPod, can't get a smile from a $200 pair of sneakers.
A wise woman (Toni Morrison, I think) once said kids want to see their parents eyes light up when they come into a room. Instead, some get ignored, some get cursory acknowledgement, some get 50 questions on what they did wrong and some get the snot slapped out of them because they still look like the absent parent. They don't get called on at school (unless they don't know the answer), don't get the choice benefit from a teacher, get snarls and sneers at the store, police drive by slower (and sometimes just park and stare). And these are the middle class kids. I'm sure the ones who live in the socially cordoned areas get worse.
In the July issue of Ebony, Judge Greg Mathis talks about the history of white t-shirts and butt-hugging, too big pants on many of today's youth across the racial color wheel. He compares it to the way men in prison dress out of necessity, not style. Actually, the mental pen today's young males are trapped in resembles the real pen: penitentiary. Why not dress the part when onlookers treat them like criminals in waiting?
That defensive posture tells me they've already accepted the fate of getting swept up in the netting of penal inevitability. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
When I see a male walking around in oversized clothes, especially shirts with broad stripes, I wonder what their relationship with their father is. Does dad dress like that? Chances are, if they can readily point to their father, dad is as straight-laced as his dad was. And dad has either decided or is deathly fearful for his son's maturity in freedom. So he leans on him extra hard and for a teenager, that's not a good tactic for a rebel to comply. They stay at constant odds and love, tactile love, goes right out the window.
To me, they look like big boys with little hearts, looking for acceptance and affection from people who don't want anything but the best from them. And I pray for us all...