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Deacon Who?

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(Note: Ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily shared by the transit agency I work for. This is simply an expression of free speech while describing the work bus operators perform.) I have been (and called) many things in this life. Most of all, I'm a writer who happens to drive a bus. In May of '13 I thought it would be fun to write about my job. As a direct result of this blog, I published a book in November of 2017 called "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" that is available on Amazon. I write to provide insight as to what it's like on a bus... From The Driver Side. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Tick Tock


One of humanity's final sunsets? Only math, and its
descendant time, will tell.

Deke's Note: Someone asked me recently what my thoughts were about working through this past three months. My immediate thought was: devastation. Everything we have held dear seems to have passed through a virtual shredder. Nothing is as it was in February. We could dine in restaurants, gather together in friendship and love, worship, travel, go to concerts or ballgames. A snapshot in time, just a few months ago, is vastly different than "the new normal", whatever that has come to mean.

The breeze of life has stopped. It no longer filters through any cognizant theme resembling our once-collective idea of "reality". Throughout mankind's history, one thing has remained constant: we're fighters, we're resilient, we're tough. No longer.

Humanity has fooled itself into believing it is the superhero of all evolutionary species. Instead, COVID-19 has hit our most vulnerable spot, that place where we felt secure: our dominance of this planet. Perhaps Earth is fighting back against mankind, given the horrific way we've treated her. Pollution, greed, refusal to protect her most delicate places... has our abuse finally caught up to us?

A third of this country lives in denial of science. Another clings to all types of educated opinion, and the rest don't know what to believe. It's as if we have abandoned intelligence for political nonsense, throwing common sense and searching for truth as it reveals itself into a messy game of whatever is in season. Science has become the boogeyman for some who believe that somehow the greatest minds of our time have banded together to fool everyone into believing their "facts" are "fake news". It's mind-boggling to believe that opinion has overcome logic and, in some cases, pure sanity.

Look, folks. We're more intent on killing ourselves through our refusal to acknowledge basic truths that politics could no longer matter. Science sent us to the moon, to Mars and continues to explore the outer reaches of our solar system and the great beyond of infinity. Mathematics are the study of something that has no end: numbers. Science uses math and the one thing that sets our species apart from the rest: curiosity and wonder. Once we abandon either of these, we're reduced to believing something that has no foundation in tangibility.

The Earth is known to be 4.5 billion years old. Modern humans have occupied this planet five one-millionths of its life (5/1000000), approximately 200,000 years. Our planet's life-sustaining time remaining is said to be about another 1.75 billion years. Given our species' disregard for natural resources, we are doomed to fail very soon. In Earth's lifespan, our presence here will be but a millisecond, a tiny pebble worn into sand upon the eroding waters of time.

We're arrogant to believe we're Earth's conquerers. But that's humans in a nutshell: arrogant bastards who would rather fight one another to the death for our misguided beliefs than band together, as any intelligent species might, to find a way to collectively enrich and therefore lengthen our existence. We're hell-bent upon destroying anyone who disagrees with us, because our false sense of superiority is more important than doing as our deity commanded: love one another, treat Earth as our temple, and leave a loving legacy. So far, we have failed on every count since our recent evolution. We've made intense leaps and bounds in discovery and invention, yet every step forward has resulted in 100 backward bounds because of the great mounds of rubbish we produce along the way. We've sacrificed ourselves through warfare, mostly those whose lack of wealth negated their voices in every conflict. You're either "for us or agin' us", or so the ages-old edict goes. The multitude has been against itself for eons, and that's why we're doomed to extinction. We'll kill ourselves long before some biblically-forewarned armageddon happens, and Earth will once again resume its peaceful orbit around the sun. Perhaps, before Earth enters an inhabitable zone closer to its star, humanity's horrid scars upon this beautiful blue gem in the heavens will be erased.

To those who somehow believe, even though presented with scientific facts which prove otherwise, that Earth was created 6,000 years ago, science dictates the "heavens" or infinite space has been around a helluva lot longer. What do you think "God" was doing in the trillions of years before our planet was born? He must have been pretty damn bored. That's why I believe there are billions of other life-sustaining planets scattered throughout infinity. To think our own tiny blue dot is worthy of an entire higher plane of existence known as "heaven" is horribly arrogant of us. Whether these places are inhabited by human-like beings or not, perhaps our deity has seen billions of existences similar to ours play out, and ours is just another of a trillion other bouncy balls our beloved "God" has experimented with.

Perhaps He (or She?) is trying to find the right mix, that one special place where its beings truly love each other and provide the best they can given the bounties at hand? At this rate, our lot will never figure it out. We're too busy killing those who even look different than we do, while condemning them for protesting their slaughter.

Driving a bus through this pandemic has forever changed me. It has had a similarly-drastic effect on every one of us. We've seen our once-great worldwide community reduced to a state of helplessness and despair, anger and betrayal. We have rolled through each minute of the transformation, and it has been an agonizing trip through our evolutionary downfall. Sadly, I doubt we have the toughness, the love for one another, to pull off another miracle. Having been through countless wars meant to improve humanity, we've only seen it slide even lower toward oblivion.

We could evolve into a nirvana-type existence if we only had the will. Unfortunately, from what I've seen of humans the past 50 years, I doubt we have the ability to make it work. We'd rather argue, then kill one another, than find common denominators in the mathematics time and reality have created. You can't kill math; it's infinite.

We're not being treated as "heroes", nor is any other group which sacrifices its health for the greater good. This spells doom. If we cannot work as one to benefit the greater good, then celebrating those who put themselves in danger to keep the ball rolling is like puncturing it, yet still expecting it to bounce.

Our air is spent, like the flatulence expelled in a left-cheek sneak. If this pandemic doesn't provide the wake-up call humanity so desperately needs, our extinction clock is ticking speedier than a doomed second. The dinosaurs went down to a meteor strike. Our downfall could very likely be COVID-19, or the next pandemic.

Tick tock.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Do "Heroes" Truly Work Here?

We're all broken; it will take a concerted
effort to repair the wrongs visited upon many.


Deke's Note: A friend of mine told me recently that she hoped my next book would deal with my experiences as a city bus operator during a COVID-19 riddled '20. I'm not sure that's even possible. Over the past three months I have battled nearly every human emotion short of mortal sin. Even then, I've come close several times. That's just what stress will do to the most level-headed human.

Having no other outlet than my writing, I'm stuck between describing what you already feel and have experienced, to the sublime luck of not having gone through what many of you have. I've been lucky, so far. We have lived only a third of the projected nightmare, only to find new disasters poking up through the river shore sands of what we never thought possible. Still, we endure. There's no other choice.

