Tag Archive: I Have a Dream

And Your Dream Is?

When you are a walking medical wonder, you tend to take every day as an adventure. Some days will suck; other days do not. I don’t wallow in pain. Most never know I have a specific medical issue, let alone a sandlot’s worth. Flippant of medical problems plaguing my body, I placed a ‘GoFundMe’ request that would allow me to hike both the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail in consecutive years.

After watching ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘Wild’, I was convinced many would contribute to a self-imposed work sabbatical, fund my opportunity to hike both trails, and allow me the opportunity to write books or articles. A teeny-weeny part even envisioned a blockbuster movie deal. Sixty days later and zero donations, I realized many considered my request akin to the ‘Powerball Reimbursement Fund’ or ‘Let’s Buy The Loin’s’ [as in Detroit Loins]. Having no desire to purchase an NFL team, I do think of those who did something similar.

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Against the advise of doctors and common sense alike, I pushed away regret and charted course for a fourteen day tour of Aruba, Cartagena, Columbia, Colon, Columbia, Panama Canal, Limón, Costa Rica and onward to Grand Cayman before heading stateside.

I packed lightly. Any clothing item packed had to be washed and hand dried. I also rolled an all-purpose sports coat into my back pack, couple packs of wash and wear undergarments, two wash and wear shirts and one set of blue-jeans.

Technology wise, I could have chosen from a number cell phones. Many might have taken an iPhone or iPad, but I carefully debated weight. I have an iPhone 6, IPhone 6s Plus, IPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, Galaxy Note 5 and an unlocked HTC 10. Strangely enough, with all the Apple Travel app’s available, I settled for the iPad Mini and the HTC 10.

The HTC was a great choice.

To provide some levity, in my past, I’ve owned an HTC One 7, 8, and 9. I loved al those phones. Thus, six months ago, dished out cash for an HTC 10 and the associated HTC 10 Ice case. And like all connected travelers, I wanted this relationship to work. And like all relationships, we fidgeted, fussed, yelled and at times broke up. Hey HTC, “It’s not you. It’s me.

So, I ditched my carrier locked Apple iPhone 6s Plus, took my clean, nick free HTC 10, inserted into the HTC Ice cover and off we went. Fourteen days.

There were specific advantages. The HTC 10 weighed roughly 6 ounces, had a wonderful screen size of 5.2 inches, with a 565 pixel density, was recently updated to Android 7, had excellent battery life and quick charger. The HTC also had additional storage capability. Not that I store music on an external storage card, I do. But I copied my passport, driver’s license, insurance information, medical prescriptions information and other key documents. This feature came in handy when completing “Customs Information” for countries visited. Instead of having to drag out my passport, I simply pulled the information from the HTC’s external storage card and completed the required forms.

As for photographs, I will admit I am no professional photographer. I am a “point and shoot guy.” Accordingly, I took no camera. Every photograph taken was performed on  my HTC 10. I have to admit, the photographs were outstanding. Only once did I use photo editing options to alter a picture. Every shot was flawless, even when moving.

When HTC changed the dual speaker layout, I was quite disappointed. Yet, when under the stars in Panama I easily listen to Frank Sinatra, Harry Chapin, Andrea Brachfeld, Vivaldi or Billy Joel. The sounds were wonderful. Additionally, there were times when I connected a Powerbeats 2 to drown out the busy surroundings. Music sound quality never diminished.

The most impressive feature I loved about the HTC was its ability to connect other carriers or WiFi. Unlike my Tavel partner who used an AT&T iPhone, my HTC detected and connected to other carriers. When this occurred, a message from my carrier came front-screen “Text messages, email and data is free. Phone calls are 20 cents a minute.” I loved it. My companion’s iPhone rarely detected or connected to carriers outside the network. This may be due to the setup of the phone, or my friend’s carrier plan, but the HTC 10 connected perfectly.

