What is a rebel? Often it is associated with negativity, a troublemaker, an incendiary, a mischief maker, or my favorite, a rabble-rouser. Rebels stand against the norm, they see things as finite in the moment and take action that often dictates change, which brings about fear, which in truth, is the real reason that people view a rebel negatively.
Of course, for me, much of this is innate. First, I am a Cancer and as a cancer, I can be highly emotional, and introverted, though I care deeply for those in my circle, my friends and family. Cancers, or “crabs” rely on intuition more than society’s perceived practical norms, we also make decisions quickly based most often, on said intuition, which often gets us crabs into said trouble, hence, the label troublemaker. Additionally, I grew up watching my parents, each their own rebel, in their own ways, set the example that we did not, and would never fit the family norm, nor did it matter, much, to either of them. My brother Daren, the king of rebels would most definitely fit with the rabble-rouser title, a troublemaker that was caught out of his time in a setting that could never understand him, or contain him, though I idolized him for his bad-boy image and protector persona. Through nature and nurture I developed my own sense of trepidation at accepting social norms and thus found myself taking the road less traveled, which is usually never the easier road.
The confusion lies within misunderstanding a rebel. Our refusal to accept the norm, to stand against the opposition or simply say “no”, does not imply renunciation and it does not mean that we cannot see reason. Instead, the gesture of rebellion is in itself, a reaffirming “yes”. So in effect, the rebel says yes, and no, all at once. I say yes, and no, all at once.
Of late, life has seemed heavy, dreary and above all confusing. We have just experienced a modern day pandemic that has left and will leave countless numbers of our fellow humans in desperate situations, the least of which is death. Many face not just the virus and it’s fallout, both physical and mental, but financial and social implications that further compound an already desperate climate. Additionally, our current political discord and global unease, can make life seem hopeless and uncertain. It would be easy to give into this despair, and even easier to accept it all as a finite situation. Today, life and the process of simply living seems to require an infinite amount of strength and endurance. In these times, it would be easy to take the path of least resistance. However, life as we know it today begs for a decisive break in our journey. It would seem we must choose, either a fork in our road that leads to the left, or to the right but I will argue for another path. This path is often more difficult, and less traveled upon but I encourage the rebel in you to read on…..
The curse of “us”, our species, of humans, is that we are all rebels, in our own way. We have the gift of thought, ideals and conviction. We also have the gift of reason. However, there is a darker side to humans, and that is that we all have the ability to become angry, rise to opposition and yes, to hate. It is in times of destruction, violence and self-undoing that we must remember that hate, lies and ill-intent are not that of rebellion, but of cowardice. True revolution can only be achieved through constructive congregation and life-affirming action and here in the United States, currently dubbed the Divided States of America, we stand upon a precipice of choice. It is not left or right. Rather, it is center. It is together. It is one.
Martin Luther King Jr, a rebel in his time said in his “I have a Dream” speech, “But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone“.
These words define not only our fellow Black Americans, but all Americans.
Our Mother in waiting…..
We are a melting pot of people that came together to start a new world.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name ** Mother of Exiles **. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Sonnet by Emma Lazarus
Liberty’s cry is “we are here because you were there.” Further, it begs the questions “why am I being hurt” and “why are we hurting each other?” The global arrival of immigrants to our historic colonial system claimed ethics to rights, liberty, and hospitality. Despite these claims and their reiteration within constitutional mantra we have hardly succeeded in preventing the worst violence of the late 19th and 20th centuries, often against one another. This silence to violence and inequity is precisely what the poem refuses, a poem that was built around the founding of America.
America was built upon land that was inhabited by its Native American Indians and taken by all of us. Then we came from all over the world and made this land that was never ‘ours’, our own. Today, there is not one of us with “pure” descent here in America, save the native American tribes (and of course, they also arrived from other areas of the continent but for arguments sake, they were here first). My grandmother, 100% German came here from Germany and met a 100% Swede descended from Sweden (are you impressed with my social studies and history 😉 ), and from there our lineage became forever a mixed race. America, is and will always be a potpourri of races and ethnicities. So why then do we proclaim to be something that we are not? We are not secular here in America. Why do we debate the issue of skin color, religion and sexuality? Why can’t we all just get along?
