Macon Love

“Do Not Attempt To Play Little Richard’s Piano. He Will Know.”

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here, and a link to the next post in the series, when it becomes available, below.

I never thought I would wax nostalgic about anything related to the state of Georgia, but I have to say, Macon has really caught my eye. It could be love. There’s definitely chemistry going on. For a city with a population of only about 157,000, it sure has a big… art, music and historical community. (What did you think I was going to say?)

Not only does it have a gorgeous antebellum historic district, which I wrote about in my last post, but it also has a rich Native American heritage. We visited the Ocmulgee Mounds, which are on the Eastern edge of the city, and it was fascinating to learn that there has been about 17,000 years of continuous human history in the area.

From the Paleoindians to the Archaic, Woodland, and Early Mississippians, right on down to the Lamar Culture and today’s Muscogee (Creek) Nation, each one has left its mark upon this land. Today, you can visit Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and see many remnants of the various cultures at the visitor center, and if you enjoy a good hike, you can visit a village site, a variety of trenches and mounds, a trading post site from the late 1600’s, and, best of all, an amazing earth lodge that’s right near the visitor center.

Approaching the earth lodge from the parking lot, it looks like a mound with no significant features other than the fact that it is unnaturally mound-like. But when you go around the side, you encounter a doorway. To say that the doorway and the subsequent tunnel are low is putting it mildly. I cracked my head a good one on the way out. But that’s probably because I was already stunned by what I had seen inside.

The clay floor has been carbon dated to the year 1015. It has a bird shaped platform that seats 3 people, and benches along the wall with indentations for 47 more. There is also a ceremonial fire pit.

While the above-mentioned things are the originals, the roof, walls, and tunnel are reconstructions by the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Work Project Administration in the late 1930’s. This earth lodge may have been originally used as a temple or a council house, and the reconstruction makes you feel like you are right there, waiting for the ceremony to begin. Truly, I kept thinking they’d be along any minute.

Also during our wanderings through Macon, we visited several little free libraries and deposited some books that we had mailed ahead of us to Dear Husband’s father’s house, which was one of our very first stops on this journey. I love the idea of the library stewards opening the books and seeing my little free library’s stamp inside. “How did these books make it all the way out here from Washington state?”

There seems to be public art everywhere you look in Macon. That, in my opinion, is the sign of a sophisticated city. Art can be controversial sometimes, but I believe that cities that try to suppress it point blank are hyper-conservative, paranoid, and at a bare minimum, lack a sense of humor. Here’s some of the art I saw around town.

We also checked out the Tubman Museum, which is right near the historic train station that I discussed in the last post. We were expecting it to be a museum about Harriet Tubman. They even use her image on some of their promotional materials. That’s confusing. But it turns out that Harriet Tubman never stepped foot in the state of Georgia. Go figure.

The museum does house a hallway dedicated to Ms. Tubman, with a statue, some letters, and some Tubman-inspired art, but that’s only a small portion of this interesting place. (Incidentally, if you’d like to read what the letter from Frederick Douglass shown below actually says, the text can be found here.) The actual mission of the Tubman Museum is more encompassing. It is to educate people about African American art, history, and culture. And I have to say that they do an excellent job of it.

Within its walls, you can see the works of contemporary African American artists, as well as an exhibit that shows the works of African American inventors. In particular, I enjoyed the art of “Mr. Imagination” who makes sculptures out of bottle caps. It was all fascinating.

In addition, there’s a large room that highlights Macon’s rich musical heritage. One of this city’s most famous native sons is Little Richard. One of the best things in the entire museum, in my opinion, is a sign on Little Richard’s piano that says, “Do Not Attempt To Play Little Richard’s Piano. He Will Know.” James Brown, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band also have Macon roots and are represented in this room.

This next section, I should warn you, might be uncomfortable for those who wish to suppress the ugliest parts of our nation’s past. But I found this exhibit very eye-opening. It makes me sad that such things exist in this world, but here they are, and there’s just no denying them.

My overall impression of Macon is that it is a vibrant, creative city that is not afraid to confront its past. It’s a place of good food, better music, and a vibe that I won’t soon forget. It was a pleasure to visit, and I highly recommend that you do so as well.

And can I just say that this is one of my better post titles? Thanks to DH for inspiring it.

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How to Fight a Book Ban

Make sharing these books your mission.