Google Maps and location detection was my only sore point. Unfortunately, I did not download city-t0-city maps prior to embarking. Thus, unless there was solid carrier connection, Google Maps and location tracking often failed. Other things noticed included that neither Android Pay nor Apple Pay were wholely effective outside the US.  The US Customs App of IOS was ineffective outside the US and a US Customs App for Android is non-existence. Lastly, Airport check-in when outside the US, Canada and key cities in Mexico was messy. We found one could check-in via my HTC, but still had to obtain physical boarding passes as wireless boarding passes were rarely received outside of major cities.

Overall, I fell in love with the HTC 10 and now keep it as my primary cell phone. And after all that travel and hiking, the HTC remains flawless.

Sound Bites

imageNote from journal:

“Rioting continues for third day, black residents with rioters, mostly young, directing fury at government and vehicles. The injury toll continues to mount as several hundred policemen moved to control riots. Only a small number of injured are white. There is widespread feeling that repercussions could be great. Police comdr, sees no end – i.e., the battle between police and rioters. As activists were repressed or saw friends beaten or killed, some took up arms and became insurgents.”

The diary entry noted is decades old and obviously not about Ferguson, Missouri.

What I witnessed decades ago is about the social history of how people built homes, education systems and a country. The streets upon which I walked are not unlike Ferguson, Missouri. Similarly, citizens believed in a fight for freedom. As such, newspaper articles will be written and awards won. But is that where all this ends?

Most Ferguson, MO rioters believe the establishment is maintaining control via “at all costs” mentality. In maintaining that form of social control, it’s necessary to arrest, even shoot, those who refuse the dictates of old white men. Thus, the resistance welling up from a lifetime of oppressive conditions is demonized.

In truth, my diary note was written in a hotel room near Soweto, South Africa, not Ferguson, MO. But what lessons can Soweto provide Ferguson?

  • If the eradication of economic injustices is not achieved within the lifetime of those that experienced it, Ferguson, MO as well as other cities will continue to be plagued by racial tensions;
  • African-Americans must somehow learn to respond as an organized political movement, not a mob;
  • If the lives of millions of the poorest aren’t improved, racial tension and violence will provide yet another example of a failed revolution; and
  • The American public doesn’t adjust to rapid changes, whether it be in accusation or outrage.

Al Sharpton provided an enlightening quote after his return from South Africa decades earlier:

“Because ultimately history is going to judge you by what you achieve. That’s what stimulated me there (South Africa): that it’s more important to affect the lives of people and their agendas than to be caught up with sound bites or style or any of that.”

Many, myself included, now consider Sharpton nothing more than an agitator.

As a Buddhist, the challenge is to tell a story that produces results. It’s about goals, not about the loudest way to vent. The worst error is talking about nonviolence while being violent, for violence surrounds us every day; the very violence in which I, you, we, are complicit.

Life is not a sound bite. Unfortunately, almost everything coming from Ferguson and Clayton are sound bites.

Martin-Luther-King-I-have-a-dreamIn truth, it’s awfully hard for me to connect with Dr. Martin Luther King. After all, I was only three years old at the time of his “I Have a Dream” speech.  But because I have several African-American friends, I can understand some level of racism by simply witnessing what they’ve endured.

Today, being a fifty-three year old Buddhist, I remember reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King:

The moment I met Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew I was in the presence of a holy person.  Not just his good work, but his very being was a source of great inspiration for me … On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus, and every time I light incense, I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors …  When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition, you not only touch his or her tradition, you also touch your own . . . When those who represent a spiritual tradition embody the essence of their tradition, just the way they walk, sit, and smile speaks volumes about the tradition.” 

There have been times in my life when I have offended all sides of one issue or another. I have gone beyond meditation to campaign for internal dialogue of peace between colleagues and clients. I have walked in the aftermath of tsunamis,’ earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.  And I wish I could say I always lived and breathed in the core principles of Buddhism, but I have yet to live each and every moment in complete awareness of the present moment and the abandonment of worldly thoughts.