Liberty was intended a symbol of the Franco-American friendship, of democratic revolutions and relations between the two countries. However, the sonnet Emma Lazarus wrote, which became Liberty’s message, went beyond that simple gesture. The Goddess Liberty became not just a symbol to the world, but an emblem of America’s fortitude. The distinct tone gave rise to the idea that America’s destiny would be a nation of immigrants, e pluribus unum (out of many, one), and thus, would take on new meaning as newcomers were welcomed to America.
Rebellion and “One” (it can be done)….
For myself, the moment that I form my opinion, I begin to desire, and to judge. Perceived despair often allows us (me) to have opinions about everything, and nothing, often losing sight of the ideal of the situation. I am right. You are wrong. Finite.
However, nothing is finite, accept death (in our human form, if you believe in afterlife).
Not every idea, ideal, situation or value invokes rebellion and yet, “no” entreaties the desire to judge, “my way is the correct way”, and it blinds us to the “whole”. The beauty of the word “no”, is that the rebellion it often brings also introduces an awareness, that no matter how confusing it may be, allows us to identify himself, herself, ourselves and myself, as an individual, for a moment. There is value in this, the awareness of self. But the greater lesson becomes the awareness of the value of the whole…..of the one (plural).
Maya Angelou….was one of my favorite speakers, I saw her once many years ago and I sat entranced by her message, her voice, her persona, just the whole of ‘her’. She said so many insightful things that it is hard, bordering on impossible to choose one or even two thoughts, but a couple of my favorite ring true currently.
“Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike”. ~Maya
Four years ago Donald Trump was elected president, I stood in stunned disbelief. My personal feelings regarding him would not allow me to accept that he could do a decent job as president, in my despair, I thought our country over. Yes, I am not normally prone to such dramatic tendencies but a girl has her moments, and this was (one of) mine. Of course, time marched on, only proving the fact that four years later, “we” are still here. More important than shear survivability as a nation, these past four years have identified the fault lines within our culture, our people and our institution as a country. Pro-trumpers, middle-of-the-roaders, or never-trumpers must realize and agree on one thing, as a nation we have identified that segregation, impoverishment and secularism still exist.
There are the extremes that further complicate the aforementioned national problems, we call them the far-left or far-right, I call them the outliers. An outlier is someone that skirts the “norms”, or presses issues, and in certain times, this can be viewed as positive. But for the purpose of this blog, it is to differentiate the ideals that are dividing our nation.
The Beatles sang, “You say you want a revolution? /Well, you know, we all want to change the world. /But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know you can count me out. /If you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell you brother is you have to wait...”
I believe the “whole” of us in this country want the same things, comfort and prosperity for us, our children and our loved ones. I also believe that we want for our neighbors and fellow Americans those same values, and ideals. How do we do this, on a grand America-wide scale? How do we achieve neutrality and bountiful livelihoods for all Americans? How do we accept one another as equal, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, the very ideals that America was built on?
Real-life played out the other day something like this….my sweet nephew Eli was here, and by the way he is 7 and his new word is “technically” (you know, like the apparently kid). Everything is technically….
Me: Eli, you need to have cereal for breakfast and not left over BWW for breakfast….
Me: because you need a healthy breakfast, like cinnamon Cheerios…. 😊
Eli: Well, aunty Carla (I ❤ it that he still calls me that), technically chicken and jello are probably healthier than cereal which has a lot of sugar in it…..
Me: okay, good point…. 😒
Eli: and technically, it’s better to eat the leftover food up….
Me: double good point….. 🤔
Eli: and technically, my mom and dad don’t care what I eat, just that I eat something…
Me: okay (me thinking “you’re a professional extortionist”)…. 🤨
Eli: and technically aunty Carla….
Me: Okay buddy, you win, eat the B-dubs!! 🥴
Anyway, later in the day while preparing food for the Super Bowl, I was lamenting to my family at how our other-property/project-house was taking forever to complete (basically because quite literary, my brother and I have done everything back-ass-wards, I am surprised our contractors still come back) and I must’ve said that I wish I could “snap” my fingers and it would be done! Eli overheard this, as all children do (it is amazing what they “HEAR” whilst you think they are blissfully getting a glass of juice, oblivious to their surroundings). I am ever reminded they hear and see everything, in such a simplistic manner. But I digress, he responded to my lamenting with, “you mean like Thanos”. We all looked at him and I smiled and said, “yes, like Thanos”. For those of you that live under a cinematic rock, Thanos was the villain in the successful movie franchise the Avengers. His idea was that the universe, and thus Earth was over-populated and that by destroying half of all living creatures, people would then find abundance. In this movie, he simply snapped his fingers to make this happen (after he achieved magical stones that were beset in a magical glove). Of course, Tony aka Iron Man, Steve aka Captain America, and the rest of the crew found a way to set aside their differences and work together, to save humanity and to save millions of lives. For the Avengers, it was simply all in a days work. For us Americans, it may not be quite that cinematic or “easy”, though I believe it doable. That is the rebel in me….
