CommunityCultureGovernment

Fulfilling the Dream – Making Amends

Black Lives Matter – Defund the Police

When I first came to Muncie’s Alcoholics Anonymous back in 1999, it was scary. I saw the twelve steps on the wall, which were written in the 1930s, and I said there is no way I’m going to do those things to get sober. Why? Because it would require me to look deep inside myself where I hurt the most and face my sadness. It also would require me to face the people I was mad at for not loving me the way I wanted to be loved. It required me to get honest like I never was before, so I kept drinking. Don’t get me wrong; I wanted to be sober because I was killing myself drinking alcohol straight out of the bottle. I crawled into the bottle because I was scared of being the man God wanted me to be. He wanted me to be special, but I was a scared little boy. I had responsibilities in Orlando, but I was the five-year-old boy who got kicked out of kindergarten at Emerson Elementary in Muncie and whose parents just got a divorce, causing my mom and us kids to move out to Yorktown; thought it was all my fault.

You see, that is the absolute truth, which is different than our perception of the truth. A friend once told me here in Muncie, and the chaps name was Brad King (his wife made the buffalo in Tuhey Park), he told me once, “The truth is relative; it’s all based on perceptions.” Well, according to Wikipedia, we were discussing two different terms:

In philosophyuniversality or absolutism is the idea that universal facts exist and can be progressively discovered, as opposed to relativism, which asserts that all facts are merely relative to one’s perspective.[1][2] Absolutism and relativism have been explored at length in contemporary analytic philosophy.

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universality_(philosophy)

So, what in the world does this have to do with reparations?

Alcoholics Anonymous

Well, that is exactly what the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) teach us:

AA sprang from The Oxford Group, a non-denominational movement modeled after first-century Christianity.[10] Some members founded the Group to help in maintaining sobriety. “Grouper” Ebby Thacher was Wilson’s former drinking buddy who approached Wilson saying that he had “got religion”, was sober, and that Wilson could do the same if he set aside objections to religion and instead formed a personal idea of God, “another power” or “higher power”.

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholics_Anonymous

We poor drunks are powerless over alcohol, so we go to AA to get help from other drunks. The trick is they don’t just help us with drinking; they teach us how to grow up. Own up to our mistakes (take responsibility) and then make amends. You see, to work the steps, it forces you to go through a process of change. You have to let go of the old egoic self you created and become something new. You become reborn.

In steps six and seven, you look down at your analysis of who you were, and then you ask your higher power in step seven to mold you into what He wants you to become. That’s a tall task; it takes a lot of courage to do it. Bill and Bob only spent a few sentences on it in the Big Book. It’s the seventh-step prayer:

“My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.”

Alcoholics Anonymous, page

I suspect they didn’t know what they had right there back in the 1930s. As I’ve mentioned over at Muncie Voice, lots of serious things were happening in the 30s, so they got distracted, I suppose.

Anyway, as I mentioned this past week in my article about Good Decision Making, God gave us free will. He didn’t want us to be completely dependent upon Him, so he gave us a choice. Eve was tempted by a serpent and then persuaded her husband. All of a sudden, they were self-aware; got embarrassed for being naked. God asked them why they were covered in fig leaves; not sure, but that might have been the first time a human tried to rationalize or justify a bad decision – in AA, we call it excuse-making. I screwed up, but instead of owning up to it, I’m going to tell you a lie. Humans aren’t perfect; neither are dogs.

I just went outside, and Sophie was digging another hole in the neighbor’s yard. I already scolded her for doing that in our yard, but now she went and did it in the neighbor’s yard, too. What is my neighbor going to think of me when he gets home? Maybe I should tell him that a wild beast was there in the middle of the night digging a hole. That would be a lie, and it would make me feel guilty. Since the chaps name is Todd, I wouldn’t be able to look him in the eye again. I’d be ashamed. He would have no idea. My neighbor Todd would have power over me; every time I saw him, he would make me feel bad. Guilt eats away at the soul until you’re hollow inside. Alcohol filled up that hole, which is why I liked it so much.

Why do I keep veering off course when the topic was reparations?

Reparations

So, let’s suppose you mistreated people. Stole their land and kicked them out of your territory. Justified those actions by saying they were Heathens; “Poor souls didn’t know how to work the land. They underutilized the ground and worshipped a pagan god – something about a great spirit. They were animals. Us white European Christian immigrants were better than them anyway. We did them a favor by kicking them off their land since we could farm it better anyhow.”

Can you see the collective rationalization? The excuse-making for doing the wrong thing? We mistreated the American Indians. Our state is named for Indians, but there aren’t any living here because we told them to leave and go out west. More on this subject later.

We farmed the land until some industrialists came to town because of the natural gas boom. Historians can fill in the voids – we do have some of those over here at the university, I believe. Do they accurately reflect the people’s history, or do they confirm what publishers want them to say? I can still remember how Governor Mitch Daniels treated Howard Zinn when he learned of his death. Zinn wrote history based on the absolute truth, not a rich man’s truth. Not from the victor’s point of view where they get to whitewash the truth – I call it propaganda or spin.