"Heroes Work Here," a sign in front of Center Garage confronts anyone who ventures through the front doors. Are we? It doesn't feel like it. We're simply pawns in a much bigger game than our work is given credit for. Pretty words ring hollow when you're on the front lines of a worldwide pandemic. The first time I saw that sign, I felt compelled to rip it from the ground and tear it into tiny shreds. I was so angry. Why, you ask? Isn't it nice to have a reminder that you're "appreciated" for your efforts? Sure, if the message is sincere. Our "leadership" fails to instill us with any meaningful support, with even the remotest sense of sincerity, that our efforts are worthy of "heroics". We're simply doing our jobs, within the most dangerous times of our lives. It's what we do, and proudly so. Still, we haven't seen any extra compensation along with anyone else who also puts their very life upon the line while doing the necessary work propelling modern humanity.



If I felt appreciated, I would see members of upper management on my bus, encouraging passengers to wear face masks as they are meant to be, covering their mouths and noses. They would point out the numerous signs on our rides which outline the most basic rules of transit, which simply point people to a sense of decency and respect for fellow passengers and the operators. But no, ours and others across the country hide from atop their gilded ivory towers or cowering in "self-quarantine" from home. WE cannot work from home, we're "essential workers". God save us all from our collective managements. If this job is "essential", I fear the worst for those who are not considered so, even though they also risk their lives for a paycheck.

"Leadership" carefully monitors complaint calls from miscreants and trouble-causers who constantly call in complaints against operators who insist passengers follow the rules of transit. When we're complained against, management is there to ensure our strict compliance to Standard Operating Procedures which change with the prevailing winds of a few whiny and misinformed nuisances which we're constantly in contact with. They can, and do, call in the most petty of complaints, some of which are outright lies or misrepresentations of what actually happens or is said as we commandeer 20-tons of steel and humanity through the unforgiving trials of transit.


  • "You can bring leaky bags of bottles and cans onboard, but if an operator refuses you a ride we will discipline them. It's okay."
  • "Strollers were once required to be folded and stowed, but since a group of you whined about this policy we changed our minds. Oh, and your little ones don't have to be removed. It's okay if they stay in the stroller; if the operator has to stop suddenly and your child's stroller is forcefully slammed into the front of the bus you will be adequately compensated and the operator punished. It's okay, poor little entitled whiny people, we have your backs."
  • "We require you pay fare; if you don't it's okay too. Even though we have bent over backwards to allow even the con artists of today to be eligible for reduced fare, we won't enforce policy because it adversely affects too many deadbeats. It's okay, our budget is shrinking because of your failure to pay, but we'll make the operators tighten their belts to convey you for free."
  • "Public demands for less policing determine our policy, so we'll de-fund the transit police division. The operators will just have to be more understanding when you attack them, and depend on non-existent policy enforcement. If they defend themselves, don't worry; we have your back. It's okay; we'll just discipline the operator."


Our jobs are managed by a wishy-washy group without apparent conscience or backbone to enforce the rules of decency or even support those whose "heroic" efforts make their own jobs possible. Yeah. "Heroes Work Here." Right. Prove it. Support us. Laud us for the hard-working essential cogs in the wheel of transit rather than hiding behind ridiculous edicts which have no place in the logical world. We're sick of disrespect, so your signs mean nothing to us.

* * * * *

We're unsure how many of us have tested positive for COVID-19. As a bus operator, my travels expose me to as many as 150,000 passengers each year. We are constantly exposed by non-mask-wearing people who pause less than two feet from us to ask us the stupidest questions the cell phone in their hands could instantly provide answers for.

Hey, who am I to complain about today's calamity? I'm just a lowly bus operator. No matter than nearly 200 transit workers in New York City have already died from this deadly virus. We are the unprotected "heroes" who garner little respect from the lackluster, blood-hungry media. I've begged our public broadcasting company to highlight the dangers we face, with no response. The other media touch upon our plight with zero zest.

While doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals get truly-deserved mention, little is said for those of us who toil every hour, every minute to do the work our society expects of us. The cops (who have been under intense scrutiny for the bad apples which shine a horribly-unfair spotlight upon the true servants), firefighters and EMT's who respond to every emergency, garbage collectors, janitors, and numerous other "essential workers" such as grocery and yes, liquor store employees among countless others, have sacrificed themselves for the normal workings of an American society that has come to value "freedom" over life itself. It's disgusting that we have devolved to a point where our country now has the highest amount of contagion while other nations have defeated the pandemic.

Americans are spoiled, shameless and coddled. We simply expect it all to go away, because... 'Merica! If we would just stop testing, then we would have very few cases, our listless "leader" tells us. If we could only rise to what our national standard once was, as the "greatest" country in the world, we too would have conquered this grave danger. This isn't a political statement, but a common sense plea for unity. Our country has withstood many calamities: a Civil War which ultimately preserved our Union, two World Wars, the Spanish Flu, tornadoes, hurricanes and countless other disasters. Now, it seems to be a political statement to simply wear a mask. Are you truly willing to risk your life, or even that of a loved one, just because you don't believe in taking simple precautions amidst a worldwide pandemic? Your "rights" do not allow you to put me or others in danger due to your selfishness.

I have friends on all sides of the political spectrum. Your lives are precious to me, so I wear a mask. Why? Because of all those 150,00+ people I come into contact with, I'm not able to pinpoint who is carrying this fearsome virus. Due to my exposure, I surely don't want to expose you to my possible contamination. It doesn't matter whether you believe as I do or vote for the same candidates. You matter to me, if only for our shared  humanity. Your simply sharing the same air is important to me. We can debate politics at any time, but if we all die, what's the point?

The past few months have been a nightmarish blur. Counting passengers, adding, subtracting, predicting where I might have to leave fare-paying people behind because some idiot boards holding a wad of cash in their hands that would normally be hidden, only to say "What, you don't take cash?" truly pisses me off. If I have to put "SORRY - BUS AT CAPACITY" on my overhead because over half of my 12-15 passenger load has failed to pay their fare while hard-working "essential workers" wait while two or three busfuls of fare evaders pass them by, I get steamed.

We haven't accepted cash since about mid-March. It's dirty, and those employed to count and process it would be unnecessarily-exposed if it remained valid fare. Still, there are those who have been riding the bus all the while who employ the same fake, empty expression when they see the three-month-old sign on the fare box stating we don't accept cash payments. Due to economic conditions, fare enforcement has been lax, except on light rail. Even then, exceptions are generally the rule versus citations. Even so, we hear the same old tired excuses on the bus.

"I guess I'll just ride at my own risk."

"What, you don't take cash any more?"

"What's a HOP pass?" (As if this form of payment was brand new, rather than two years old.)

