Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's just complicated, it's not easy

Just back from a whirlwind drive from Cleveland to Cincinnati to Detroit and back to Cleveland. 

We flew to Cleveland to begin another "baseball trek," this time throughout and across the state of Ohio, with a day in Detroit and a night just across the Ohio River in Kentucky. 

The reason for the journey:  baseball.  More specifically, working off my "bucket list" notation that reads, "Visit every major league ballpark."  For the record I've made it to 20 so far. 

I love baseball, even in the midst of a heat wave that included even the Midwest! 

But, these trips always end up being about a lot more than baseball. 

Each trip has turned into a tour of American urban centers. 

Each city is unique. 

For example, the people in Cleveland appear visibly depressed, as compared to the folks in Detroit.  Just an impression, a gut tug.  I could be wrong, but Detroit with all its problems felt more upbeat, optimistic and focused.  Could be their 2 game lead in the American Central! 

Cincinnati felt like a big, southern city.  The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a real treasure, and should be required on every U. S. resident's "bucket list." 

The combination of my visit to this museum with my visit to Cleveland's showcase Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum left me thanking heaven for the presence of African Americans, gospel singers, poor white folks and the blues!  Wow!  Are we all singing the same songs!  Maybe we ought to consider an annual national reunion based on the tributaries that inform, shape and create our music! 

In each city I saw poverty.  Crushing poverty. 

In each city I saw homeless brothers and sisters.  Some were elderly.  Some were children.  Some were veterans. 

I know that had I had longer, I could have "unpacked" the stories.

The conclusions would have been the same. 

Poverty of this magnitude is complicated.  It's not easy to understand, to comprehend , and harder to address.  U. S. poverty is rooted in a history.  The causal forces numerous.  It must be understood both individual by individual and from a community, systemic perspective. 

But, unfortunately, we're in the throes of a cultural shift in this nation. 

We frame everything in terms of the individual in the present moment.  This narrow view gives us the permission we need to blame, find fault and judge the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable among us without needing to know the stories behind the faces or the background music for what we observe. 

We aren't as good as we used to be in this nation. 

We think nothing really of the little girl I saw in Cleveland Friday morning following along behind her homeless mother, dragging her pillow and clutching a stuffed animal. 

We shout angrily at each other about politics, taxes and economic theory while a pervasive materialism threatens to destroy our culture because control overrides compassion, greed trumps the hopes of a truly beloved community and worship is more important for people of faith than justice. 

Poverty is complicated.  

There are no easy answers.

But the wrong turn leads down a road where the poor are simply no longer noticed, and we are there today.

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