The Courage Of A Leader

Something About Nothing published in the Albert Lea a Tribune January 16, 2017

Today is the day we honor a great man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In case you don’t know, Dr. Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister and a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was awarded posthumously the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a federal holiday in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, and it began being observed three years later.

In 1963 at the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in which he stated his wish that our nation would rise and live out the creed that we would hold our truths to be self evident and all men would be created equal. He wished for all to sit down in brotherhood and that his four children would live in a nation where people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He wanted people to pray together, work together and stand up for freedom together. In spite of the oppression he felt over his lifetime, he loved this nation.

I was a senior in high school in 1968. That is 49 years ago. I never thought when I was a teenager that we would still be fighting the same race wars in 2016. I can only imagine what Dr. King would say if he would be able to speak today.

I grew up in a white community. I remember the first time I met a black person. It was in the early 1970s, and he was the husband of my best friend from childhood. It was the first time I was confronted with choosing whether I might be accepting of someone of another race, and I was. My friend made a smart choice in her husband. My children who were 3 and 5 at the time didn’t notice color — they noticed kindness. I had been sheltered from the violence and race wars where I lived and was relieved to know that I could look at a person and see the person not the race.

I think the reason I questioned how I would react to the meeting was because of what I had seen on television and heard in the media. Living where I lived I didn’t understand what the rest of the country was going through because I didn’t experience it, and so making judgements just by what I heard did put a little fear in my heart of those that were different.

I had a little taste of understanding earlier in 1968 when I read a book called “Freedom Summer” published in the ’60s. I don’t know the author, but the book had an impact on me. I read it for a book report my senior year. It highlighted white college students volunteering in Mississippi during the riots to register voters. I read it, went back to my nice life, but I never forgot that book.

I can’t imagine having the courage of Dr. King, speaking out and leading against hatred and violence that was directed at him. Yet he kept going and it cost him his life, but in doing so he left a legacy to aspire to. He believed in nonviolence and he preached nonviolence, yet violence took his life because he had the courage to stand up against those who were intolerant.

Here we are in 2017 fighting the same injustices. I don’t remember a year in my life since those early days when I have felt the fear I have been feeling. It is a fear we are going back to those early days of intolerance of those who are different than us. I don’t remember a year when I have felt hatred running out of control again.

And I don’t like feeling that fear because for me, if fear takes over, the lashing out begins. The rational thinking goes out the door and my mind fuels on what might happen and is focused on things which might never occur except in my own mind. When that happens I take it out on those I don’t understand, and it leads to family against family, neighbor against neighbor and judgement and repercussions. The blaming begins and we never blame ourselves. We always find a scapegoat for our feelings.

I read the story of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. today. He deserves our honor. He gave his life so others could have a better life. He didn’t stay silent about oppression out of fear. I find others doing that today, staying silent out of fear, bowed down by those that are louder. Staying silent because they don’t want to be targeted by those that think differently. I find myself doing that or apologizing to those that are the loudest and don’t like my viewpoint, because I don’t want to offend them even when they are offending me or I don’t want to be their target. Where is the fine line between swallowing our pride and our beliefs and our conscience and still staying friends with those who bully our opinions so we don’t speak out?

We learn from the past. Soon we will be the past. What will our children learn from us? Will it be the same as we learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Will it be an education of courage?

Proud To Be An American

I am grateful that I was born in the United States of America because my Polish Grandparents and my Great-Great Grandparents immigrated from Holland. I am here because they took the risk to come to a new country. This week is not only the week we vote but also the week we honor Veterans. My husband is a Veteran of the Viet Nam war. This week I will honor Veterans each day in some way on my Author Page and also on my personal page and my blog Sprinkled Notes. So Veterans, This week

is for you.

My column this week in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier-Sentinel

This past week my husband and I visited the VA Clinic in Minneapolis. Since the elections are tomorrow and this is also the week we celebrate our Veterans it might be fitting to write about our experience with the Veterans Administration and the Clinics and healthcare.

We have all heard the horrifying stories of the terrible healthcare and experiences people have had with the VA. But I am here to tell you our experience, and they are all positive experiences.

My husband didn’t get hooked up with the VA System until somewhere in the last ten years. We had an excellent Veterans Administration Officer both in Fairmont and Blue Earth that got the ball rolling for us. It didn’t take long, and my husband was in the system, and the benefits were available to him. He is a Viet Nam Veteran, and it had been hard for him to ask for help because of the stigma of the war. It was something he never talked about.