As we all know about Muncie’s history, factories started popping up all over the place to make things. Capitalists owned the factories, and laborers worked really hard. My grandfather moved up from southern Indiana to work in those factories with my grandma. His parents were serfs. I could go on, but I won’t since this article is about reparations. The original Ball brothers had told us, through their descendants and the faculty over at Ball State University, just how great they were to the African slaves who came here from the south when old Abe Lincoln freed them after the Civil War. However, did they pay them a fair wage? Did they receive the same compensation that a white man from Tennessee or Muncie got? I heard they bussed workers from out of state to work in the factories. Did they all get paid the same wages?

As I wrote about several years ago when the Ball family was patting themselves on the back for hiring slaves when other factory owners weren’t, did they pay them a fair wage? We’d like to know. We’d also like to know if the white male European power structure back in the day prevented those Negroes from living wherever they wanted in Muncie. Did the Ball brothers use their weight with local banks, realtors, and government officials to keep blacks cornered in certain parts of town (segregation)? Who was behind those masks during the days of the KKK in Muncie?

I came across an article written by Nkechi Taifa, a Senior Policy Analyst with the ACLU. She wrote this in May 2020:

The absence of justice continually flustered me because, even at that young age, I knew that Black people had been kidnapped and brought to this country to labor for free as slaves; stripped of our language, religion, and culture; raped and tortured; and then subjected to a Jim Crow-era of lynchings, police brutality, inferior education, substandard housing, and mediocre health care. I did not know then about the massacres in Rosewood, Florida, or Tulsa, Oklahoma; the merciless experimentations on defenseless Black women devoid of anesthesia that led to modern gynecology; or about the enormous profits from slavery made by corporations, insurance companies, the banking and investment industries, and academic institutions.

But on a psychic level, I could feel in my bones the enslavement era’s inhumane cruelty to Black children — its destruction of kindred ties and its economic exploitation and cultural deprivation. There was an incessant gnawing in my soul for amends and redress. I was passionate about injustice, felt the idea of reparations to be reasonable and fair, and vowed to talk about the concept whenever and wherever I could.  My analysis, however, had not crystallized beyond a check. But just to mouth the word “reparations” was a starting point to its validity. Thus talk about it I did, despite my views being often rejected, ridiculed, or otherwise summarily dismissed.

https://www.aclu.org/news/racial-justice/reparations-has-the-time-finally-come/

So, when faced with the inevitable death that comes from alcoholism, we had to make amends to those harmed. Sometimes that meant financial amends, and other times it meant changing our ways so that it doesn’t happen again. Sometimes, it meant both. You see, if I don’t change who I am, or we don’t change who we are as a community, we will keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

After watching the video of George Floyd’s death by the knee of a police officer, I wanted to vomit. After listening to the United States president calling NFL players sons of bitches for kneeling during the national anthem, I wanted to throat punch the man. Martin Luther King’s 1963 famous speech (I Had a Dream) and Billie Holiday’s 1959 voice to the poem (Strange Fruit) kept coming into my mind. What has changed in the last sixty years?

It’s time for the community to make amends for harm done and ask the people of color what we can do to make it up to them. You see, Hal told me that we could make amends for the harms we thought we did, but to be a good man, we need to go further. I never did that. I was too scared to go back to my wife and her family to ask them what I could do to make it up to them. The big book doesn’t ask that either. I checked. We didn’t go far enough. We had to take that extra step because saying we were wrong wasn’t enough. We had to ask the injured parties what we could do to make it up to them and then proceed to do that. This is what Black Lives Matter is all about. How dare the former president, our first black president of the United States of America, not use his position to tell America what it could do for holding his people as slaves for hundreds of years to make white people rich. What a coward! What a sellout! Barrack Obama called “Defund the Police” a “snappy slogan.” Let’s not mince words – here’s a quote from the BBC:

“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like Defund the Police, but, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it,” he said.

“If you instead say, ‘Hey, you know what Let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s being treated fairly,’ suddenly a whole bunch of folks who might not otherwise listen to you are listening to you.”

BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55169107

This is the man who said he was going to change things in Washington. Remember his snappy slogan was about “Hope and Change” in 2008. He didn’t do anything but line the pockets of Wall Street Banksters. Well, no more talk. No more speeches. No more, we’ll see what happens. No more incrementalism. Obama said in his interview, “new blood is always good.” Ask Louis Farrakhan, the leader of Islam, what he thinks about Obama.

Conclusion

It’s time for real change. As God as my witness, a line has been drawn in the sand. I can’t explain it because it’s a metaphysical concept. If I tried, you would look at me funny. Nope, the black community in Muncie, Indiana, will develop the central idea behind reparations. They will be reaching out to their brothers and sisters from all over the world, and they will put together a meaningful proposal for the mayor, the governor, and the next president of the United States. Once that is done, we’ll be free to move forward harmoniously. As promised in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous, completing the 9th step brings about freedom and happiness. Here’s how they go:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear.

We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

Self-seeking will slip away.

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.

Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.

We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.

We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 83, 84



Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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