"My HOP pass hasn't arrived yet. I just need to get to XYZ."

We've heard it all, or nothing. Some just jump ahead of a fare-paying individual struggling to stay afloat, yet still feel compelled to pay their fare, having procured a HOP pass. Decent, honest folks who are working or not, still feeling an obligation to pay for a service that has not, nor should ever be, free. And still, the fare evaders have to constantly be reminded to wear the FREE masks provided.

Yes, we're tired. Exhausted. We're bullied by those who have never before ridden a bus, feeling their "constitutional rights" are violated by our insisting they follow a few simple rules. Wear a mask. Maintain a six-foot distance from other passengers. Exit the BACK door. Simple, right? Nah. To hell with rules. People who are so self-entitled to ignore rules set forth by a transit system dedicated to pamper them safely to their destination for a few bucks and change.

Given this strenuous exchange with the sordid few troublemakers is the added difficulty of protests. I firmly believe in every American's right to peacefully protest. Especially with what has transpired recently, and also for the past 300+ years. Our racial strife, the murderous entitlement which has tragically mired our country's history, needs to stop. Finally, once and for all. It's disgusting how White America has treated anyone whose skin color is anything but.

In Portland, the protests have been occurring daily for over two weeks now. I get it. People are pissed off because of the needless on-the-site death sentences for supposed "suspects" who happen to be black. They have been killed in great numbers, sentenced to death without benefit of trial before a jury of their "peers", which more often than not have been mainly-composed of those they don't consider so. Transit has been halted quite often because of thousands-strong demanding to be heard.  Once and for all, they are rising UP: black, white, brown, or any shade in between. Their voices are loud, and rightly so. My minor inconvenience of being routed around them pales in comparison to the centuries of wrongs visited upon my fellow citizens who don't share my pale skin.

I recently made the personal mistake of stating I was "tired of the protests". How foolish, callous and indifferent that must have sounded to those who have struggled for even a tenth of the respect I garner just because I am white-skinned. A fellow sister pointed out my unintended insult to the plight of those who fear simply returning safely home every day. My being tired of the current war between "authorities" and "protesters" pales in comparison to the weariness our "minority" brothers and sisters must feel after centuries of homicidal treatment.

I cannot apologize for the body my soul came into when Mom gave birth to me. My personal struggles were many as a wee lad, but I was insulated from the violence many of my fellow citizens endured. Still, I was raised to respect people for their qualities rather than how they appear. The brother of a man with severe mental retardation, I learned early to accept people for who they are, rather than how they are perceived.

"Judge not, lest ye be judged," Mom taught me early and often. I was born with a brain injury, which required intense physical stimulation by a mother who refused to believe doctors who told her I'd never walk or talk. "Put him into an institution and forget about him," they told her. "Bullshit," she replied. Thanks to her refusal to give in to the prevailing "wisdom" of the time, I am here writing to you today.

This leads us to the current state of affairs. Fifty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King implored his fellow Americans to believe in a day "that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Where is the "content" of our character, today as a nation? Wallowing in the jungle of foolish and outdated discrimination. Is our country one where people are killed on the street where they are detained, rather than taken into custody in hopes of a fair trial before a jury of their "peers"? Evidently, our country has not gained an inch since President Abraham Lincoln implored every ounce of our nation's character and goodness to compel Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. Unfortunately, it failed to free people of color from the bondage of white privilege and further scorn, indenture and imprisonment. Of all the "free" countries in the world, it is horrific to understand, comprehend or truly appreciate the struggle of Black America throughout the past few centuries. Yet, here we still are, arguing over whether white people deserve superiority over anyone, let alone those whose skin color has been an active death sentence.

I do not blame people for their protests, even though it is inconvenient to those of us who roll the wheels of transit. The trouble-makers who infiltrate the peaceful masses do annoy me, but I simply roll the wheels. My job is to transport people, safely. That's what I do, and I'm proud to do so. If I tell you to do something, there's good reason for it. Just shut up and comply, and you're welcome.


* * * * *

Back to the "Heroes Work Here" argument. I only hope that once contract negotiations resume, our "heroic" efforts are recognized and we are amply rewarded for our constant dedication. Given management's antics, I highly doubt its ability to give us our due recognition. Sure, transit has suffered financial setbacks. "Tighten the budgetary belt" is one likely excuse to refuse rewarding our sacrifices. A loss of income due to not accepting cash for fare is another. However, in my experience over almost eight years, I've recently noticed most fare-paying passengers are using the HOP Pass as the most common form of fare. While the district pushes to eliminate cash in lieu of a more streamlined fare system, there will always be a need to accept cash. Not everyone has the ability to transfer funds to HOP via a cell phone, nor should they be forced to. It can be truly inconvenient. An "either or" system is mandated for any fair means of paying fare.

We do not normally consider ourselves "heroes". Yeah, we perform heroics every day we're on the job, regardless of conditions. We save lives every moment through sheer dedication, watching out for those who recklessly abandon their own safety. You don't hear about these "heroics" in the daily media, because only blood sells. Historically, transit has not rewarded us for our professionalism. Why would we expect it now? Hollow slogans are mere propaganda; it's what they're expected to say given the times we operate under. To echo its insincerity and slogan usage, "Where's the beef"? Meaningless words resonate with emptiness ever since transit management was overtaken by reckless Corporata. They have no business managing ours. Had our collective efforts been of any value whatsoever, Portland transit would be much more efficient and proactive than it has for the past decade. It would have promoted dedicated transit workers to manage a system we know best, rather than import those with no real-world experience.

Anyone with the slightest foresight would have planned for a pandemic. It would also have plans at-the-ready for the impending earthquake threatening the Northwest. There would have been stockpiles of medical supplies (made in the USA rather than in China, where this pandemic began) at the ready and people in place who would know how to react to any local emergency. Who would these people be, ready to respond to catastrophe? Battle-tested transit workers, that's who. People who have driven thousands of miles and millions of passengers. Those who know every pothole and irregular stoplight sequence across this city. People with experience through any weather event who understand the needs of operators and mechanics to efficiently react to whatever adversely affects transit.

Instead, we're inundated with a hopeless corporate mindset that has proven itself inept, unprepared and unresponsive whatever adverse conditions assail US. It's better at making excuses and hiding its failures than providing respectful leadership. While management bragged about its' supposed superhuman efforts to procure protective equipment, we had already been exposed to the pandemic... for weeks. By law, we're prohibited from even participating in a Blue Flu, let alone a labor strike in which we could have refused to work due to unsafe conditions. (Gee thanks, Oregon Legislature and certain members of our union leadership.)

