Tuesday, May 26, 2015

‘Heroes woven into Society’s Fabric’

Profiling, Patton & Attica

I come to all of those within this dimension we call life with the nth amount of due respect & love. In this article I would like to welcome you in to my corner of the attic that I like to refer to as nuts, bolts, ponders & muses. At the behest of my youngest son I have decided to share a slice of life again.

Lately the news has been inundated with negativity, chaos, destruction & catastrophes…a full menu of items that can be detrimental to our digestive systems. ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’. Now that right there is ‘treal speak’in’. Being an ardent follower of history…it seems the only thing that has changed for mankind or the planet Earth, is Time itself.

Profiling is as old as time itself; it is the first thief & jailer that we meet on our journey in life. If not recognized, acknowledged & reformed it can become an incurable disease that can take the Universe that lies before you & confine it to one dimension, community, block, slice of mankind & wonders.

Profiling to some may be considered a ‘natural instinct for survival’ & have varying degrees of implementation. It may also become confused with extreme characteristics of ‘bullying’.  In fact I like to believe that bullying is implemented out of the baser instincts of ‘profiling’.

I grew up in a small farming village in Central Wisconsin that hosted 399 residents. One afternoon as I was walking home from elementary school I saw some teenage boys in the park banging on the swing set supports making a large racket. They were pointing to the front of the park & laughing…there was a metal street light at the front of the park & an elderly man dressed in denim pants & jacket was trying frantically to climb the light pole.

When I arrived home I told my mother what I had witnessed…she sighed & I could see her becoming upset. She told me the man’s name & said he suffered from ‘shell shock’. I hadn’t seen the elderly man before…my father came home from work & told me what shell shock was & how sometimes the kids would take garbage can covers also to drive the Veteran ‘nuts’. My mother said if any of us kids did what the older boys had done she’d beat our ass!!!

Several years later, my brother 2 years younger than myself picked up a paper route & sometimes when the weather was bad or the papers were running late I would help him. One evening I found myself in front of a door with a newspaper in hand with orders from my brother to collect the monthly dues. When the door opened, I was face to face with the elderly man who suffered from severe shell shock. Due to the weather he invited me into his kitchen/dining room while he collected his payment.

My eyes fell upon one wall & I was taken aback & astonished! One whole wall was covered with photos, certificates, cards, letters & hand written notes from General Patton & men he had served with. I couldn’t believe my eyes…he had served with General Patton’s Tank Division! As I tried to take it all in & read as much as I could before he returned I could feel the pride swell & course through my body…a seasoned soldier of a period in history I only knew of from movie screens…he lived it & was residing in my village of 399. Payment in hand he came & stood beside me…he pointed to a group picture in front of tanks & said, ‘this is me & over here is my brother’. I almost fell over again…I just stared at the wall. He didn’t say anything else; I thanked him for inviting me in & his payment.

Tom rarely ventured out of his residence; he never bothered or hurt anyone. If the ‘profilers’ who tagged him as ‘nuts’ saw him, he was bullied & abused for his patriotic & self-less contributions to WWII & America. He didn’t like to speak or boast of his military experience, I don’t think he needed to, the wall said it all. After my encounter with Tom I became enamored & enthralled by history…occurrences & events that define & affect individuals & countries. Over the last 45yrs I’ve thought of Tom & his wall…I wonder what happened to that little unknown ‘museum’ by an unsung hero.

If you were lucky enough to visit the village of 399 where I grew up, you probably visited the Drug Store/What-not-shop. Within you would encounter Bud the Pharmacist & owner. You would probably consider him an educated professional, successful business owner, community leader & family man…then profile him as a ‘pacifist’. The U.S. govt couldn’t disagree with you more. During WWII Bud was an agent for the OSS before it became the CIA. There are very few men who could wear his shoes let alone travel his same journey in them. He spent most of his time with the OSS in Germany behind enemy lines. He experienced untold dangers, adventures & sacrifices.  So much for ‘profiling & stereotyping’…unsung heroes & greatness can even be found in a village of 399.

Lately there has been a great deal of awareness focused on ‘profiling & stereo-typing’. I find it sad that the young generation of today is comparing their struggle & the issues they face to be more monumental than what the generations before them confronted & experienced. I’ve seen it occur several times when I take public transport…youth rebuffing & down grading the elderly for their participation in past struggles & movements.

Last summer as I waited at the bus stop near Tanger Outlet, I had the opportunity to converse with one of the individuals I had seen rebuffed & down- graded. An 80yr old, 6’3” Black Man of medium build. An earthy, amiable gentleman, of very strong character & will.

After serving in the military, he had decided to take employment with the State of New York as a Correctional Officer which he retired from. During his time of employment he worked in New York at some of the most dangerous prisons in the U.S.  They included Ryker’s, Rahway & last but not least Attica. After the riot & murders which took place in Attica, he was the first Black CO to enter those walls. He was not welcomed openly by the White CO’s or Administration & although one of the demands from the prisoners was for ‘minority CO’s’ there were some inmates who saw him as a ‘traitor’ to his own race. He suffered untold discrimination, torment & hardships…his burden was a heavy one being the first Black CO within the walls. If his character wasn’t one of strength, fortitude & strong will he would have crumbled as many were wishing him to do.

Profiling, stereo-typing & ignorance are robbing us of some of our greatest hidden treasures & unsung heroes. Individuals who could or would be able to offer us strength, hope & inspiration. Young individuals being taken due to ‘profiling & stereo-typing’ before their time, before they reach awareness & wisdom which can lead to untold contributions to the fabric of society. We never truly know what tomorrow brings…but we can look to yesterday to see how far we’ve come so we will know today how far we have yet to travel.

I leave you as I came with the nth amount of due love & respect for life.
Lady Gray/Rosemarie

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