In theory, Thanos had the right idea, though he used the wrong approach. One cannot wipe out half of humanity in order for the other half to prosper, instead, it is to find a way in which we can all prosper while we are here together.
This takes finding our inner self, our inner rebellion. It means standing up against perceived norms, or ill-conceived ideas and notions.
Our constitution was set up by a “few guys, a few centuries ago” known as the Founding Fathers. They are often accorded a mythical status, near demigods depending on who you ask? However, opinion is often divided regarding the Founders, as their failures to end slavery, acknowledge segregation and accommodate Native Americans and their independence instead of designating them to “parcels of land”. At the end of it, though wise, they were not foreign to prejudice, error and platitude. It cannot be that we anticipate one man (President) and any one group of people (legislation) to right this country’s ills. In layman’s terms, WE, the people, must right ourselves in this country.
How do we achieve bountiful lives for everyone in this country, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity? How do we learn to accept each other as finite creatures with infinite possibility, regardless of how we are packaged? I do not have all the answers, but the only one that I can come up with is to be generous, supportive, kind, moral, and accepting of everyone.
“My” religion, or the one I was raised to believe states that, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? ~John 3:17
There are many religions, none right and none wrong, in my humble opinion (unless they call for violence against fellow man because to me that is not Godly). My belief has always been that any deity would and should profess kindness, compassion and goodness. I prefer these words to that of the word “morality”, as that can be a double-edged sword.
Here in America, we are at a crossroads. One can perceive it as a fork; one path to the left, and one to the right. But I would argue that there is another path, the one less traveled upon, and often it is the one that only the most daring will venture. This path is paved with rebellious souls searching for the divine truth that always lies somewhere in the middle.
The Road Not Taken ~Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Ahh, Robert Frost, he had it right, we just did not listen.
Back to Thanos. I am a Marvel fan! It took me MONTHS to watch the final installment of the Avengers series, the Endgame. I won’t ruin the ending in case you have not seen it but I knew that it would mean the end of some of my favorite characters, and of course the end to my most favorite character of all. That is a hard pill to swallow after more than a decade of superhero ideation! And, if only Eli knew just how poetic and poignant his simple, innocent remark has manifested into the epitome of where we are here in America, and in the world. In Avengers Endgame, it takes everyone from all over the world (and out of this world) to come together to try to defeat Thanos, to defeat the bad guy. They came together, every race, every ethnicity, every sexual affiliation, and every social circumstance to try to defeat evil, to defeat negativity and to defeat “the bad guy”.
In our real-life situation, there is no ‘one’ bad guy, instead there is a bad culture. It is a culture of mal-acceptance. It is a culture of materialism. It is a culture of maleficence.
September 11, 2001 or 9/11. I do not have to go into the details, we all witnessed it. I use this example all the time because it is such a pivotal example of how America has faced national crises throughout our history. The point I will make, and the only one I need to make is that on this day, New Yorkers and Americans came together to do whatever they could, however they could, to help their fellow man. They searched, listened and reached into vast amounts of rubble, hoping to find anyone alive that they could pull from their concrete prisons, and to safety. To life. It did not matter their skin color. It did not matter their ethnicity. It did not matter their religion. It did not matter their sexual affiliation. It did not matter their political ideation. It did not matter their wealth. It just simply did not matter, only that they were human. What mattered was to find life, at all costs. What mattered was helping our fellow American.
No not every day and in every way can we be perfect. We are human. We are prone to error, to anger, to negativity and to strife. But we also know what it means to be generous, creative, compassionate and courageous.