Current "management leadership" is the group we're faced with as contract negotiations are stalled. Throughout this nightmare, we continue to serve our collective citizenry. With constant professionalism, despite unprecedented risks, and without adequate acknowledgement from media or  our increasingly-inefficient and bloated management. It has the media in a death-grip, and allows only management's opinion to flood the airwaves. WE, meanwhile, are strictly monitored for our contacts and comments to the media. Fuck that, I say. I write what I feel, as a taxpaying/transit-supporting citizen who is concerned for my fellow brothers and sisters as well as the public I serve. And I will continue to voice my opinion until it no longer matters.

When COVID has hopefully blown past our nation's sordid ridiculousness, caskets are buried and ashes blown to the saddest winds, we'll remain largely insignificant in management's nearsighted vision. Our "heroics" will be forgotten and once again we will find ourselves fighting for even a fraction of wage increase compared to ever-soaring inflation. We'll be portrayed in the media, once again, as "greedy" or "over-compensated low-skilled workers". False complaints against us, in which our honor and dedication are unfairly and often incorrectly portrayed, will run in the media whilst our "heroic" actions through pandemics and ice storms will be conveniently forgotten. In short, we're screwed no matter what we do. Just drive, and shut the hell up. Be thankful you have a job. Meanwhile, just sit back and bite your tongue, Blue Collar Chump. "We're in control now, and don't you forget it," their actions constantly proclaim.

Seeing that sign in front of our garages is insulting, knowing how our "leadership" treats us when some overly-entitled passenger texts a false or misleading complaint against an operator who has rightfully implored them to follow the most basic rules of transit which have ruled this profession for over 100 years. We're only "in the news" when something goes wrong. Instead of giving an operator the benefit of innocence before being proven guilty, we're reduced to being "under investigation". Once we're exonerated, we cannot expect any such comment freeing us from the supposed guilt we're automatically convicted of by management's inability to support its frontline.

Even when a passenger complaint is obviously fraudulent and disproven, it remains on our record. Most complaints should be trashed, never to see the light of day let alone forwarded to us after a long shift safely ferrying our fellow Portlanders to their destinations for a mere $2.50. It's a shameful situation thousands face every day, in every city across the globe that provides public transportation.

So yeah, even though I'm white, I feel for those who have suffered for centuries under a system that is heavily-weighted toward "entitled" segments of a population over any other. It hurts. It's unfair, and it erodes any worthwhile expectation of progress. ALL of it needs to just... STOP. Now. It's not something that needs "further study" or "investigation" or "committee meetings". We know the problem, but the only solution has been easily within reach for hundreds of years. Our failure to come together is only now blindingly-obvious as our collective misdeeds have become debts long past due.

Do you want actual "change"? Get rid of the status quo, and vote your fellow ground-level, blue-collar workers into power. Millionaires don't get it, and they don't care. Change comes from the ground up. "Trickle down" only means that we're showered in shit. And right now, things smell just like that.

Wake up, folks. No matter which party you vow loyalty to, the only "party" worth attending is your neighbor's barbecue. The rest smells horrible.

Peace, love, and continued safe health to you and yours,
Deke

Monday, June 15, 2020

Doomed or Resolute?

May God bless and keep us all safe in the USA.


Deke's Note: There's so much going on right now, I have struggled to know how to write what I feel as a bus operator and American. Most of all, I pray you ALL remain safe. Practice safety above all else. This is NOT the flu, and has killed many more than it should have. WE are at extreme risk, as are those who believe the economy is more important than our collective health.

I have SO wanted to respond to all the strife and division, but have felt intellectually incapable of effectively doing so. For weeks as a white man, I have contemplated my many advantages yet struggled to find the words to describe my anguish. I'm no more worthy of than anyone else whose skin is a different shade of mine. I realize my silence isn't supportive to those most affected by my race's horrific treatment of those who don't look like me. Truly, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to write that wouldn't sound hopelessly trite or condescending. Still, I cannot remain silent and retain anything resembling any dignity.

I'm sad our country, which has always lauded itself "NUMBER ONE" is anything but, in so many categories today. How can we RISE UP?

How can we, after nearly 250 years, fail to recognize the good in each human being, instead of diligently working to find fault in our collectivity? The white race is NOT superior. In fact, history shows our glaring faults each step of the way. Even though our presidents, save for one, have all been white males, our incredible achievements have been made by people of all colors and walks of life.

Our moon journeys were made possible in great part by the mathematic genius of black women who were not given credit for their work until their contributions were nearly 50 years old. Our national heroes have included men and women of all walks of life, to include George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Toni Morrison, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Louis Armstrong, Colin Powell, Aretha Franklin, Richard Pryor, Shirley Chisolm, Roberta Flack, Barack Obama (yes, even him, no matter your political persuasion... he tried to bring us together but many opposed his efforts), and my personal favorite, Mama Lucas.

This last person mentioned was from my hometown Florence, Arizona. When we first moved to this small desert town in 1969, my mother befriended this elderly lady. I was a lad of nine when I first met her. She was a beloved fixture in our new community. Her daughter was my younger brother Dan's Special Education teacher. Married to a Florence community leader, Reginald Sheppard (who heroically served his country in World War II even though racism ran deep in this country then as it still does today), Juanita Leos Sheppard was a deeply-committed educator of the mentally-disabled who loved her students and worked diligently to improve their station in life. Perhaps it was due to her upbringing in a home where her parents fought hard for the simplest respect in life. Whatever the case, Mrs. Sheppard was Dan's guiding light as a six-year-old with Down Syndrome. Juanita not only taught him, but she diligently advocated for the rights of the disabled, firmly believing every person under God's loving sight deserved the dignity every other human being did. Dan adored her, and when she died a few years later, he was devastated, unable to process the simplest facet of life: that we are mortal.

Mama Lucas told us a story one day as I sat at her table eating another of her generous offerings of food as I as a naturally-skinny nine-year-old lad all the Ladies of Florence always wanted to fatten. It started with her dreamy look of love, as she recalled her dearly-departed husband Lucas. She sighed as she began the story, perhaps it was that she was either the daughter or granddaughter of a slave, given her age. I remember she glanced at my mother, then smiled down at me. She caressed my forehead and scalp with her worn and gentle hands. I remember feeling so comforted by her presence. Her hugs were soothing and a great comfort which I eagerly anticipated upon our visits to her home. It didn't matter I was a little "white boy"; Mama Lucas had lived in Florence so long that the children of that town were all the same to her. Her husband's success as a restaranteur had granted her a comfortable home, and her years were numbered. Even so, she was calm and happy with life's blessings bestowed upon her final days. This next story resonated so deeply within me, it remains one of my favorites regarding one's grasping whatever dignity is dangled upon even the most-shriveled carrot.

