Sunday, December 22, 2013

A World Which Did Not Exist

Winter solstice 2013. My thoughts go back to Christmas 1945 or 1946. I had perfect parents and perfect grandparents. They met every need but added so much more above the necessities of life. I was just a child of 3 or 4 years. On Christmas morning(now-a-days I do not spell that with a capital C) I awoke to a beautiful electric train all set up on the wood floor in front of the gas space heater which I still have in my garage almost 70 years later. The train was all metal, perfect in every detail. Its whistle sounded so real like the massive steam engines which thundered past our back door at all hours of the night shaking the ground as we tried to sleep. There on a side track one train would wait on the other to pass while it hissed and blasted steam in a night shattering game of waiting. When it was finally clear to go, the monster would begin a rhythmic series of massive blast of steam and slowly increase its rhythm eventually fading into the night. The idea of Santa Claus was so magical and exhilarating...he brought me a toy train. Mother and Dad poured their essence into making my sister and I happy. I can still see the single strand of tree lights with heavy cord, large bulbs all of which seemed to last 20 years or more. We were allowed to put the lead based "icicles" on the tree...the presents under the tree were off limits. It seems that was the year my uncle Ken came back from the Navy and the war in the Pacific to reunite with his bride, my aunt Helen at our home. He was laden with gifts which he purchased from the Japanese in Tokyo, Japan. For me he brought a tiny Japanese camera which would fit into the palm of my small hand.It had real film and took real pictures. For my sister there was a hand painted picture of her on a silk roll painted by a Japanese artist from a black and white snap shot. The colors were vivid, the lips so red like the lips of a Geisha. I remember one other gift which I never considered to be good because I was terrified of chief Wahoo, a carved coconut with a fearsome glare on his face. His angry eyes were embedded seashells with great black pupils on bulging white eyes. His face was painted in warpaint, bearing his teeth in a menacing grimace. At his ears hung long dangling sea shells. It seemed I could see his fearsome face even in the dark and could never sleep in the same room. I would never enter the room without a tight grip on Mother's hand. Looking back it seems that I grew up sheltered from the hardships and the sorrows of life. I knew mostly joy and laughter...with out want, because in one way or another I was always in the grip of my Mother's or my Daddy's hand...and looking back, I realize, now that they are all gone, that world only existed in my mind and my oblivion was nothing like the reality of the rest of the world in 1945. More than 50 million people were killed in WWII, including more than 300,000 American service men and women. Millions across the globe were left with scars which I never laid eyes on. Radiation burns, wounds of war, combat fatigue, empty chairs at the dining table. I grew into the 1950s and 60s. Safe neighborhoods, walking to school, then bicycling, lots of guys in the neighborhood, sharing an idyllic life in the perfect post-war family nor really realizing that negro children in my town Tyler Texas, didn't have it so great. There was a public swimming pool 5 blocks from my house where no Negroes came. I hardly noticed. There were no Negroes in any of my schools. I became of age, got a license and a car. When I joined the military service in 1960, for the first time in my life the people in charge said, "there will be no discrimination regarding race or creed". I slept in a bunk next to Negroes and ate with them at the chow hall. When I later enrolled in college, there were just a few black students, from foreign countries. One of those students was a black man from Nigeria in his early 30s. Three slash marks on each cheek...of royal blood. In Nigeria he had been a school principal, a Baptist minister, a father of three children who with his wife waited for his return. He was a product of Southern Baptist missionary work there and came to East Texas for college. He was however not welcome at any Southern Baptist church in Harrison county Texas because he was black and was told to go to the local black churches. He visited and slept in my home, ate at my table. His name was Benjamin Adawoosi. It's been almost 50 years. No...the world I thought existed did not. Gradually over time I have become a skeptic.Some people call me a pessimist because I have become someone who insists on facing realities. I am so dissatisfied with reality because I believe that people can actually choose to be good and to do good. There are lots of people doing just seems that they are not the ones in charge. I believe that democracy would work if we actually tried it. Eventually it will be the work place. That's where it will do the most good; businesses owned and controlled by the people who work there. Practicing democracy at work. Winter Solstice 2013