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A Sad, Bad Weekend

Stuck with insomnia, I spent last night listening to Isaac Hayes “Hot Buttered Soul,” my favorite of his albums and thinking about what a masterpiece both “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and his version of “Walk On By” are. I’ve always loved the album since I was a kid and I’ve always loved the passion of both songs. His version of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk On By,” is by far the most complex, unique and beautiful. From the beautiful string arrangements to the guitar. It’s such a sad and lush production, very unlike Dionne Warwick’s version which is a standard pop ballad. The only other version of “Walk On By” I love is Cyndi Lauper’s cover on her jazz standards album, but it still pales in comparison to Hayes.

Now he has died, leaving this masterpiece of an album behind, among others. His booming deep voice on “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” echoes in my head as I can see the car fly by on southwestern highways to its southern destination away from the woman who broke his heart.

I thought about the enormity of Russia invading Georgia, its former providence, and worried as an amateur history buff that this all has a very World War I ring to it. And example of how a small regional conflict can explode and rapidly spread. How far will Russia go now that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is comparing Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to Saddam Hussein and their aggression to our aggression in Iraq.

Putin has called out the pot for calling the kettle black.

“Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shiite villages,” Putin said in Moscow. “And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed ten Ossetian villages at once, who ran elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilian alive in their sheds — these leaders must be taken under protection.”

This is what happens when you lose your moral standing, all tyrants are emboldened by the new rules — there are no rules. Just ruthlessness. Russia didn’t like the idea of its former property vying for a membership in NATO, the alliance created with the sole purpose of protecting Western European countries and the United States. And if Georgia were a member of NATO I can almost guarantee this would not have happened. An attack on one in NATO is supposed to be viewed as an attack on all, and Russia, the only country who can even attempt to match us militarily, has no desire to tussle with us, the Brits, the French, et al.

Although, with us mired in two wars, we don’t get have much weight to throw around to protect or bargain Georgia’s way out of this conflict. If Russia wants to crush Georgia it can. If it wants to take back it’s other former territories, it can. Who can stop them? What can we do? We’ve spent the past 60 years trying to advert war with Russia. Any attempt to stop them by force would be charging head first into the war we never wanted. The one we thought died with the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. No one wants to go the party we prepared for. No one wants the one kind of war we actually know how to fight.

I know we won’t get involved, but it still concerns me. If the conflict spreads, as the Ukraine is threatening to cut off their ports to the Russians, what will happen next? If the Russian’s take Georgia’s capital?

Then, unexpectedly comedian Bernie Mac died from complications with pneumonia. I knew he was in the hospital. I knew he was ill. But to see him died of something preventable saddened me. He was only 50 years old and I tire of black men, rich and poor, who die at an early age from preventable diseases. Gerald LeVert and his brother Sean come to mind. And also another man much closer to me.

My father’s younger brother, my uncle died on Thursday from cancer. He originally was diagnosed with colon cancer more than a year ago. He’d been sick longer than that but refused to go to the doctor until he was in horrible pain. He had emergency surgery to remove a large tumor form his colon. It was malignant, but even after learning that he didn’t want chemotherapy, only later coming around to the idea of taking the treatments. In the end, it was too late. The cancer spread to his liver and eventually it was evident the chemo couldn’t help him at all. Nothing could help him and we all had to watch over less than six weeks as he went down, becoming thinner and thinner, sicker and sicker, until he could barely walk or talk and was in so much pain.

When his daughter, my first cousin called on Thursday to tell me her father had passed on, I didn’t know what to say or how to feel. I’d loved my uncle, a happy, funny guy, who never seemed to worry about anything. Who even tried to use his humor to make us feel less sad about him dying. He was my father’s best friend. A grandfather. And he was dead at 64.

And if he’d only gone to the docto
r for his regular check ups, if he’d had a colonoscopy, this could have been caught early like my mother’s colon cancer. It could have been treated and he could still be with us. My father is 66 and my mother is 63. I can’t imagine them suddenly dying so early, but I know they could, anyone could. You never know when it’s your time to go. But if you’re a man and you are avoiding the doctor out of ignorance or arrogance, stop. There is no reason for you to avoid an hour of discomfort when that avoidance could lead to you becoming yet another statistic of the abbreviated life expectancy of the black male.