Yesterday I received a package that has me feeling very emotional, indeed. It was a box of books from Amazon, purchased by Lyn, a friend I haven’t met face to face. I met her through my blog, and she often leaves such well thought out comments, full of insight and advice and encouragement and life experience, that I genuinely wish she’d write a blog herself. But yesterday she did something even better.

Let me start at the beginning. Recently, Lyn shared an article with me entitled, “Students fight back against a book ban that has a Pennsylvania community divided”.

This article was extremely upsetting. It is about a school board in York, Pennsylvania that has banned a list of books for an entire year, simply because there has been such a backlash against Critical Race Theory, which isn’t even taught in the K-12 curriculum in the first place. The only thing these books have in common are the fact that they are all by or about people of color.

It seems that some parents are supportive of this all-White school board’s decision because they don’t want their white children to grow up feeling guilty that they’re white. Therefore, they are thrilled that any books that remind children that there are other races, or that racism exists, are no longer obtainable in their schools.

This is outrageous and absurd. Those kids in York have a right to be exposed to the real, diverse, multicultural world in which we all live. And all the children, not just the white ones, should be allowed to be proud of who they are.

It is frustrating when a school board can’t even bother to be educated itself. I hope the community votes in a much different set of people at their earliest opportunity. If I had a child, I certainly wouldn’t want them in that school district, where they’re only taught a whitewashed version of the truth. I’d want them to learn all across the color spectrum.

Lyn and I shared our frustration and anger over this situation, and our feelings of helplessness about changing it. I genuinely assumed it would end there. I’d fire off yet another rant of a blog post about it, and that would be that. We are only two individuals, after all. How on earth could we make a difference?

But then Lyn thought of my little free library, with its purpose of getting books into the hands of people who need them and don’t otherwise have access to them. And right then and there she decided that she would buy some of these banned books and send them to me for my library.

I don’t live in York. I don’t even live in Pennsylvania. But this ignorance is spreading throughout the world. My mother used to say that the best way to fight against a book ban was to get that book any way you can and read it, and then share it with others. Any time she heard about a book being banned, I could count on a copy of that book making its way to me. My mother would make that her mission.

So I opened this package from Lyn yesterday, and I got tears in my eyes. I read all of the books today except the amazing Baldwin essays, which I have already read. And now I’m proud to say that these books are sitting in my little free library, just waiting for someone to come along and claim them. And when they do, they’ll include a copy of this blog post, so they’ll understand just how special and important these books are.

Sometimes activism can be very, very subtle, but it still makes a difference. This whole event, and the way Lyn chose to deal with her frustration, makes me very, very proud of her. And I’m also proud of me for being able to facilitate it.

Thanks Lyn! I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the banned books, I Am Enough by Grace Byers: “I know that I may sometimes cry, but even then, I’m here to try.”

If you would like to participate in our subtle activism, buy these books, print out this blog post, slip it inside the front cover, and then leave these books in the little free library nearest you. You can find a map of these libraries here.

*****Update***** This particular book ban is rescinded! More details here. But don’t get complacent. Books get banned all the time, all over the world.

“The most racist week of my life.”

A white man wears a Black Lives Matter hat for a week.

Recently, a man named Alan MacAulay (pictured below) posted the following story on Facebook. It’s about what he experienced, as a white truck driver in rural south Georgia, when he chose to wear a Black Lives Matter hat for one week. I’ll let him tell the story in his own words.

THE MOST RACIST WEEK OF MY LIFE

I work for a beer company I’ve been delivering for 7+ years

I run a route that consist of Pooler, Rincon, Springfield, Guyton, and Port Wenworth. All of these places are in southern rural Georgia. This week I decided to take a stand with my fellow American brothers and sisters against racism.

I have never felt as much hate, fear, anxiety, and disbelief since I started here.

My Black and Indian customers loved it. Many of my white customers showed me nothing but hatred and disgust.

I have been followed all week, I was kicked out of a store for the first time ever, and had customers openly refer to Mein Kampf and death to the Blacks.

My Friday’s are usually my best day but not today.

At my third stop today I had first ever run I with a Klan member. He stood very close to me and my black assistant with hatred in his eyes. I didn’t realize what he was until he walked away wearing a jacket with a huge Blood Drop Cross.