By walking across this small planet; having encountered and losing the greatest live of my life, I reflected on Martin Luther King’s humble and devout lifestyle. Of all I’ve read, I know Dr. King struggled with his role for many years. Many of his friends were killed. Yet they live on with him. Of course the words and choices were Martin’s. Yet his very words and life remain among us in many forms. His very being, as well as many unknown martyrs, continue with us today. Their spirits live because we live.

Still, my greatest fear is that our nation is becoming a nation of silent onlookers. In the face of hate, we shrug. In the face of brutality, we pass by. And in the face of mass murder, we simply accept. We must not remain silent. America is not merely black American, but all of America.

With that, I end with King’s words:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning; you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured; this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

Dr. Martin Luther King was very Christian, very Buddhist. Why can’t we all?

the_marchThe New York Times noted civil rights heroes, current movement leaders, labor leaders and Democratic officials addressed a vast crowd that stretched east from the Lincoln Memorial to the knoll of the Washington Monument today.

The New York Times also noted several memorable attendees:

  • One person in a hoodie with the phrase “American Justice;”
  • Several with signs urging “Support Trayvon’s Law” to repeal stand-your-ground gun measures; and
  • “We march because Trayvon Martin has joined Emmett Till in the pantheon of young black martyrs.”

Columnist Jerry L. Barrow was spot on several months ago when he authored, “What Do I tell My Son? “

… as I sit here at my computer more than a year later reading the reactions to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, I am gripped in fear. My soul is laminated in a coat of hopelessness at the thought of my son, who is presently enjoying a vacation 1500 miles away, being engaged on the street by someone who finds him suspicious because of his appearance and kills him.”

However, all the evidence in Till’s death points explicitly to race. And colorblind Americans accepted and failed to condemn his killers accordingly. The circumstances in Martin’s death merely suggest that Martin’s race was likely a factor in Zimmerman’s judgment of him.

From a personal perspective, when I think of Delbert Belton brutal killing by two black teenagers, I respond by asking a similar question, “What do I tell my 83 year old father?”  And truth be told, I have not seen Melissa Harris-Perry cry on television for Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old student at East Central University who was shot in the back and killed by three black teenagers while jogging in Duncan.  Similarly, I have not heard if NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock tweeted about how the black community failed to raise their children in an abundance of love and proper role models (and that’s not saying they don’t).

So I sit and wonder, what would Dr. Martin Luther King think of today’s era of racism and the 50th anniversary of the Marches in Washington, D.C.? Maybe Dr. King would emphasize Americans seem blinded to matters of color.  The racism strewn through every cornerstone of Dr. Martin Luther King’s day is the same racism that lives today.  Yeah, the time is different. True the people have changed. But the roots of oppression are from the very same weed.

Delbert Belton, Christopher Lane and Trayvon Martin should have never been killed. But I refuse to March in Washington, D.C. this week simply because someone believes Trayvon Martin is a civil rights hero or martyr.  Trayvon Martin was neither. But I will march in Washington for the following reasons:

  • The black unemployment rate last year was 14.0 percent, 2.1 times the white unemployment rate (6.6 percent) and higher than the average national unemployment rate of 13.1 percent during the Great Depression, from 1929 to 1939.
  • After adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage today — 7.25 — is worth $2.00 less than in 1968, and is nowhere close to a living wage.
  • More than a third of non-Hispanic black workers (36 percent) do not earn hourly wages high enough to lift a family of four out of poverty.
  • A report by the Violence Policy Center found black males are nine times more likely than white males to be the victims of homicide — 29.50 out of 100,000 black males compared with 3.85 out of 100,000 white males.
  • A study found the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.
  • The imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.

For the above reasons, I will stand by your side and fight the fight worth fighting, for these reasons are worthy of Dr. Martin’s dream.