He was a patient at the VA Clinic in Mankato and then transferred to the Albert Lea VA Clinic when it opened because it was closer to home. We have always been amazed at the care of both places, the ease of getting an appointment and the excellent staff at both clinics.

The Veteran’s Clinic and Hospital in Minneapolis are amazing. They make it very easy to navigate and find your way around with all the volunteers they have to help those Veterans who come though their doors.

We had an appointment for a scan at 10:45. We were early and we checked in. We walked out of the doors of the Clinic at 10:46. And they had told us they were behind schedule. That is another thing we have found. If he has an appointment the wait is longer to get a table in a restaurant than it is to see the Doctor. This has been our experience.

This time at the Minneapolis Clinic I met another friend. Her husband too was there for a scan. I always meet friendly and interesting people on my visits there.  I learned about her family and she learned about mine. We shared experiences and we exchanged names and business cards to keep in touch. I suspect many other people’s lives touch at these facilities because they have a bond of a Veteran.

It is awe inspiring to see so many Veterans in one place, different ages and in different situations health wise. These men and women served our country. These men and women fought for our freedom. These men and women deserve our thanks and respect. These men and women all have lasting effects for their dedication to making our lives better.

The staff at these Veteran’s facilities also deserve our thanks and respect. They work day after day to make the lives of our Veterans better and also the lives of the families of those Veterans.

Does the system have flaws, of course, it does because it is run by human beings and we are a flawed creation. The media spends a great deal of time focusing on those flaws  but I would guess there are more heart and success stories than there are horror stories. We need to focus on the good these facilities, built for our Veterans, do for all of those involved.

 

It is Veteran’s Day on November 11. Thank a Veteran. Thank those also who work to serve Veterans.  Freedom isn’t free and freedom wasn’t meant to be abused. A Veteran protects and serves so those rights can be preserved.

 

When the peace treaty is signed, the war isn’t over for the veterans or the family. It’s just starting —Karl Marlantes

Celebrating Our Freedom

14687804116_c553cd4dc4_zThis is from my column in the Albert Lea Tribune on July 4, 2016. I believe we are so fortunate to live where we live and have the freedoms we do.

Rapper 50 Cent was arrested for swearing in public during a performance in St. Kitts in the Caribbean. In the United States we have the freedom to use whatever language we choose in public.

In the United States it is not illegal to burn the flag. In Argentina, Article 222 of the Penal Code criminalizes public desecration of the national flag, coat of arms, national anthem or any provincial symbol imposing one to four years of imprisonment.

We have the right to bear arms. In the People’s Republic of China gun ownership is heavily regulated and private citizens are not allowed to possess guns and penalties for arms trafficking include death.

It is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. I wonder how many of our young people know the reason for our holiday. Independence Day is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress. It was declared on this day in 1776 that the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation. We became the United States of America, separating ourselves from the British empire.

The world has changed many times over since the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Living in the United States of America has changed over the years; we have progressed and some might say that some forms of expression have regressed.

In my early years, people didn’t burn the flag — they respected the flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was said every morning to remind us of the freedoms we experienced and to show respect for our country.

Now swearing is rampant in everyday society. It is hard to walk down the street without swearing being heard in one form or another. Yet in other countries it is a crime and punishable by prison.

Social media, the news and the subject of gun control dominate conversations arguing the rights of our citizens with people voicing their opinions loudly, not caring who is disrespected.

My point is this — Independence Day, when our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they broke free so that we have the freedom to swear in public, whether others like it or not. We have the freedom to desecrate our flag, whether others feel it is disrespectful to our country or not. We have the right to bear arms no matter how high the murder rate becomes. We have the right to bash our leaders and each other because we live in a free country. Life may have been much different if the Declaration of Independence were not signed. We may not have the freedoms I just described.

We take our freedom for granted and because of it we abuse those freedoms that were supposed to be for the good of the people so that we could pursue a life of liberty and happiness.

As you are out celebrating the day, take a few moments to be thankful for the freedoms we have, and to appreciate those freedoms and our country. In all the loudness of confrontation we forget to appreciate that which our forefathers protected.

Celebrate the day. Shout for joy. Let the fireworks begin and celebrate our great country. If you get a moment take the time to sing the national anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or read the Declaration of Independence to remind yourself what the day is all about – our freedoms.