Why would you want to leave us alone? I know that as my uncle lay dying he didn’t want to leave us alone, but he didn’t have a choice at that moment. Brothers, give yourself a choice. Don’t let the disease make the decision for you.

I normally don’t write things that are personal and I normally don’t write about my own spiritual beliefs, but if you believe in praying, considering the state of our two wars, the genocide in Darfur, the unrest in many African countries ruled by despots and dictators, China’s crackdown on dissidents, the severe poverty of the people of Haiti, our failing economy and healthcare system, the violence that gripes American cities like St. Louis and Philadelphia, horrendous inner city schools and black children who grow up believing their lives are worthless and behaving as if they are worthless, if you consider the AIDS epidemic with black people here and abroad, if you consider how a war in Georgia could affect the whole world depending on what the Russians do next, I’d suggest you pray. And if you don’t believe in praying, I’d suggest awareness. Be aware of the world you live in. Be a responsible citizen and study the facts before you choose your congressman or woman, governor or representative, city council member, judge or president. Do not base your decision on looks or popularity, but on facts. Do not make decisions with emotion, make them with your right mind.

Be aware of what your country does in your name and what it does not and remember in the end that we, as Americans, get the government we deserve because we are the ones who vote for them. Rather than having contempt for Congress, have contempt for ourselves as we elected that Congress. And rather than complain, arm yourself with information and turn that information into action. You don’t have to save the world, but you can find the change that fits for you.

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15 thoughts on “A Sad, Bad Weekend

  1. “Be a responsible citizen and study the facts before you choose your congressman or woman, governor or representative, city council member, judge or president. Do not base your decision on looks or popularity, but on facts. Do not make decisions with emotion, make them with your right mind.”so. very. TRUE. thank you for saying this…i wish it could be tattooed on many people’s foreheads! lol

  2. Danielle, I’m so sorry to hear about your uncle. I have a family distrustful of docs and they also have no $$, and tend to be at the mercy of the healthcare/public welfare system. My grandma died of cancer back in 1991 – when she was finally diagnosed, by the time they opened her up, they found literally 2 lbs of tumors in her – the cancer had spread everywhere. So they just closed her back up and she was dead in 2 months. Again, my thoughts are with you and your family, and thank you, in the process of all this, of making the point about Bernie Mac and managing to weave in the Russia-Georgia conflict as well.

  3. I remember many people were echoing the same words when former COGIC Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson died as a result of prostate cancer, an equally preventable disease–but far too many of us holler “Jesus’ll heal it” without realizing that Jesus provided doctors who are equally as capable.I have a father like that–not willing to go to doctors at the onset of certain symptoms, he suffered an EXTREMELY mild heart attack day before Father’s Day, but a heart attack nonetheless.I don’t know what this is rooted in, is it really a mindset of spirituality over reality or just old black traditions of the days when we DIDN’T have the ability to go to a doctor–or simply not having the resources to go.Lord help us all.

  4. Thank you for sharing your words on this awful weekend. Bernie Mac’s death struck me the same way it did you because one of my uncles died three years ago The Exact Same Way yours did. He didn’t go to the hospital until he was in excruciating pain, and then he wouldn’t seek treatment until it was far too late. He was a lifelong postal worker with phenomenal medical benefits and it just made NO SENSE. His passing at 56 left a jagged hole in our family.My personal take on it is that depression is a silent killer in the Black community. I know many families it quietly rages through. It is definitely not considered okay to talk about and it creates an awful hopelessness and lethargy. Of course I’m no doctor but this was my way of trying to make sense out of an unfathomable situation.Anyhow hugs to you on this most unpleasant of weeks. I’m so sorry to hear about your uncle. It’s so hard to get through the crying but the best of us take the most from us when we lose them :(Go to the doctor, everybody 🙁

  5. my condolences to you on your uncle’s passing.And amen to your call to either pray, be aware or do both. Something has got to give.T.S. Eliot was wrong…August is the cruelest month.