I continued my day 2 stops later a firefighter came and stood at the back of my truck. He followed me to the door with my pallet of beer just standing and talking on his radio.He did this for the next 3 stops. I was concerned and scared but I just keep working. At my last stop today I was rolling beer into the cooler and a man in full army fatigues, a bucket hat, and sunglasses ran in a stood about 2 feet away with his hand in pocket. Not one white person said anything about my hat all week, but I could feel their hatred. It was sickening and scary how much they hated me for it. I will never know the struggle of being a black man and I could just simply take the hat off. I felt things this week I haven’t ever felt in my life all because of my hat. These people hate and want to kill anyone who stands against them. This is very serious and I cannot believe what it would be like if I was black. Please my fellow white people Please help from the bottom of my heart.

No American should feel these things and die because of them. I love you guys please help make America and the world a better place.

I admire this man for what he did. I admire him for what he posted. His heart was in the right place. It’s a step in the right direction. But at the same time, as I read it, I couldn’t help but think, “You know you can take that cap off at any time.”

And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? We white people have the ability to dip our toes into the pond of racism, but we are not forced to swim there every minute of our lives. People of color can’t simply take off their skin when they get tired of being mistreated. They don’t get to take a break. They are in it. Always.

I think it’s great that more of us white folks are trying to understand. But I think part of that comprehension means that we have to acknowledge that we can never completely get it. Because we can always take our hats off at any time. That’s what’s known as privilege.

Alan MacAulay

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At Least I Sometimes Feel Safe

There’s always an oasis somewhere, if I need one.

Believe it or not, I’m glad that things are so racially tense right now. It means that those of us who have been lucky enough to feel comfortable are being forced to look at the awkward bits of life. We can no longer rest as easy in our white privilege. We’re forced to walk in other people’s shoes, at least for brief periods of time.

Have you ever thought about what it might feel like to never feel safe, ever? I mean, I have issues due to past trauma that cause me to feel unsafe much of the time. But even then, I can usually find a place where I can shut the door and make all the monsters go away. I can pull the blankets over my head and rest. I know I can find an oasis somewhere, if I desperately need one. Many people are not that lucky.

Once again, I’ve found a past blog post of mine that deals with this very subject. I hope you’ll read it. It’s entitled, “Be safe going home.”

Let me know what you think.

Driving-While-Black-500x305

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Reexamining My Privilege

It’s easy for me to stick my head in the sand.

Unless you have been sound asleep for the past few weeks, you’ve probably visited the subjects of race and unearned white privilege a time or two. I know I have. Sometimes it has made me uncomfortable. But it’s necessary.

It’s so easy for white people like me to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that these issues do not exist, because the entire American system is designed for us to be able to do so. It’s easy. It comes naturally. We can’t wait for things to get back to “normal”, and completely overlook the fact that our normal is pretty darned awful for a lot of people. This it needs to change.

So I am doing my best to keep an open mind and educate myself about these issues. That reminded me that I once attended a very enlightening seminar that I then promptly and comfortably forgot all about. Fortunately, I blogged about it.

It did me good to read it again. I hope you will do so as well. The post is entitled, “I’m So Freakin’ White.”

I like it when one of my old posts becomes relevant once again. And this one should remain relevant even if  it makes us squirm a bit. Join me. Read it. Tell me what you think.

white privilege 1

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A Basic Flaw in the Race War Concept

As if any of us can be lumped into a unified group.

If you’re in a public place right now, look around you. Pick out people of your own race. That may be harder to do than you think. Race is not based on science. It’s a human construct. We could just as accurately divide ourselves up into rival groups based on eye color, the length and number of our nose hairs, or pimple count. But anyway, do the best that you can.

Have you found your “tribe” yet? Good. (I suppose.)

Now, ask yourself what the motivations of these people might be. Are you all in full agreement politically? Do you all hold the same views on religion? Most importantly, are you all on the same page regarding race?

Don’t bother answering. I’ll do it for you. You haven’t a clue. How could you know? You haven’t even talked to these people. You never will.

This is just a core sample of your cluelessness. Now multiply it by a gajillion, to account for all the other people in the world whom you don’t currently see, and you will get an idea of just how little you know about you and yours. (That goes for all of us. I’m not just picking on you.)

