What Is Character Pt? II

Thu, 08.01.2013

What Is Character Pt? II

The United States of America has always been a country club for those that have, while the rest of the people were fortunate enough to be the groundskeepers and live on the outer edges of the course. The forefathers of the constitution acknowledged the need for the mythical ‘pursuit of happiness,’ as a way of saying that if you (the common man) could find success out of opportunity, then you will be able to determine your happiness. As they were not short-sighted men and are highly educated in the history of the world they understood that many people born with nothing, still have a strong desire to work hard and obtain a sense of peace and destiny for themselves.

After all, isn’t that why the colonies went to war with England in the first place, because they paid their share of taxes but had little representation back home? Guess what, the same thing is going on now. We share one landmass but live in two different countries. And the people who help determine policy favor institutions like corporations and deep-pocketed bidders that sponsor them. How distorted must people’s liberties become before they take action? In the grand scheme of things, you are not just allowing your comfort and safety to be eroded, but that of your children and future generations. This will be the legacy of our collective character.

It just so happens that race, religion, and ethnicity help readily identify the type of people that the country club would like to keep out. Low-income earners and minorities need to stop looking for affirmation from the wealthy and love themselves for being human beings first, men and women second, and people of different races, religions, and ethnicities further down the list. And before you accuse me of selling socialism or communism or any other ‘-ism,’ let it be known that I applaud and urge personal achievement. I most certainly believe that people should be rewarded for their success, but let’s not kid each other. There are very few people in this world gifted enough to achieve personal success on their own. It is so rare because just about everyone receives some type of assistance from family, friends, or circumstance.

This was a major issue for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and why he became a major threat to the country; not just because he wanted to help African American’s ascent up the ladder, but to help everyone below that ‘wealthy’ threshold climb the latter to personal prosperity. That’s not how the game was designed, and you can bet that those in power will fight tooth and nail before they let go of that control. To assume that anyone race would choose to live a life of self-destruction is to engage in racist behavior and to pretend that The United States of America is no longer a racist country only perpetuates the idea that the elite will somehow finally accept you, once you achieve their level of success.

Do you ever notice how once people are introduced to a certain standard of living, they have very little desire to go back to a point below those means. True character is not afraid to put out its hand, and pull you up. True character does not become insecure in the presence of others, because it accepts that there is room for just about everyone (excluding those who would seek to do harm).  Where do people acquire true character? I would suggest that it comes through information and education. The more exposure people have to these significant assets, the greater their ability to understand an environment, and the forces at play. By containing, falsifying, or omitting information, people have very little ability to makes sense of what is going on. You cannot undo a person’s knowledge without attempting physical harm to their body. Consider that this country’s greatest years of prosperity (in my opinion: 1950 – 2000) were during a time when many children & young adults were able to get a well-funded education.

This exposure plants seeds in people with untold limits, allowing for everyone to compete and ultimately obtain their sense of well-being and prosperity. Because the middle and lower classes are confined to smaller environments their perception of the world is just as isolated as those who live behind iron gates and rarely step into ‘the streets.’ And minority men and women have grown increasingly comfortable with romanticizing young deaths. Some preach ‘ride or die,’ others so desensitized they become numb to the tragedy. This way of life is often assumed to be a hereditary characteristic of the African American people, which is what may have helped the jury’s acquittal of George Zimmerman. While many Americans predominantly find the whole notion of a Jihadist being rewarded in heaven for their martyrdom absurd, there are young men and women in our country who are caught up in a system that ultimately leads them down a similar path of self-destruction.

Let us change perspectives for a moment. The U.S. proclaims itself to be a place that accepts all colors and creeds; a place of tolerance and democracy that was built on the backs of so many slaves, immigrants, and migrants.  That is the character that the country has been selling for centuries. Yet, when the U.S. believes itself to have an enemy, we consider force (especially offensive) to be a rational and justified option. If another country feels the same way about us, we portray them as being unjustified and terrorists who want to take away our freedom. When you occupy a people’s land with a predominant military presence (occupiers), the people may begin to see you as the terrorists and act out. Our own police, met even the most peaceful demonstrations of the ‘Occupy Movement’ with force because these people took over public space. The character we see, and the one that the world sees, are definitely two different portrayals.