COVID-19 and Thanos share one commonality, destruction of life not withstanding of any regard. We watched the news, saw the “red” evil enemy, we will nickname her Rona, engulf our world one city, one area, one country at a time, finally reaching our shores, and our country. It maybe did not kill half of all humanity but it has indeed taken millions of lives; fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and neighbors fought their own epic battles, and many lost with their lives. In time the horror became an innate part of life. Living became a constant stream of endless bad news and mind-numbing fatigue to COVID’s presence. It was much the same for those left behind in the Avengers Endgame saga. However, in that movie and through the amazing vision of Marvel super genius Stan Lee, “good” came together to defeat “bad”. It’s amazing to me that Stan “saw” our plight here in America, and around the world and brought it to life via cinema. It is like he imagined Thanos as our current pandemic. Stan Lee died in 2018 but I wonder what he would say if he were here today? I believe he would say he gave us the blueprint of how to defeat Thanos, aka Ron. How? By coming together as a nation, and as a world to defeat our current foe(s), which is this pandemic. Which is hate for fellow man. Which is prejudice against perceived norms. Which is inhumane acts against our fellow humans.
We survived 4 years of Donald Trump, just as we lived through 8 years of Obama, 8 years of Bush, 8 years of Clinton….all the way back to Nixon, Kennedy, Lincoln and Washington. We will survive through Biden. We have learned and will continue to learn from each president, or at least we should. But here is the “thyng”, they are one person. They strive to guide us but at the end of the day, this is a democracy and we are the people. It’s on us. It’s really and truly on us.
The other day, I was in Goodwill. I love to look through their items, cast offs and treasures all in one place. I witnessed a scene between a grandmother and her teenage granddaughter. The granddaughter held a very simple wooden box, that when opened was a very simply storage container. When her grandmother told her to get it, the granddaughter said “I don’t have enough money grandma!”. She set the box back down on the shelf and placed her hand on it for just a second, and then walked away. I overheard her tell her grandma that she had to go to the bathroom before they left. I grabbed the box, it was just 5$. Five dollars. $5.00. I went to the counter, and I paid for it. I handed it to the grandma as she waiting at the door for her granddaughter and I said, “I know your granddaughter wanted this, please give it to her”. The grandma, somewhat surprised said, “thank you….what is your name?”. I said, “that is not important, it’s a gift”. She said “how much was it, can I pay you at a later date?”. And I simply said “no, it’s a gift, a kindness, please just pay it forward in whatever way you can”. I do not share this for accolades, in fact, I almost did not share this story at all. However, I share it because in this country, some people do not have 5$. And in this country, we have more wealth than we know what to do with. We have opportunity all around us. It does not have to be monetary gifts, it can be the gift of time, at local homeless shelters or a non-profit need, such as mental illness or ministry work. It can be helping to ease prejudices against race, sexual orientation and poverty by educating ourselves and our families. It can even be recycling, to show worth in our country, and our world. We all have a gift, an opportunity for change and a moment that is ours. Whatever it may be, pay it forward.
My wish is many but mostly, it is that we learn to accept our bounty as a gift that is meant to be shared. I am forever a Marvel junkie. I love Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. He was so flawed. In the first Avengers movie, a line given to Stark reads like, “Apparently I’m volatile, self-obsessed, and don’t play well with others. It was humorous in its cinematic intent but the implication was deep. Throughout the Avengers Tony’s character grew into a complex mix of self-righteous philanthropy, perseverance, be your own person, brains over brawn, loyalty, bravery and above all, human concern and world peace. I love the idea that good can, will and should overcome evil. Stan had it right. He showed us that the only way that can happen is by human unity, regardless of extraneous circumstance.
Tony was a rebel, which is probably the reason I gravitated so naturally to his character. He was complex, a contradiction and cocky. He was in truth, a man of two halves. However, there was more to his rebel persona, so much more. We are all complex creatures and I will always believe that the whole of us, the majority of us are ‘good rebels’, like Tony.
So, I somehow managed to mix MLK, Jr, Emma Lazarus, Robert Frost, the Beatles, Maya Angelou, Stan Lee and RD, Jr aka, Tony stark, aka Iron Man into one blog about the human spirit. I believe that each of them were rebels in their time and in their own way. They all shared their gifts very differently, though their theme was the same. They simply said, “I am a rebel in my own time:
I will speak out against civil injustice. MLK, Jr
I will open my arms to your destitution. Emma Lazarus
I will take the road less traveled. Robert Frost
I will spread the message of Peace and Love. the Beatles
I will rise above. Maya Angelou
I will be forever humble of my self-discovery and responsibility to share the diversity that is so needed today. Stan Lee
I will protect my fellow man”. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man
My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. ~Maya Angelou