Pondering and thinking about the lyrics from an old friend

Bird Droppings April 20, 2022
Pondering and thinking about the lyrics from an old friend

Back in the “normal” days, I stood in line behind a young man in his mid-thirties, and I assumed his wife at a BBQ place at Stone Mountain Park. I know we can argue it is a memorial to the South carved on a mountain. I am a history buff of all kinds, and I enjoy history and the philosophy behind it. I read a line that “when people claim their heritage, they are called racist.” I go back to two folks I was behind at the BBQ place. Both had confederate battle flags emblazoned on their t-shirts. Both shirts indicated the South was going to rise again. We are proud of our heritage. Then I read this note, the first two paragraphs of an essay going into more detail.

“For the past 150-some years, while the Confederate battle flag has monopolized attention with its corrosive symbolism and inflammatory bluster, a different, largely unknown Confederate flag — the Confederate Flag of Truce, which the South used in the process of surrendering to the North — has been quietly waiting for its moment in the spotlight. That moment is now. Hoping to start a new conversation around the Civil War artifact, textile and social practice artist Sonya Clark has conceived a massive version of the Flag of Truce, measuring 15 by 30 feet — 10 times the size of the original flag.” Meredith Mendelsohn, CNN

So, I am sitting here pondering a flag of truce. A truce is peace, and a battle flag has difficulty being peaceful. Just some food for thought. A significant lead into my friend. I have been in the same room; I have often said concert hall listening to his music. I have heard nearly every song he has written. Not all but almost all. He and I share epilepsy and work with disabled children and adults. So maybe indirectly we are friends.

I first started listening to Neil Young’s music in 1966 or possibly even earlier if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short-lived band, and 1968 with Crosby Stills, Nash, and Young at Woodstock and Deja vu, their first album, which I am sitting here listening too. While I did not make it to Woodstock, I can say my old sleeping bag was there; a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, on my way to Florida, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.

I was reading online last night, and I recalled a friend online who used to list the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her so many years ago with a note that I did not think anyone under fifty had ever heard of Neil Young. Outside of my house, my kids grew up with Neil Young. Several years ago, Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain, he decided that he needed to record immediately, sort of just in case. As life goes, he was afraid this might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery immediately and postponing for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital after successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open. He collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.

The words to this song caught my attention many times but especially this morning; I questioned who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have discussed freedom in general, free choice, student choice, and other great philosophical topics in our blogs and online discussions, which perhaps led me to this today. The song’s title is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. It has been raining quite lately, so the pollen has been washed away. There was a lone bird; I think one that was mixed upon its timing and weather (I wonder whether anyone gives the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or migrating from another time zone, and it might have been a Yankee bird, as a friend would have told me. But here, nearby, singing all alone deep in the woods, is a single bird. I like days a hint of green, and the lacework of twigs and opening buds provide a great background for thought; everything smells so good with rain and sounds so new in spring. Perhaps early morning will still be quiet even with neighbors.

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil Young

Funny how a line sticks with you in a song, poem, or book. I kept thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, Ukraine, getting tough on North Korea, and as always, the breaking news today computers at IRS broke down, a leak from a Washington reporter in 2009 that started numerous political dramas, all seem insignificant now, over 38176 falsehoods or lie’s in the past presidency. Some want to blame China or Democratic governors or whoever is next on the blame list, and I wonder if the word compassion ever made it into Washington.

I was walking through a Wal-Mart a few days back with my mask in place, sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of my former students came in. He was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through the Wal-Mart, an employee near the pharmacy explained the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They had a booth set up with a full-time staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks, and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people, including myself, haven’t a clue. It’s ironic, and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet. The line is too long at the explanation booth.

Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents to find housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming from Washington, for example, cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test, no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice, you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high, cut out Medicaid.

Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him, and he was limited to drawing disability. Due to illnesses all of her life, his wife had never worked enough combined quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately, their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks, and because their income exceeded federal standards, they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise, they took turns each month on which medicines not to get. They were getting help from one agency, but doctors had to fill in paperwork in volumes each month to receive free medicines. Sadly, the doctor’s office eventually stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

What if a disabled man I worked with for several years lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health and related psychological issues; and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However, his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid, and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do worldwide as a nation, I seriously wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts, and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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