"My husband and I owned a restaurant," Mama began. "Downtown Florence in the 1940s, serving Lucas' favorite dishes from down home to Mexican and American fare. Lord, how that man could cook! Anyway, in comes this Texan fella, dressed like the cowboy. I brought him a glass of ice water and a menu. He looked at me like I was the devil, lemme tell ya!" At this she laughed.

"Ain't you got any white waitresses?" he asked me. "Why nah sir," she replied. "I'm all ya got, so y'all just let me know what you want to eat and my man will cook it for you."

This, she remembered, struck a negative chord with the man. He was disgusted, and said as much. "I'll be damned if I'll eat at a nigger's restaurant!"

Mama told me she just raised an eyebrow and told him, "I'm sorry sir, but there's the door if you don't want to dine here. Florence folk don't seem to mind much."

With a disgusted snort, the Texan rose and strode toward the door. Little did he know, his actions wouldn't be rewarded in that dusty desert outpost 70 miles between Phoenix and Tucson.

Mr. Lucas had surveyed the scene from his view in the kitchen. A respected businessman in that small town, he knew just what to do. He didn't get angry, he just acted like someone from my hometown would have. As soon as the Texan walked out, Lucas Leos telephoned every other restaurant in town and told them what had happened. Between these calls, a plan was hatched.

When the Texan walked into the next restaurant, he was greeted by Mr. Leos himself. "Welcome, suh! How can I be of service to you?" The Texan snorted once again in disgust and walked out. Of the two or three other restaurants he tried that afternoon, he found the same Mr. Leos waiting for him. See, Mr. Leos had told his fellow businessmen of the Texan's words, and that didn't sit well with them. They all knew Lucas' dedication to his business, and he was accepted as one of Florence's own. That day, every restaurant in town, even for just a few minutes, was owned and operated by a Black man. This moment of solidarity taught one prejudiced man that his disgust for his fellow man was not to be tolerated in their town. He left Florence. Hungry.

This story has great historic and soulful meaning to me. It reminds me of how we were once able to work together to defeat racism's horrific disrespect. Even though some in my hometown still harbored racist beliefs, they were not welcome in that small town's close-knit bond. In Florence, if you were able to hold your own, then you were accepted as an equal.

Mama's eyes teared up as she told that story. Her love for Lucas was an emotion I had not yet learned, but I knew she needed a hug. She returned it with equal love, and it's one of my earliest, most treasured memories. It wasn't until much later that I realized its significance.

Our family, four white boys raised by loving and respect-demanding parents, lived next door to the same family of four girls and equally-demanding black parents. I learned early that we were not that different. I played with those girls, danced with them to the Jackson Five in their living room. The girls teased me, loved and guided me through the deepest the 1960s' racial divisions. I was naive, but they were wise. There was no doubt that we were friends, and that race never entered into our relationship.

One day, a friend of mine came to visit. He lived a few blocks away, but we always hung out. He was also white, the son of a local dentist. Somehow, we got into an argument with my next-door neighbor Sharon. She was gonna kick both our asses, and we knew she could do it. We climbed high into one of my yard's fruit trees to escape her.

Later, my father called me into the living room, stern-faced and angry.

"Did you call Sharon a 'nigger'?" he asked.

"No," I said, dumbfounded. "I would never..."

"Oh?" Dad shouted at me. I was terrified. I had never seen Dad so angry toward me. "Why did her father just come over and accuse you of doing just that?"

"I don't know..." I stammered. "I didn't call her that... I could never..." I had truly never heard that word before. Still, I was about to learn its meaning.

Dad didn't believe me. I was shocked. Having been taught that truthfulness was all my parents required, it was all I knew to offer. Still, whether Sharon had accused me for calling her something I never could have said, or that Dad didn't believe me; it didn't matter. I was spanked harder that afternoon than any other time in my life.

My father was raised an Illinois farmer in the Land of Lincoln, where people earned respect no matter what they looked like. My mother was raised by black nannies, the daughter of a Detroit auto manufacturer's advertising executive. Both parents were steadfastly against racism in every form. Dad, a professional musician, had served in World War II with people of all races and beliefs; Mom had been babysat by Mr. Bojangles, Sarah Vaughan and others while her mother performed in Vaudeville acts. They were horrified at the very thought one of their sons being accused of hurling a racist slur. I had not done the deed, but the fierce bare-butt spanking I received reminded me how painful such an offense could be toward another. I was horrified that Dad didn't believe me, and also that I had been falsely-accused.

From that point, I made an even greater effort to show respect for those whose skin color differed from my own. When I told Sharon what had happened, she was shocked and apologized, saying maybe it was my friend who had caller her that. Even so, I felt downright guilty for it. I was angry for being unfairly-punished, but the lesson was learned. Sharon and I remained friends, but there was a matter of trust that took a while to re-establish. I wish we could have a discussion today about that incident some 50 years ago. It shaped my respect for people of color, one which I still hold today. It's not about anger, but realization of our unnecessary differences. We're equal under the law, but are we in societal understanding? Not quite, given today's horrific circumstances.

As a horny teenager, girls were foremost on my mind. One in particular was Melanie. I found her incredibly beautiful, and yearned to tell her how much I was attracted to her. I visited her home regularly in my early teens, mostly to speak with her granny. Evidently, my lust for Mel was acknowledged by both my mom and Aunt Hazel, because I was sternly advised to abandon my attraction for a girl I found not only attractive, but lovely. I didn't understand why but was lobbied by both Aunt Hazel and my mother to not pursue my love interest. Later, I realized a union between us would have resulted in great pain for us both, even though our town was relatively peaceful and seemingly unaffected by the nation's racial tensions of the time.

Given my history, I know only the truths my life has afforded me in nearly 60 years. First, we must treat each other as God commanded: the same way you hope others would treat YOU. It's easy. The simplest form of respect, if you try. Why must one's color of skin require anything further? Unless you're ignorant, totally entrenched upon the centuries of racial hatred that has defined humanity, life could be so much more calm and peaceful. Whiteness has ruled America for far too long. It has defined neighborhoods and created a line too many have dared not to cross for fear of violence It's time to erase all boundaries and aspire to discover what it would be like to live amongst one another in peace and respect for all humankind. It's time we recognize the inherent good in all people, and discard the hatred of the past that has resulted in reckless violence and disharmony.

