What do you do?

When you see someone acting ugly or doing something that crosses one of your values, what do you do?

Do you consider that maybe there’s more to the story and give them room for having their reasons?

Do you ignore them and wish for them to go away, all the while hoping they don’t hurt someone first?

Do you tell them they’ve crossed a line?

I ask you, what do you do?

I’ve made a concerted effort to not engage in social politickin’ and have been mostly quiet on Russia, immigration, pizzagate, tariffs, spygate, tax cuts, various versions of lock-them-up, corruption, decorum, the deficit, HUD policy…I could go on… Healthcare and LGBTQ issues are the two areas where I’ve felt compelled to comment, though (I did say ‘mostly quiet’).

Why have I held my tongue? Well, because I’m not sure any of you need me adding to the bickering and often over-dramatised craycray in American politics. It seems that most of the political huffing and puffing (including interweb commenters and social media posters) isn’t intended to address problems, it just generates attention. Since life is short, I keep my comments to myself and stay focused on what matters.

By now you’re asking “so what?”.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m setting the stage for a discussion about something that really bothers me: Treating anyone, regardless of their label, as if they don’t matter is not how I was raised.

I’m aware that we haven’t eradicated all bias, prejudice, or injustice, but I did think we’d driven it underground. You know what I mean, the kind of bias that people might be ashamed of, so they at least don’t plaster it on a sign.
Apparently, I’m wrong. There are still some things that people are willing to post in large letters on posterboard.

So let’s walk down memory lane.

Then you can tell me whether this recent news item is as disturbing as the anti-immigrant, pro-segregation days of the 20th century.

Image result for segregation signsThis sign dates back to a time when restaurants and other establishments freely discriminated against non-whites. For more info, check out Latino USA’s ‘No Mexicans Allowed: School Segregation in the Southwest’.

Image result for segregation signsThis one came from the University of Maryland’s Baltimore County online gallery. It’s a stark reminder of times when America freely discriminated on the basis of color. Can you imagine telling someone today that dogs and pick-a-label-for-someone couldn’t enter? Dogs, yes. People?

Image result for no irish sign

Another sign, this time banning Irish job applicants.

I could keep searching for pictorial evidence of historical, overt discrimination that is now outlawed and socially unacceptable but I think y’all get my point. Plus, I’m getting kind of bummed about picking through our cultural rubbish bin. Let’s move on to the real point of this, shall we?

What label would you pick that could make a sign like those above seem reasonable?

Or are all signs of this nature discriminatory? Even the one below?

A Tennessee hardware store is under fire again for its "No Gays Allowed" sign. (Syracuse.com)

A store in Tennesee has had this sign up for about three years, according to Snopes. Several news sources (just google ” no gay amyx” and you’ll find them all) say Amyx Hardware put this sign up in 2015 or thereabouts.

The store owner apparently replaced it for a few days with one about constitutional freedoms, which is marginally better. At least it would have been if he hadn’t put the original sign back up.

I have to ask, though, if someone walked into your hardware store and they happened to buy a hammer or some paint while also being LGBTQ, what does that have to do with your freedom of speech or religion? I may be unclear on the concept but I’m pretty sure the label – their identity –  doesn’t affect your freedom to practice your religion or say your piece. Unless, of course, you bring it up.

Is that what happened? Did you offend someone or did they offend you and now you feel like you can’t have any of “them” in your store? Has the sign brought you peace?

I’m all for our constitutional freedoms. Recall, however, that folks based their racial discrimination on the same principals and we eventually decided (well, most of us), that we didn’t cotton to discrimination. As folks around here would say, ‘that dog don’t hunt’.

So, you’ve seen the sign now. You’ve read my thoughts.

What do you do?

Here’s what I’m doing.

I’m telling my LGBTQ friends that they matter.

I’ve made our family business a politics-free, religion-free zone. (These have been the rules for years – we all co-exist relatively peacefully and without judgment – Never-Trumpers and MAGA-hat wearers alike.)

And if I lived in Tennessee and needed something from the hardware store, I’d shop somewhere besides Amyx Hardware, partially because I think discrimination is wrong and partially because I think the owner doesn’t know how to deal with folks that disagree with him. Life’s short enough without adding more ugly to my life.

It’s All Good

Happy Friday! Get down, get Funky! I usually send out a note to my coworkers on Fridays with a Funky Friday theme. We started out with watching old Soul Train videos and it expanded from there.

