Monday, July 13, 2020

How God Talks To Me.

      You know, the capacity for humans to complain no matter the circumstances astounds me. 
       Case in point. My work schedule has changed a lot since this Covid-19 bug hit. I'm working double shifts, I'm not really a morning person, despite spending a large portion of my life getting up at 4:30 to spend 16 hour days cooking for a bunch of squids.  I have to get up 1.5 hrs before work to make sure I get my coffee and breakfast. It's a bit of a pain in the ass.
       My body has aches and pains galore. I'm still recovering from my recent hospital stay.   And I grumble inwardly when trudging to work. But then God has to put me in check sometimes. 

       He says, "Hey dumbass! You know how many people lost their jobs when their business shut down?  You know how many people had to go on unemployment?  You know how many people have to put their lives back together after this thing hit?  Do you know why I put it into your head not to have kids? Not to have a significant other?  You have it sooo damn good right now!  
      You lost your Theater Square site. BFD!  But you're now working security at UPMC. You're getting OVERTIME! You're working more hours now than you were at the beginning of the year! Your paychecks are BOOMING right now!  I'm keeping your ungrateful ass out of the hospital!  You could have had a bigger stroke than you did and be totally useless to yourself! 
       Get the d**k out of your ear and listen up!  YOU ARE BEING BLESSED!! BE F*****G GRATEFUL, YOU IDIOT! QUIT YOUR BELLYACHING AND ENJOY THE DAMN RIDE!!"  

      That's the way God occasionally talks to me, like an 80's RTC Great Mistakes company commander (Back in those days, they could cuss.) In a way that I can understand.  And he's right. I have it pretty damn good compared to others. It's not the ideal situation, the ideal life, but it works, for me, that is. Take whatever moral you choose out of this.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Lift Every Voice and Sing

      The NFL proposing to have "Lift Every Voice and Sing" played before Week 1 games, the headlines the media is throwing out there for the story is clickbait.  Lift Every Voice and Sing(LEVAS) is commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem.
      It, of course, does not have the same standing as the Star Spangled Banner(SSB), which is the official national anthem of the USA. However, many black folks, myself included, feel strongly enough about the words in LEVAS to treat it as our National Anthem, even to the extent of standing while it's played.  And instead of singing only the first verse of the SSB, Black folks sing all the verses of LEVAS. Because all the verses carry significant meaning to black people.  
       It is a song that describes black folks struggle and fight to be considered relevant in this country. It offers us hope. It praises the God who sustained us, and kept us fighting whether being enslaved, hung by a noose or being told that we must use separate facilities, or when police continue to abuse their authority and kill those they arrest. It is a powerful song that never fails to inspire. More white folks ought to listen to it. 
       In actuality, this scheme by the NFL, while well intentioned, is the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on an amputation.  It's a feel good effort to act "woke." And I'm sure the NFL will find a way to make money off the whole thing.  
       But this is one small step. Among many. But, as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with ONE SMALL STEP. We have come a long way, but we still have far to go. 

      All sides to look deep into their hearts. That includes black folks as well. How can we demand respect from everyone when we won't demand respect from ourselves?  
      How can we demand that police stop killing us, when we are still shooting each other over drugs, turf, and women?  How can we get out of our ghettos when the only ways out we offer our children is either as an entertainer or an athlete?
      Why are there more black men in jail than in college?
      Why are there so many black folks using smartphones and so few helping to design them?   I don't know. I'm but one voice and I don't know the answers.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth and Other Overlooked Tidbits of American History.

