Seen and Unseen

I was 12 years old when Martin Luther King was assassinated. To say the civil rights movement was in my face would be an understatement. I didn't understand why these people of color were being treated the way they were. School, which is what I was doing at the time, didn't seem to have much information on it either. It troubled me greatly. But I am white and grew up in a very white world and not until I went to high school did I get to actually get to know a person of color. It was just the way it was. We had a housekeeper, Mrs Dobbs, who came once a week by bus, who was this wonderfully joyful black woman, I remember her distinctly to this day.

I tell you this to set the stage for a bit of an epiphany I had while selecting the next photo to be hung in my online gallery here. It's a beautifully blurred image that is both abstract and colorful. Something wonderful for any room that could use a little splash. And then the title came barreling into my head like they always do; "Seen but Unseen". It framed it and exposed the rawness of it to me in the same moment. I call it publicly, "Abstract Man," but now you know its' true title. An image can be beautiful and relate pain and suffering at the same time. That's ok. Did the title just arrive? Or did I dream it or see it in some piece of media that flashed by me?

Here's where I'm going with this; Jim Crow extended far beyond the confines of The South. There was (and is) plenty of bigotry and hatred to go around in The North as well. Just not as flagrant. I think it is what, Seen but Unseen, means to me. The people we won't acknowledge day in and day out because of our conditioning. It's like, hate, period. What is up with that? Imagine if we could all get past that? Everybody! My 91 year old father, who is still a practicing psychologist, believes that humans require hate to keep it real. It's part of our wiring. In our DNA. The perception that in order for me to win you have to lose, stinks! It's also ironic that when you poll the public about issues having to do with race, class, power and war it nearly always is 50/50 with half of us on one side and half on the other.

I was cleaning out storage this winter and came across The People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It helps me understand more about where we are today and that change does in fact happen, albeit very, very, slowly. The systemic racism built into our society is finally being exposed everywhere it appears, reviewed by the populace and we can hope that will lead to the next level of positive change when it comes to just about every aspect of an immigrant or person of color citizens' life. And it's not just POC. Where I live, in a temperate climate, we have a tremendous "unhoused" challenge. They are not bums and homeless. They are people who have been cut out of the American Dream for one reason or another. There is no mental health system in place. There is no plan for the unhoused. No system to protect and provide. They are a "problem" that is only going to get greater as this divide and inequality holds strong. We could still have an immense military budget AND take care of our social challenges like the nation we claim to be if the taxpayers money could be spent more on the programs they ask for and less on what the lobbyists pickpocketed us out of.

I've spent my life "woke" and am confused as to why wanting to lift everyone up is such a bad idea. It's easy to be quiet about this sort of pattern of thought. But I feel the need to join in this collective voice demanding change. For the most part, we've all been lied to by our government and the media, This is not news. It's been going on for more than 200 years! We can be better. We can See the Unseen. Acknowledge them. Smile. These are simple acts. I'm not trying to preach to you here. I am just laying down the way I feel here for the internet record. We will never be an advanced civilization until we can do away with violence and temper hate. I live in a part of the city where there are nearly 100 different languages spoken. They all came here like our ancestors did, to find a better life. Before we had people of color to hate, the Irish, the Italians, the Swedish... and on and on... One by one they came and "we" resisted. Don't get me wrong, "Americans" do not have a corner on the market for bigotry. It happens everywhere. It's just that the entire notion of our nation is to welcome all the huddled masses yearning to be free. I will never stop fighting for liberty, justice and freedom for all!




This song immediately comes to mind whenever I think about this situation we are just unwilling to completely confront. The song came about for Marvin Gaye when his brother returned from fighting the war in Vietnam. He had grown weary of the 3-minute love song he was called upon to crank out from the Motown machine as a writer and session player. Barry Gordy was not so sure of this sort of change and sat on the album until Marvin threatened to leave the label. It was finally released in January of 1971. The rest really is history as the song did, in fact, change the national conversation. Interestingly, Marvin, in fact, did not write the song! Ronaldo "Obie" Benson, a member of The Four Tops, originally penned it. Gordy needn't have worried; the song hit #2 and has gone on to be named the "fourth greatest song of all time" by Rolling Stone. Sadly, Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his Father when he intervened an argument between his parents in 1984 a day before he turned 45.