So why on Earth would anyone think that one’s race, or any other race for that matter, would rise up as one in hate, anger, and violence to participate in a race war? It beggars belief that there are so many people out there who think that humans are that unified and robotic in their thoughts and actions.

We don’t even all agree about cranberry sauce, for crying out loud. (Pro or con? Lumpy or jelly-like? Canned or fresh? This is the stuff of great holiday drama.)

But that’s racism in a nutshell, isn’t it? The misguided idea that one can slap a label on someone and then have a complete understanding of their motivations, and be able to accurately predict what they will or will not do. As if we’ll all line up like obedient little ducks in a row, sorted into groups based on the size of our tail feathers.

Do you have any idea how insane that sounds? It’s even worse than insane. It’s idiotic. And yet people buy into it every day.

Charles Manson believed in Helter Skelter, a race war that he felt he could start himself, to the world’s ultimate horror and dismay. The neo-Nazi buffoon, William Pierce, wrote The Turner Diaries to encourage racial annihilation, and crazies have been inspired by it ever since.

You can find people who believe in this insanity all over the web. Dylann Roof was one, and he went on to kill 9 people in a church in Charleson, SC because of it. And Roof inspired the mental defective who killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.

These poor excuses for human beings went on to inspire a seriously mentally ill guy named James Harris Jackson to walk up to a total stranger in New York City and stab him in the back like the coward that Jackson is. You can read more about his pathetic devolution here. It’s a tragic story. My heart breaks for his family. Thank God he got life without parole. Now he can hang out with equally warped Aryans in their own little iron-barred clubhouse.

But don’t misunderstand. Violence can beget violence. Insanity can trigger insanity. But these people are sick exceptions to the rule. Most of us march to the beat of our own, individual drummers. We cannot be controlled.

I suspect that this utter lack of control is what scares white supremacists most of all. Too bad, so sad. It’s the very definition of life.

Diversity

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Freedom of Movement

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom.

There is an excellent yardstick for measuring liberty and quality of life. Simply consider how much freedom of movement you have. From that basic indicator, you can determine if you live in a police state and/or a cult, you will know how much information and education you have access to, and you will have a good sense of the level of prejudice you are being exposed to.

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom. If you live in a country where the women cannot travel without the permission of their husbands or fathers, you live in a misogynistic police state. If you are in a religion that does not allow you to interact with outsiders or learn about opposing points of view, or worse yet, cuts you off from family, then you are in a cult. If you can’t go anywhere without having your papers constantly checked by authority figures, then you are a slave.

Inhibiting your ability to go where you wish is an effective way of controlling the information that you have access to. If you can’t even move about the internet, then someone else is controlling your narrative, and they have an agenda that is not in your best interest. If someone wants to leave and you don’t let them, then you have just reduced them to a mere object.

Also, preventing women or minorities from having access to education is a self-defeating power play. One should be able to travel in mind as well as body. If your opportunity to learn is hindered, you should wonder what the powers that be don’t want you to discover.

People who put up walls to restrict movement are the worst kind of racists. They are either attempting to keep a group out or keep a group in. Either way, they are restricting the flow of information, and preventing the masses from becoming unified. Divide and conquer.

The only things that should prevent you from being able to travel are your own priorities and your own budgetary constraints. And even that is a can of worms, because income inequality is another great way to keep us all ignorant and close to home.

The more you travel, the more you learn. The more you travel, the less you hate. The more you travel in mind, body, and spirit, the more you know what it is to be free.

Freedom

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Inclusion Vs. Exclusion

You’re welcome. Such a simple, elegant phrase.

You’re welcome.

Such a simple, elegant phrase. Such a kind and decent concept. I don’t know why so many people struggle with it.

There are so many out there who make it a point to say just the opposite. You’re not welcome. You shouldn’t be able to come here. You can’t buy my cake. You should sit at the back of the bus. You shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person that you love. You are not welcome to be a part of our club. You shouldn’t have the right to vote. You can’t rent my apartment. You don’t belong here. America used to be great when we didn’t have to treat you with respect. How dare you speak up? We get to control what you do with your body. You must be walled off. You must be silenced.

We see it everywhere. In the red MAGA hats, in the “lock her up!” chants, in the attacks on innocent people on the streets. We see it in the hatred that oozes from the mouth of the very man who is supposed to lead this country. You’re not welcome. You are an enemy of the people.