Is it work related? No, not at all. But… it gets us up and dancing and brings a common grin to everybody on my email. Shared experiences bring us together and, for a national team, it’s a challenge to accomplish this. We don’t get to see each other in the halls or go to lunch. We’re on conference calls nonstop and it’s too easy to miss the personal connection. What to do then? Inject a little humor (have you seen the hair on those Soul Train vids? Priceless!) and a little musical inspiration and you have something that gets us up out of our chairs. Totally worth the few minutes of distraction…

Today’s song is one of my favorites – its retro funk sound is not only perfect for my Booty Shaker playlist, it’s also got really good lyrics. Basically, its message is that it doesn’t matter about our differences –

Hollywood, or in the hood, it don’t matter…

Tight fade, or long braids, it don’t matter…

East coast or west coast, it don’t matter…

Either way, it’s all good.”

This is Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That. Time for a little chair dancing!

US versus Them (uhh, that means all y’all who are not us and, no, I don’t find that at all confusing)

We’ve been watching “The Bridge” lately, a show on two police detectives trying to solve crime on the El Paso/ Ciudad Juarez border. It’s highlighted the us v them mentality that seems to be everywhere in politics these days.

What is the difference that happens on the border of our country? The U.S.-Mexico border seems to be so much more controversial than the U.S.-Canada border. Why is that? What makes the difference in our perception? Do we see Canadians as more like us than Central and South Americans? I’m willing to bet the Canadians (especially the French-Canadians) don’t see themselves the same as us on the south side of that particular border. Are Canadian immigrants OK and Mexican immigrants not? Do we have different objectives in each of these cultures? Or does it just feel different on the inside of our culture?

US versus Them – What’s really the difference in these two groups of people, except their labels?

I live in a city where 2/3 of the population has Hispanic or Latino ancestry and 40% of the households speak a foreign language (likely Spanish) in the home. In many ways, this is a city where the residents are as at home in the U.S. as they are in Central or South America. Do we love these neighbors any less than those who have European ancestry? Many of them are U.S. born of immigrant parents. Do we love these first-generation people any more than someone who has just arrived from another country? I struggle with why many in our nation condemn people who are “other” (other than themselves, meaning of different backgrounds) when, at some point, our ancestors were also ‘other’ to the residents of our nation. Can we not accept each other as individuals, without judging stereotypes?

This belief that “we” are somehow superior to “them” is known as ethnocentrism. It lacks humility and requires broad assumptions about others. I think I can safely argue that the British had this same ethnocentrism about the American colonies, and look where that got them.

I’ll leave you with this quote, it seems appropriate for a time in which we’re debating immigration and our role on the world stage. It’s as appropriate now as it was in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? Pablo Casals, Spanish cellist and conductor (1873-1976)

You Say Toe-may-toe, I Say Toe-mah-toe

Do you ever feel like you’re talking to someone but not really communicating? We have to remember that we all see things differently. I hope you find the following true story a funny reminder of this.

San Antonio is very bicultural, with a seemingly even split between native Spanish speakers and native English speakers. Other cities, like Miami, are probably the same. A few years back, my Assistant was a woman named Yolanda, who was raised in a Spanish speaking home. Her family emphasized English and she easily thinks in both languages. Myself, I was raised with English and therefore read and think in it. I have a decent ear for language, though, and can speak Spanish with a good accent. There are a fair number of words that sound very different in the two languages and there are also names that are common in the Hispanic community that are not so common in the Anglo community, like Hector or Jesus.

Like much of Texas, San Antonio is a very religious town, with references to our Lord, Jesus Christ, being fairly common in conversations. (Can you guess where this is going?)

When Yoli and I worked together, there was a mobile jewelry salesman from Mexico City, Jesus (Hay-soos for those of you who aren’t familiar with Spanish pronunciation). Yoli & I knew Jesus, the salesman, pretty well; we almost always talked about him and rarely wrote his name down. In my head, he was (and still is) Hay-soos. For me, Jesus (Gee-zus) is a different person entirely. When Jesus the jewelry salesman would visit, Yoli and I made it a point to go see all his sparkly doodads. He would usually call one of his regulars and then she would pass the word through email and Yoli would tell me.

One day, he called Yoli to tell her he’d be in the lobby with some new trinkets. She then emailed me: “Jesus is coming today.” Not thinking of jewelry, I assumed she was telling me Jesus Christ was coming.

I don’t know about you but I wasn’t expecting His return to Earth to be announced via email and in such a calm fashion.. I would think that Yoli would at least have burst into my office with some sense of drama! She’s kind of excitable that way.

Trying to be cool about the whole thing, I calmly replied, (still in email) “Really, how do you know?” I also offered to pray with her, thinking a quick prayer couldn’t hurt. She then told me that He’d called her. I immediately realized that Yoli must have been the most special of humans to have gotten a call from our Lord, Himself. I was just about awestruck. We went back and forth in email a couple more times before she came giggling into my office to tell me that I was crazy and asking if I wanted to go see our friend from Mexico City and his sparklies…..

The moral of the story is that two people can be saying the exact same thing but in two different languages, carrying two different meanings. Also, we listen and see differently. Remember the next time you’re in an argument to listen for the difference.