We enjoy each others' music, food and cultures. Why is it that we fear one another because of the color of our skin? Underneath the human epidermis lies a network of blood vessels, DNA, shared history and possible love. Why can't we finally embrace this? Other countries have, why can't the one which boasts a Constitution in which its preamble states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Now, nearly two-hundred forty-four years later, we're still arguing what this statement actually means by today's standards. It's truly ridiculous that a large segment of our population argues that it only applies to white people. Given our murderous treatment of Native Americans and enslavement of kidnapped Africans, it's about time whites bow our heads in shame and accept God's judgement for our sins. There is nothing in the Bible which gives white people superiority over others. In fact, my personal experience has shown those of color possess a greater intellect and compassion than those of my own race. It's despicable how our ignorance holds power over those who are usually more-intelligent than those of my own race, yet lord antiquated and ill-won dominance over others who only seek to level the playing field of equality.

Humanity in the United States is in severe danger of annihilating itself. Abraham Lincoln once stated that "a house divided against itself cannot stand". At the time, he was referring to the state of slavery in a young nation that needed to rid itself of an intrinsically-abhorrent state. Even though times have changed, the state of our collective humanity has not. People of color are held in prison in much higher numbers than their pale-skinned countrymen due to laws which specifically targeted them. Their neighborhoods were officially-deemed "undesirable" and subject to financial regulations which regarded them as poor investments. Hence, the "ghettos" were formed. Law enforcement has routinely targeted these neighborhoods and put many people in prison due to racial warfare, giving America the false impression that people of color are largely lawless individuals who are incapable of positively-contributing to society when they are actually more hard-working and earnest individuals (when given the chance) than people whose skin is as light as the night is dark.

I don't blame those who RISE up today because they have been held down for centuries. In fact, I feel to blame for their demise through my white skin's ability to avoid the trials they have faced. Not once did I have to counsel my children to be wary of their skin color when they ventured out as teenagers. I didn't fear they would be hounded down by the wrongful vengeance of those of a different color for their own race as they ventured out to be with their friends. It certainly NEVER entered my mind as a teenager that my life or freedom could be in danger just because I wanted to "hang with my homeys" on a hot summer night. The cops knew my family and that any frolicks were largely harmless. But what of that of my black friends of that time? Were they pulled over by some over-zealous cop with a hard-on to use that gun on some "black guy" who resented being pulled over just because his skin color did. But still, I wonder... did it happen nonetheless? It certainly did in larger cities. Were my classmates just lucky they lived where I did? Or was I simply blind to something that was happening beyond my white reality?

Today, we're faced with truly ridiculous demands because of the times we're living through. Still, we must not "defund" the police. Let us otherwise train them to recognize everyone's humanity and to choose peace above violence. When a black man reaches for something, it's not necessarily for a weapon but likely some form of identification to offer in hopes to ease the officer's suspicion. They don't feel so threatened when I as a white man reach into my glove compartment for my registration/insurance documents without fear. Why would a black person be automatically rendered a death sentence for doing the same? It's trained into white people to fear black folks, perhaps because of all the horrific shit we've treated them with over the centuries. Maybe our race is afraid of retaliation for our horrific sins. Make a sudden move in front of a cop, and they are primed to protect themselves. Why do they automatically assume a black man will point a gun, rather than documents, at them? Because they assume it to be so. They're taught to assume this. Good fucking grief. Cops should know better. Still, minorities are killed for this ridiculous notion more often than we have been told over the years. And that, my friends, is why they are beyond-the-pale pissed off, and rightfully so.

Our national political situation is in dire need of a powerful leader who can find a way for us to heal the divisions which have built up over centuries of denial and oppression, and a Congress with the balls to stand up above political idealogies to finally, truthfully... join hands in solidarity against racism.

Once the world's hope for all mankind, America has devolved into a cesspool in which respect for law and order has overcome a universal respect for "others". Where our once-hopeful "shining city upon the hill" inspired greatness across the globe, we have fallen into the horrific depths of "one versus the other, and to hell with anyone who objects". People armed with automatic weapons have threatened our statehouses and been granted their freedom of expression, while un-armed protesters have been met with teargas and pepper-spraying those hopeful of reversing the establishment's hundreds of years of systemic racism.

We CAN do this, America. If we stop cutting our country's soul in half and instead reach out a hand to those next to us, regardless of their race/sexuality/religion/politics, we already know we can achieve greatness. It has happened many times before. We once had the greatest nation of all time; now it has devolved into "us vs. them." Pink Floyd, of all bands, is now the prevailing voice of today's disaffected and enraged. Also, I'm reminded of the soulful sounds of Marvin Gaye asking nearly a half-century ago What's Going On and the Rev. Al Green's soulful voice imploring us Let's Stay Together. White people have always LOVED soul music, yet turned a blind eye to the grave injustices served upon their brothers and sisters as they grooved to their soulful tunes. Millions of "white" Americans reveled in the musical geniuses of Satchmo, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin and scores of other Black Americans, yet still considered them less than human. This disgusting double-standard has gone on without meaningful outrage for their collective plight. For not only decades, but centuries.

You wonder why millions of people have risen in outrage over the death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis? Turn to YouTube and search for the thousands of horrific instances of white "justice" against our black brothers and sisters. For centuries, we have laid waste to their anguished existence. Read the thousands of books devoted to the tragedy of racial hatred whites have visited upon our "celebrated" Black Americans. Venture into your own souls and ask how you, as an entitled white person, have remained silent as you witnessed injustice yet remained silent.

Damian Lillard, a Portland TrailBlazer, said it best recently as he rapped his race's agony over what we're now experiencing. He basically told whites that "whites staying quiet, you disabling the changes". His words finally brought me out from this horrible silence I've felt, not knowing how to respond to my country's horrific moment in history.

In 1865, the last American leader who actually cared about those who languished under an inhuman practice that had flourished in a supposed land-of-the-free, President Lincoln spent his final political capital in his lifelong mission to outlaw slavery. He pushed, cajoled and leveraged Congress to pass the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It finally outlawed slavery in our country. John Wilkes Booth made Abe's dream one he would never see ratified. It was, nearly eight months after his assassination.

Ever since, our country has been divided upon the issue of "equality" among the races. We decimated the Native American population, insulted the integrity of Japanese, Mexican and many other naturalized Americans while the whites flaunted a supposedly God-granted "superiority" not founded in the Bible over our centuries upon this continent. This despicable part of our history now has come to haunt us today. Given our .

Where do we go from here? I submit that we finally learn to love, respect and honor one another. No man or woman is higher than another just because of our skin's color. We each work for a living, hope the best for our children and their own. We live, we die, we love. Why not love and respect one another along the way? If we're "all equal in God's eyes", do we fight so evilly against each other whilst we're alive? When we arrive at God's Heavenly Gates, will you be interrogated as to your failure to love others as you did yourselves, or will your soul be free of such guilt?

You can fail some of the people some of the time, but you cannot con a Larger Being. When your soul is to be judged, will you be rewarded? Some of us lie to our own souls an entire lifetime, only to be exposed to the greatest Judge upon our deathbed. Did you love others as you did yourself? Did you show love and kindness to all you came into contact with, or did you harbor hatred and injustice?

