Thursday, January 9, 2014

'Seasoned Men'

I come to those within Life’s Struggle with the nth amount of due respect & love for life. I would like to wish everyone health & progress for this New Year. As the New Year progresses, it is my desire to share more life with you, more so than I have in the past. Not just with my views on the political front, but on the home front as well. No matter where I go or whom I speak with, the consensus seems to be that society & our home front is in a state of regression & deterioration. It seems to weigh heavily on the minds & hearts of those who are now over the age of 45.

I was recently invited to join a discussion with a small group of males consisting of several veterans & several ex-felons. I was astonished to hear the topics they discussed which consisted of the increase in violence & crimes here in the Low Country along with certain endangered elements which lead to the growth in an individual’s character. More astonishing was the concern & fear expressed by these grown seasoned men & the sorrow often heard within their voices.

A 68 yr old Black Vietnam Veteran was difficult to listen to as he expressed his emotions on life today. He insisted that there was no difference between War & life on the streets today. Someone is always trying to justify death & the taking of life with excuses. He experiences more memories now of his actions in Nam than he did for so many years after his return from soldiering. He calls the daily departures from his home now, ‘social re-con’…it’s more dangerous today than when he was in the jungles & rice paddies. “I had someone above me justifying my actions & death…but at least I knew my enemies & who I was fighting. Today, people pop off on a moment’s notice for no reason or purpose…they’re in your family, a friend, a neighbor or stranger…they’re all tough & packing over little shit. You can brush by them on a bus or store, look at them side-ways & right away they want to make you a notch in their belt.” His favorite quote today is from Forest Gump..”Stupid is as stupid does.”

All of the men were known in their neighborhood’s & on their blocks for their reputations & character. They all felt it was difficult today to live their life out, hard pressed by younger males to take their pasts off the back burners. They had no desire to live in yesterday, but to live their life out in their ‘new skin’ today. They often faced chagrin & resentment on their street & block because they had no desire to be ‘Big Bad Leroy Brown’. A week does not go by when they are not challenged by another man usually younger. Often they walk away knowing the ‘excuse’ isn’t worth it only to leave under a hail storm of derogatory names, swallowing their pride.

A 47 yr old who spent 21 yrs in prison for weapon outside of his own 2 hands was involved & to this day claims it was self-defense…he’s challenged to fight several times a week & now prefers to stay more at home. He says he has been forced to fight & even when the individuals win, they keep coming back…walking away for me hasn’t always been an option. The day of the discussion he hadn’t left his home for 12 days. He fears for his children & family members whom have been threatened when he has walked away. “I did my time…I just want to be left alone & stay out of the mix & pettiness.’ What amazed me about all of these seasoned men was their knowledge & wisdom. We all came to the conclusion that there is ‘no growth or progress in life if the knowledge we all possess is not implemented’. Knowledge was meant to be shared. If those who walked before us were the sole owners of knowledge, the capacity for us to excel or survive would be more than a struggle.

A 45 yr old city worker, a veteran of Desert Storm is challenged monthly & often resented on his street for his job. He claims he doesn’t mind providing assistance to his family or neighbors when he can, but if he can’t its WWIII. When the younger males on his street ask him for monetary funds which he knows he’ll never see, he asks them to do things around his house or yard. He says because he doesn’t just give them money, things have a tendency to get damaged or broke. He’s offered to help his own family members get jobs & they refuse to work, why should he give them money to buy things he & his own children do not possess? They would rather ‘hustle’ than work for a master as he does…but they come to him time & time again to bail them out of jail. They treat him like dirt because he works for the city & will not succumb to their life style’s & habits.

I was astonished to find out that several of these ‘seasoned men’ were afraid of their own grandchildren. They knew that some of them carried weapons, had made their residences ‘blood theft proof’.  One of the men his voice cracked when he spoke of his own children. My children all graduated from school, 2 from college, none of them were ever in trouble with the law. That’s not the case now, they have issues themselves & do not care what their children do. They all started to change in the 90’s…my wife doesn’t like any of them coming to the house now if I’m not there. We’ve been threatened by them…have had to call the police. One of my daughters doesn’t even speak to us anymore after we called the police on her son who punched my wife in the face.

The topic switched to the absence today of pride, purpose & reason in life for individuals. How men today & the youth would not do anything or give assistance if they were not going to see monetary gain. One of the men, his mother was involved in the bus boycott in Montgomery. When he was sharing some of their great-grandmothers experiences the younger individuals hailed it as worthless & stupid because she didn’t receive any money for her involvement & suffered for her efforts. I saw what my mother went through, I was proud to be her son. I had more pride in myself & family than a peacock…but today, they don’t have pride. Look at how everyone dresses, how they talk, the music tells it all. Their pride is in their pocket, usually wrapped around someone else’s green backs. They all unanimously agreed that more than anything today, the education system lacks pride for that too is wrapped around ‘green backs’. All you have to do is look at college sports today…all of the tournaments & bowls.

They then switched to the ‘judicial realms & justice’…claimed it had been broken for too many decades to amend now. Too many individuals were getting ‘ripe’ off of the broken system. Change would begin when people took the bull by the horns & changed themselves. They felt too much emphasis today was being placed on religious morals. One of the seasoned Vets said ‘you can’t get right with God until you get right with yourself & at the moment it seemed as if people were content in going to hell in a hand basket. They didn’t approve of the racial disparities within the penal realms…but they said too many men were falling into the ‘wish book’ of the judicial system. One of the men described inmates as ‘volunteer indentured servants’ which surprised me.

These types of discussions by mature individuals is nothing new…it’s been done since the creation of mankind. It was done throughout the Roaring 20’s with the bootleg & flapper generation. It was done throughout the 50’s with the introduction of Rock n’ Roll & Hot Rods. It was done throughout the 60’s with drugs, flower children & protests. Yet, it seems that every generation seems more lost & degenerative than the one before. Even violence & crime seems to have reached new levels today…leaving no doubt in my mind that even Capone would have a hard time remaining a Boss or Top Dog. It also seems the more we develop as humans the more Neanderthal our actions & characters become.

I found the discussion with these men to be enlightening with a great deal of food for thought. At the conclusion we were all elated that we had grown up in our childhood & young adulthood when we did, where we did, none of us had the desire to turn back the hands of time. We all had fears for our generations to come & the issues they would face. Life would go on & chapters out of the history book would surely be repeated, but we felt certain with any luck the darkest chapters wouldn’t be repeated in our lifetime…we all had pride, a reason & purpose & we knew what they were.

I leave you as I came with the nth amount of respect & love for life…

Lady Gray

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