     I have to admit. Despite going to what many people considered a good high school (1970's Bill Fisher era Allderdice) I don't remember hearing about Juneteenth.  
     As an aside, I don't think high school taught me much of anything, in truth. I regarded it as somewhat of a black hole.  Despite The 'Dice's reputation, academic and otherwise at the time, it didn't seem to serve me well. I ended up in the lower half of my graduating class. Whether it was the school's fault or my fault may be up for debate. Probably a little of both. 
      But aaanyway, I don't remember Juneteenth being part of my American history class. It's sad that such an important date in history, like so much of black history, doesn't get taught in our schools. We read about slavery, and how it is eradicated. Don't remember being taught much about Jim Crow, we read about Martin Luther King and the high points of the Civil Rights Movement, and after he was assassinated...bupkes. 
       Admittedly, this was 40 plus years ago and while my long term memory is pretty good, my high school years were more memorable about what happened outside the classroom as opposed to inside them. 
        But like it or not, black history is American history.  And it deserves more exposure to our youth than just a rehash of the high points. They need to know about what set up the high points. 
        But there is so much history of all the peoples that make up this country that is a part of American history and that deserves to be told, and only so much can be crammed into 180 school days. How do you fit it in?  How do you make sure that no people's history gets short shrift. I don't know.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Defund The Police?

With the death of George Floyd still fresh in the country's psyche, a call has gone out to "Defund The Police."  Some look at that phrase as a way to reallocate funding municipalities use for the police towards the communities they serve. Others think the phrase means to abolish the police altogether.

I think the slogan "Defund the Police" is inaccurate. I don't believe the term means to abolish the police.  While the ranks of the police are full of individuals who do not deserve the badge, the majority of police try to do damn near impossible jobs honorably.  And the presence of rogue officers makes that job even more difficult. 

 One thing I wonder is that there are calls police receive and respond to that they do not really need to respond to. Why does a cop need to respond to a complaint about a homeless person being where they shouldn't be? Why does a cop have to respond to a call about an illegal street vendor? Why does a cop need to respond to somebody selling loose cigarettes?  Why does a cop need to respond to a dispute between neighbors?  Why does a cop need to respond to a shoplifter? 

There are many situations where police are dispatched where their presence is not really needed.  Robberies, yes. Domestics, yes. Shootings, yes. A situation where violence, especially where weapons could possibly be involved, fine.  But if the matter can be peaceably settled without the use of weapons, why involve the police?  I would think that a cop would prefer to be handling a life-threatening situation or catching bad guys than rousting homeless people or ticketing a street vendor who doesn't have a vendors license. 

I think that defunding the police might mean taking some of the money municipalities used to operating the police and using it to create a community advocacy program that trains people in de-escalation and handling issues that require assistance from trained professionals but not from the police. By all means, if a trained community advocate has a problem that requires the police to make a show of force, maybe the person they're trying to help gets combative or shows a weapon, by all means the police must be summoned, and a quick response is needed to prevent loss of life.  But why not free the police from routine issues so they can concentrate on doing what they are trained to do.

I may be wrong. I'm not a cop.  But put in your feedback.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Uncle P's Thoughts--Police and Protests

     Another thing. Please don't assume that because I'm black, I have inbred animosity towards the police. There are plenty of black folks who don't like the police, who flat out hate the police.         For a multitude of reasons.  Police for decades have been used by racist administrations at the state, county and local levels to enforce racist rules, laws and mores meant to harm black people. They have been used to deny black people justice, they have been used to persecute, torture, lynch and kill black people. They have been used to keep black people down and to deny them their rights.  Try and find at least one black person, who hasn't either been harassed, falsely accused, falsely arrested by police, or hasn't had a relative, acquaintance or loved one who hasn't been subject to unjust policing.
       But unless we choose to employ vigilantism to protect our neighborhoods, the police are what we have.  I am privileged in that I haven't had issues with police. I have never been stopped, harassed, or hassled by police.
       I am a security guard. I am the eyes and ears of the police, fire departments, and paramedics for the places I'm assigned to work. Police can't be everywhere. If something happens at one of my job sites, my job is to alert the first responders, and inform them as to what happened. My job is to give them the who, what, when, where, and how of an incident and leave it to them to figure out the why. It is important to me that I give them proper information so they can do their job. The client who contracts my guard agency to protect their property expects that, as do the first responders whom I contact.  When I talk to them I have to do so respectfully, professionally and with courtesy.  I give them the information they need and keep it moving.  It doesn't happen often that I have to deal with cops, but when I do, I have to give them what they need to do their job, and by doing so, I'm doing my job. 
     I am angered when I see police misuse their authority. I am angered when I see them abuse suspects and kill those whom they are responsible for bringing to justice. Cops are the tip of the spear, not the whole spear. Their job is to protect the community, enforce the law, catch the criminals and bring them to justice. They aren't judge, jury, and executioner. They aren't Judge Dredd and this isn't Mega City One. 
       I have nothing but respect for police. They have to deal with a lot of unpleasant characters. Human beings at their worst.  They are given great power and concomitant great responsibility.  But, they are human. They have to guard against becoming that which they protect us from. They can't let the badge go to their heads.  It's a job I couldn't do. I neither hate police, nor do I suck up to them. I see them for what they are and the job they are called to do. I congratulate them when they do the right thing and condemn them when they don't.  They are us. The good, the bad, and the ugly. 