I won't judge you; that's for you and your God. However, I pledge to you all that I love you no matter what our differences. Many of you assail me for my political leanings, judging me even though you fail to fully understand me. It's okay; I forgive you, and hope you offer me the same.

All in all, I sincerely hope mankind learns the wickedness of our past and diligently work toward a more-loving and inclusive future. When I die and you try to find the words which best describe my life, my main hope is that you realize that I loved you for who you are. I did not judge your faults because my own likely outnumbered your own. My life is only measured by the love I've shown those with whom I have come into contact with. To my Beloved, you have been the light which led me out of the darkness. To my children, I am SO proud of each of you; in your own ways you have delighted me in so many ways I could fill a thousand books of your wonders. To my friends, I can only say I lived a fuller life because you treated my soul with intense fun and wonderment; your individual contributions to my life will follow my soul wherever it chooses to travel, and that I treasure each of you to a degree you could never fully comprehend.

Let's Get Together, okay? Vote. Speak up. Be heard, Do not be afraid to be you... everyone else is already spoken for. Above all, remember that Deke, Patrick or that silly ass, however you choose to remember me, LOVED you however we interacted. If I didn't, I wouldn't have spoken with you.

I don't know all the answers, or how to proceed from here. Our economy is suffering, people are unemployed, frustrated and impatient for things to return to "normal". I read and hear that nothing will ever be the same because of a tiny and murderous virus. Will our impatience lead our country to its ultimate death? We're spoiled, entitled and pampered. The rest of the world has done battle with COVID-19 and collectively beat the curve. Yet the USA has failed to rise. Our numbers are spiking because some states believe their historic greatness rises above some tiny virus. We fail to test those who come into direct contact with a possibly-deadly public, for fear this will spike the numbers even more. Our heads are buried so deep in the sands of denial it's likely millions more will die, our economy could spiral into never-imagined depths which make us even more likely to fall victim to an aggressive takeover than we are willing to accept. By the time we realize our collective mistakes, it will probably be too late to correct.

We're at a point in time where we learn to live together and therefore RISE as one to defeat this lil' bastard, or our country dies. It's a legacy none of us wants to live through, but it's possible. Unless we learn to forget hatred, band together like we have countless times before and leave stupidity behind, China's flag could be flying rather than our beloved Stars 'n Stripes before too long.

Think I'm a bit alarmist? I've studied American history my entire life. Not since the Civil War have we faced such a horrific dilemma, but this one is much worse. We're more divided now than we were when Abe Lincoln stated "a house divided against itself cannot stand". Not only are we divided politically, but we are being decimated by a disease many do not understand or even fear. Unless we come to grips with this disease as seriously as the rest of the world has, then it will likely be our ultimate downfall no matter the politics. Our racial divisions right now are powerful, yet tiny in relevance to the threat of this pandemic. Would you rather band together to defeat a virus or fight one another over supposed racial superiority? In my mind, the choice is elementary, and I'm afraid most of you fail to grasp the significance of our collective peril.

Get your head out of your asses, Americans. Keep wearing your masks. Stop massing in great numbers to protest and instead get your VOTES on. Elect those who have ALL our best interests in mind rather than those who espouse ridiculous notions which could kill our country. We have yet to meet the USA's grandest potential. Our history is violent. However, if we learn to live with one another no matter what you look like, who you love or what church you do or do not attend, perhaps our Founders' ideals could come to fruition upon our 250th birthday six years hence. Otherwise, I suggest you invest in your own funeral, because it's surely a'comin. Most of us will surely join you if we fail to overcome this most difficult time in our nation's history. Don't agree with me? I beg you to reconsider.
Peace, folks. We need it now more than ever.

Love to you and yours,
Deke

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Instead



Instead


A portrait is without a word,

sadly said to speak louder

than some overly-used verb.


We are nouns ourselves,

ink upon a dusty echoing time

biographies on bookshelves.


That pic of me in tender youth

looks nothing like what I do now

mourning another lost tooth.


Words come fast to an old tune

sounding much unlike what's new

and an ending come far too soon.


Long after I'm considered dead

rather than an image within

please remember my words instead.


-- Patrick B. Coomer



Monday, June 1, 2020

We Love, We Die, We Still Hope...

Brothers who never worried walking alone at night.
We were protected by an illness which has long festered
as we remained ignorant of our privilege.
I hear the anguish... the torment
I feel the pain
How can we come t’geither
And kill the strain?

It dwells deep within us
Even in those who wish it not
It kills the spirit, the flesh, the soul
The wish for peace is all but naught

Man is beastly, always through time
Olive branches offered, yet stomped upon
We slither through slime
Muck, shit and hatred, wishing it gone

But here we are. Sigh.
Again, always and enduring it still
My, oh my, oh my.
When, I ask, will we have had our fill?

--Patrick Coomer
June 1, 2020


On vacation, at last. I set the brake in the yard, my bus left running for those who take it through its last journey after 20 hours on the road. Fill the tanks, a run through the wash rack, a scrubbing of COVID-19 proportions. Before I let go of my wondrous steed of glass and metal, I bowed my head in thanks. Once again, safely returned and off for a week.

Before, I would have glorified in this moment. This time, exhaustion reigned. I just sighed in relief. It had been a ghastly several weeks since my COVID-19 self-quarantine early on during this global nightmare. Thankful to be free of (that I'm aware of) infection, survival to that point was a victory, shallow nonetheless. I could revel in nine days of freedom from the shackles of my "essential job". That was truly... enough.

Myplans for vacation, albeit altered, were ambitious. I would write further in my novel, take time to do domestic chores and revel in the presence of this forever love we have shared for 26 years. COVID be damned, I was going to enjoy my time off. Then that bastard Murphy took over.

Halfway through my freedom, a bothersome molar took control. An abscess formed within its depths. It's a feeling I've known several times, one not to be ignored. Having nowhere to travel on this blessed vacation week, I resigned myself to fight infection. The dentist surveyed the damage and gave me two options: a root canal upon a tooth that has been heavily-filled and re-visited earlier this year, or extraction. A decision under duress, it was. Lose a tooth that helps masticate my favorite meal of steak, or lose it? My parents spent a fortune to straighten my teeth during my teens. I felt guilty for having smoked cigarettes so long I ruined my chewers. Once upon a time, my smile was a testament to my working-class parents' devotion to my odd looks, especially my mouth. They worked hard to ensure I could simply walk and talk, let alone succeed (that, they told me, was MY job).