  6. Sorry to hear about your uncle.this paragraph,”Be aware of what your country does in your name and what it does not and remember in the end that we, as Americans, get the government we deserve because we are the ones who vote for them. Rather than having contempt for Congress, have contempt for ourselves as we elected that Congress. And rather than complain, arm yourself with information and turn that information into action. You don’t have to save the world, but you can find the change that fits for you.”was deep and on point.

  7. Alexandra says:

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful important words with us this weekend. And I am extremely sorry for your loss.

  8. Thanks for all your kind words. I really appreciate it. My uncle’s wake is today and the funeral is tomorrow. A bunch of my relatives are coming so I actually need to clean my room so my mother’s sister, Auntie Snob, can sleep in it. Granny Snob, my mother’s mother is also showing up (Auntie Snob is bringing her), as she does not care if my mother told her she didn’t have to come. She’s coming for her “favorite” and only son-in-law and for my uncle who with his daughter attended my grandfather’s funeral out of respect back in 2001. Granny Snob is delightfully pushy. I’d say that I hope I’m like her when I get to 80, but Granny Snob has been pushy and mouthy since she was born. She was fired from cleaning hospital bedrooms after talking sass to a white man who insisted that she didn’t properly clean his room. God, it’s amazing she and her equally mouthy siblings never got themselves killed in Arkansas.

  9. Great post, Snob. I’m with you on all fronts.My heart dropped into my stomach when I heard about the Russian invasion of Georgia, myself. The first thing that came to mind was World War I. And you are so right–we, the US, aren’t in a position to do diddly squat about *any* of it–which is sad given that, as you said, this would be the type of situation we *know* and that we’ve trained for. I also cringed/sneered/smirked at W and his empty rhetoric trying to tell the Russians about how to behave and how to handle their war-business… Sheesh, gimme a break.In any case, the issue with Bernie Mac was not just that he had pneumonia which, for many of us, is fairly easy to recover from. Because his immune system and lungs were already compromised as the result of having had sarcoidosis, the odds were a lot different for him.So sorry to hear about your uncle. Totally feel you on the parents too. –Any of us at any time, like you said.Is it possible to be too aware (of the plethora of issues you mentioned)? I think about so many of the things you mentioned on a 24-7 basis almost [that’s why I have no friends!], to the point where it’s completely overwhelming and you just wonder what the hell people are thinking. –Or, are people even thinking at all? And, how much more fucked up and way-complicated can the world get??? [I’m sure there’s plenty of room…] Sigh! Thanks for verbalizing my thoughts on that one. Sometimes I feel like it’s just me. ;-)Again, so sorry about your uncle. ;-(

  10. tamra: If you’re a news, information junkie like me, yes, there is a point where you should take a break. For me it’s either watching movies, going to the gym or staring at “Grey’s Anatomy,” because yeah, shit gets depressing. But I believe it’s better to be informed. Bad news is supposed to make you sad. Avoiding it doesn’t make the atrocities of the world go away. Too many people tune out or are desensitized. I don’t know, for instance, how you can watch images of Haitian refuges being turned away after actually making it to the US via crappy raft when our country was complicit in the demise of theirs. But because they aren’t living under the regime of Castro’s Cuba, no sanctuary. You’re just poor, not escaping tyranny.But then that makes you wonder if any US official has been to Haiti recently. What those people live with is tyranny. But if you’re informed about this you can better select politicians who might be more sympathetic to the Haitians plight and get our country to clean up its record with the island nation. So, yeah. That misery has a use. You just have to channel it into the right vehicle. I’m a writer, so I write. Stories, letters, articles, columns, whatever. You can make sense of the senseless in our world.

  11. sdg1844 says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your Uncle Snob. Sad news indeed and you are spot on about us getting the gov’t we deserve.

  12. I am indeed a shameless news junkie–and I have to have it from all perspectives, all the time. I can’t live my life without it. I think it’s just time for me to take a break–for me, it’s hammering on metal. Again, great post. nntr

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