 RoboCop doesn't exist except in the movies .

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A Church Is Not A Building.

     A church is not a building, a church is the people who worship in that building. It's a community.  The building is secondary to the community that worships in it. 
     A building is temporary.  A building is fleeting.  It can beautiful, but it can fade away.  The building burns down, is destroyed or is closed, the people either rebuild, find another building or share the building with another congregation.  A strong church community will outlast any building it's housed in. Jesus never placed much emphasis on buildings. He knew they were temporary. Like all things constructed by finite man, buildings would ultimately fall.            He cautioned his followers to not be concerned with earthly treasures. But to lay up for themselves incorruptible treasures in heaven.  Where moths cannot corrupt and thieves cannot break through and steal. 
      Last I remember the New Testament, Jesus preached wherever there were people willing to listen to his message. His disciples preached wherever they could find a place where people could gather.  Could have been in a house, a spare room, an open field.          "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there also will I be."  
      These days in a world plagued with a pandemic,  those two or three could be gathered together in Jesus' name in a video conferencing situation.  As long as they are gathered together in one accord and in Jesus' name, he promised us that there also he shall be. It would be better if we were all physically together in community, but the spirit of God is still present if we are miles apart in our own homes. This is the situation we find ourselves in today, but God is still God, even through a pandemic.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

How Not To Get A College Degree 20 Years Revisited.

     Shout out to the lovely and talented Madelaine Berg aka Madwoman. She and I walked across the Sewall Center stage 20 years ago this week to graduate from what was Robert Morris College to earn our bachelor's degrees. I
      If I'm not mistaken, Madwoman's degree was in Hospitality and mine was in Sports Management. Unlike me, Madwoman actually used her sheepskin while mine sits in a picture frame and looks at me tauntingly.  My route to undergraduate "success" took eight years and I called it "The Relentless Pursuit of Higher Education" A treatise of questionable worth about how "not" to get a college education. 
      In short, I spent 3 years at CCAC from 1992-95 getting my associates with no plan about whether I was going to transfer or where. I basically flew by the seat of my pants. And did not bother taking advantage of academic advising, because I had no clue of what the hell I was doing.  I only got into Robert Morris because at the time, they were very good at accepting CCAC's credits. And my associate degree wasn't even designed to transfer. 
      Pretty safe to say that that plan would NOT work at today's RMU.  You would think that someone who entered college in his thirties would have a clue. Wrong!! I was dumber than dirt. Still am at 57.  But I now am in possession of a bachelor's degree that is all but useless. 
       But, suffice it to say, I had a lot of fun getting it. Between all the commendations I earned at CCAC and the hijinks and hell I raised in both my Phi Theta Kappa chapter at CCAC  and my Phi Beta Lambda crew at Robert Morris, I had fun, learned a lot about myself and ultimately the degrees did serve me well in that I learned how to write gud!!! 
      Still doing the same work I was doing before I started college. But I learned a little about leadership in running my PTK chapter and I got a little hardware too.  If I had it to do over again, I would do it again, but I'd talk to some advisors this time around. 
       I'll end on this note. Students thinking about college. Don't do it by yourself. Talk to advisors. Plan your schedule and classes intelligently. Don't think you know it all, because, trust me, you don't.