Lying in the dentist's chair, I debated the loss of yet another tooth. It had been with me over half a century. I remembered it forcing its way upward after sacrificing its baby tooth to the quarter-bearing Fairy. Faithful to me for 50 years plus it was, yet my early lack of dental insurance had doomed several of my precious chewers to destiny, which was not kind to this mouth. A front tooth was subject to a root canal nearly 30 years ago, yet hovers still... discolored but still there.

As I sat there contemplating my choice, I thought of George Floyd. His photos showed a perfect rack of teeth. He died last week, pleading for his life pinned beneath the knee of an unforgiving "authority". He had not injured anyone, nor had he threatened anyone's life. Still, his beautiful teeth will no longer serve him. They'll outlast the rest of his dead body. His honor and dignity will likely be assailed in defense of the cops who refused to give him breath. Yet here I was, mourning the loss of one tooth while this man's family and friends sobbed over Mr. Floyd's needless death. As I thought of this man, the choice was simple. Lose the tooth. Given its horrid condition, I feared the next battle it would surely offer down the road. At least, as a white man, I need not fear death at the crouched knee of a thoughtless individual. My tooth was of little consequence, given the state our nation's battle against oppression and racism which killed that poor man.

Yes, I am a "bleeding heart". Whenever someone dies needlessly, I am reduced to tears. It's something I'm proud of, this belief of mine that we're all in this life together. I have shed many a tear witnessing the outpouring of anger and grief over yet another black man killed for no reason. I'm white, yet I don't fear walking at night with my hood covering my head from the rain or elements. Once my face reveals itself, I'm just another guy. Do I fear the hooded head of a black man? No. Why should I? We're all human. I simply nod and smile in greeting. It's how I was taught long ago by parents who valued the souls of all we share this world with.


When Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in 1968 I asked my mother: why? She had no answer, but cradled my head as I wept. The daughter of wealth and privilege, she was reared by "nannies" whose skin was darker than hers. This taught her an inherent respect for all, as decency instructed. My father was once a poor Illinois farmer, whose own dad died at 39, leaving Dad to become "man of the house" at the ripe old age of 13. He escaped generations of farming when World War II came calling. Still, he returned to raise a family of four sons taught to value "a man's character, rather than looking down on the color of his skin". I clearly remember him telling me, "We all bleed the same color, so what's the difference?" It's a lesson I've treasured in my dealings with the public. My love for all is hopefully displayed as I drive a city bus.

Watching the past week unfold from the comfort of home, mourning a lost tooth, I felt guilty. My brothers and sisters were driving through a riot-torn downtown, witnessing yet another Portland protest against the inhumanities of humanity. Safe in the sanctity of my far-removed home, I watched in horror the FaceBooked laments of my fellow operators and supervisors. I ignored the protests, and took solace in my vacation-bound safety. I simply could not bear the pain they felt, and it didn't take long before I was ashamed of ignoring it.

A large amount of guilt notwithstanding, I had already endured weeks of exposure to the unwashed, the carriers of this virus we cannot yet defeat. I couldn't be spiritually absent any longer. Was my blatant absence a form of cowardice? No. I firmly believe I am duty-bound to earn my living throughout any natural disaster, and I had done my part. I will still, in the months to come. This moment in time was my rightful respite, a vacation I had originally planned to visit Victoria, British Columbia with my Beloved. Only the pandemic at hand dictated I stay at home like millions of fellow Nor'westerners. No need to feel guilty, yet still I reveled in a "lucky pick".

Today, however, I finally allowed myself to watch a live feed of a news team which fearlessly covered thousands of protesters who descended upon Downtown Portland to once again voice its collective anger. Months of unemployment, untold stories of abuse at home and domestic fear, and the fierce, justified fury of the neglected and scorned shook me out of my self-induced solace. Decent, hard-working people who have everything to fear and intensely-magnified as being reported as "suspicious". For what? The color of their skin. Period.

I have felt more fear from those of my own race than from those whose skin differs from mine. It's outrageous, after hundreds of years, that our country which declares itself "land of the free" still  considers a chosen few to be worthy of such dignity. We're taught to believe America is a beacon of hope to the world, yet we're languishing in shame for our blatant mistreatment of those we call our own.

It is heartening to see police officers "taking a knee" in solidarity with peaceful protesters. They are who we should celebrate for they are not like those who kneeled upon Mr. Floyd's neck until he was no longer with us. Many simply take the job to be arbiters of peace within their communities. They take bullets that they may keep us safe. Only the few, those buoyed by the hatred of bigoted centuries, are to blame. These few rotten apples fuel the righteous anger of a citizenry which pays the same taxes, works hard to provide for their families, loves each other and prays in the same churches as those who might glorify in their pain. Have our soldiers fought in vain so that only the few may benefit from their sacrifices? These brave souls care NOT about the color of skin when fighting for our country: soldiers come from all walks of our society, and they are brothers and sisters whenever bullets fly in the face of "freedom". Why should that be any different when we're supposedly at peace?

This nightmare we live today could have been remedied long ago, if hatred had been cast aside in this "land of the free". We spend too much blood ignoring injustice, our collective silence enabling callous racism to run rampant while supposedly "good" people turn their heads because it doesn't affect them. Just because your skin is lighter, does that truly make you "good"? Not in my book.

My childhood was blessed because people of ALL colors helped raise me within a tiny desert village of decency. I remember Mama Lucas, who cradled me in her arms when I asked her why others treated her differently than my own mother. Her words: "Because dear boy, they haven't yet learned how to truly love." I can still feel the caress of her worn hands upon this white boy's scalp, trying to soothe the pain I still feel for those outside America's revered words of our Founders, that "all men are created equal".

Will we ever learn to love one another, as God asks of us? It's not about religion here, but humanity's destiny. Without true respect for one another, there is no compromise. Nor hope. He gave us free will, but we're wasting it when we could be fostering a dream where all are included. John Lennon asked us to "Imagine", but we're still fighting hope rather than fostering it.

We're doomed if we allow this state of horror to continue. The rich have a hold upon us they will not easily let loose of. We're slaves to money rather than beacons of hope to one another. We fight ourselves rather than the masters who control our emotions. Republicans, Democrats... they're all puppet masters. When we finally find the ONE who can bring us together, it will likely be too late. It probably already is. However, there is always hope. There is love. I see it every day as a bus operator. It's there, lurking in the shadows. My goal is to shine a light whenever I see even the slightest shine.

Dear Lord, please. Through your mercy, bring us together to find the way forward... together. That's my only prayer.

Peace be with you, RIP all who have been unjustly torn from this life, and love to you all...
Deke




The Sun Sets

Patrick's Note: It has been nearly a week since Deke N. Blue passed from his bloggery life. It has taken that long to come to terms with...