If there is a god, I hope that he never lets a nuclear weapon detonate during my lifetime, anywhere. With that said, what America did to the Japanese was heinous. What the U.S. did was murder, and this did not honor those men and women who were murdered at Pearl Harbor. It justified an eye for an eye. Most of the world has seen these atrocities and agrees that this is something that should never happen again.  As a realist, violence is inevitable, but to instigate violence and justify what you may deem as murder for what your enemy might do, is hypocrisy. That is the character that much of the world sees when it stares in our direction.  The message that the Zimmerman trial is sending to our citizens and especially those of color is, 'there may be justice out there, but it most likely isn’t for you.' George Zimmerman is only behaving in a manner that has seemingly become appropriate over time. Crime & punishment are subjective, held particularly for offenders who are assumed to have very little to offer in society.

The wealthy and powerful don’t like seeing change unless they have some way of determining the outcome. This means that they do not care to offer the proper assistance because they do not see a problem, to begin with. What the U.S. is doing too many of its citizens, not just the minorities, but also the middle and lower class, is divide and conquer. Our government has a long history of inserting itself into the democratic revolutions within other countries. Leader after leader has sprung up helping to bring about change to their environment, and potentially the world. If this person does not allow themselves to be compromised and controlled by the U.S., they will no doubt be removed from leadership. Our government has proven this over and over again, and all the while we are distracted as to why some people around the world do not like our country. The elite continually leaves us standing in the wake of the blame for their wrongdoing. It is ‘guilt by association’ and ‘the sins of our fathers.’ The rhetoric that we are spoon-fed will have you believe that everything is fine, but like climate change, we are steadily careening out of control.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but often times when I look around at the character of people, I see many who replicate instead of originating behavior. For example, I was passing through downtown LA looking for a place to eat when I noticed a large portion of people outside the Staples Center. Men & women were out looking sharp, each person radiating his or her essence to the wave of traffic that swept by in cars. I parked and chose a rather popular venue to watch the baseball game on TV. I found out that BET was sponsoring a concert at LA Live, and therefore understood the impetus for all the people coming out in their nightclub attire. What really caught my attention though, and had been recognized in previous experiences, was the attitude expressed by some of the concertgoers to people not dressed in a similar fashion. Those who enjoy style or are very dedicated to its expression can often times pity or ridicule what they deem in others as a lack thereof. Minorities have oftentimes been associated with having a sense of style. The long-running joke has been that white culture may have elegance and fine art, but the people of color have brought a sense of flamboyance and pizzazz to artistic expression. The powerful and wealthy only consume parts of other cultures for a reason; because they don’t ultimately want to be like that particular group, they just enjoy consuming and acting the part perceived as noteworthy. It’s like walking into a very nice house, only to find that each room is decorated not for utility, but for the sake of appearance. This is reinforced through marketing and advertising as to the prerequisites for social acceptance. People have become a lot more style-conscious, and less personal substance. Why, because it’s easy to purchase the desired attitude about yourself, then to actually invest the time and energy into changing the value system. They are consuming themselves in all phases, all the while becoming separated from their roots. If you don’t have a million bucks, at least you can look like a million bucks... aye ‘mirror.’ Wink, smiley face :), #hashtag, ALL CAPS!

At the end of the day, Trayvon’s murder goes beyond race and transcends politics. You and I are human beings, set to share the earth for as long as it will have us. We do not live in a world similar to our ancestors: a world without answers and continual threats to our life from disease, animals, and the unknown (most countries). We have so much at our disposal, and yet we continue to practice bad habits socially and politically. This will be the definition of our collective character, what potential future generations will remember about us. They will be reminded of all the formidable nations that once rose to great prominence, only to be undone by a legacy of hypocrisy, and destruction. This is not a call for all-out rebellion, merely an invitation to stop watching and start doing… anything, something, however, you can. But remember, this planet is a community, and what you set in motion in your small part of the world has the ability to ripple and affect so many others. Charles Colton famously wrote that “Imitation is the sincerest flattery.” Well, there’s nothing less flattering than being a hypocrite.

by J. Marcus