Hate makes you look ugly. It reveals the disease in your very soul. It makes us all so much less than what we could be.

When you hate, when you marginalize people, when you try to prevent people from having the same rights that you do, you cause suffering in this world. Why would anyone want to do that? I will never understand it as long as I live.

When you find yourself in a place of inclusion, where people are welcoming and accepting and embracing of your unique qualities, it’s such a freeing experience. I’d rather be wrapped in a rainbow than beaten by a tiki torch any day of the week. That should be obvious. Why isn’t it obvious?

I’m feeling very ineloquent about this whole subject compared to the conversation Ellen Page had with Stephen Colbert recently. Check out the video here. It’s really worth watching.

Thanks, Lee (and Ellen Page) for inspiring this post!

Not Welcome

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Raising Bullies and Bigots

There are basic lessons that schools no longer seem to be teaching.

By now, everyone knows about the actions of the ignorant little punks from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky. That these privileged little private school boys had the nerve to wear their Make America Great Again hats and get into the face of a Native American elder who was simply trying to diffuse a situation, and who had proudly served this country before their repugnant butts were even born is beyond outrageous.

One of the boys in question is saying that he didn’t do anything but stand his ground and the gentleman approached him first. No, you stood your ground with a MAGA hat on, which is a symbol for hate, and you had a smug smile on your face, and an unblinking stare, a sign of aggression, while your friends continued to taunt and ridicule. There’s a distinction. It wasn’t as though you were putting your arm around the guy and asking for a selfie.

In fairness, the high school does not condone the actions of these kids, and has an apology prominently placed on its website. That’s further proof that the actions were inappropriate. But one wonders what kind of tolerance they teach at a school with this as the mascot:

covington catholic's mascot

Here are some lessons neither they nor these kids’ parents seem to be teaching:

  • Respect your elders. All of them. Even if you don’t agree with them.

  • Walk through the world with dignity, and don’t deprive others of theirs.

  • Be polite. Especially when you are a visitor.

  • Aggression is intolerable.

  • Hate is the most blatant form of ignorance.

  • You have no right to invade someone else’s space.

  • Kindness and decency is the only true currency you have.

  • NO ONE has the right to be a bully.

If I could speak to those boys I would say, “This video will follow you for the rest of your life. Hopefully you’re capable of shame and remorse and this will build your character. If not, you are psychopaths, and you are in serious need of intervention. Seriously. You should be worried. Get help.”

___________________________________________________

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White Privilege Run Amok

An unwavering sense of entitlement was never bred into me.

We all know it happens. Special privileges for the already privileged. Little blonde Barbie dolls getting a pass for their outrageous behavior. But it’s particularly sickening when it’s caught on tape.

Most people, if they’re pulled over for blasting through a stop sign at 60 mph, are reeking with alcohol, have weed in their vehicle, and come up as twice the legal limit on a breathalyzer test, would have at least enough sense to know that they’ve been caught dead to rights, and need to shut up and take their medicine.

But not Lauren Elizabeth Cutshaw. No. She’s a little ol’ South Carolina white girl, and therefore thinks that butter won’t melt in her mouth. She wails drunkenly in the back of the police car that she went to a really good school, graduated with honors, was a cheerleader, and had never been arrested before. She also said that she’s a pretty girl, and therefore shouldn’t go to jail.

Apparently, she also told the cop that she’s a “very clean, thoroughbred, white girl.” And that’s where I started to taste vomit in my mouth. Because I suppose I could say the same thing about myself, if it ever occurred to me, and lord knows it hasn’t gotten me very far. (Although, probably a little farther than I deserve, but that’s a topic for another day.)

The difference between me and Miss Lauren is that it would never occur to me to say such a thing about myself or anyone else. That unwavering sense of entitlement was never bred into me. But then, it would never occur to me to join a sorority, cash in on my looks, drive while wasted out of my ever-loving mind, or wail pathetically in the back of a cop car.

According to Linked In, this deluded woman is a Real Estate Advisor for a high-end real estate agency. I think it would be interesting to check back in about a year to see how well she’s doing now that her white privilege card has been revoked. Poor dear. She’ll only have the content of her character to cash in on at that point, and from what little I’ve seen, I’m not particularly impressed with that.

Lauren-Elizabeth-Cutshaw1
In the flesh.

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