I never thought to write essays, and yet the essays reveal fringes of my morality and sense of justice within a stream of consciousness. More relevant is why I write them. Solomon, the king, was able in his Proverbs and Ecclesiastes to distill reflections and observations down to a concise “sayings”or tricks of phrase. The quotes and meditations of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, though longer, had the same effect.
From the height of their vast perspectives, they saw the world in much broader terms than the rest of us, and as “brevity is the soul of wit,” they saw pattern and design where common minds see chance and chaos.
When I was younger, I aspired to write meditations, though without any wisdom or life experience. I did not understand that with more discernment, more can be said with less. So my meditations were rambling and wordy, and as I tried to make sense of them, they became the essays.
All the essays began with an irritation, a wrong or injustice that I saw as repeated consistently in the world, though never resolved (th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office). I would sketch down a thought here and there in frustration and tuck it away until I determined I was provoked enough to try to put them all together in some cogent form.
I have written many essays, only to despise and ultimately destroy them. There are a few, however, I thought to publish. Why those? I’m not sure, but they are public, with one even listed as an Amazon #1 Bestseller in it’s category for years.
Niggers and Squirrels was controversial for its title. The essay is personal, and it considers the value of the lives of black and brown males in their relationships with law enforcement. Amazon comments reflect extreme reactions on all sides. I suppose its purpose was to reflect an injustice in society that the majority rarely considered and to encourage debate. Written in 1994 and initially published in 2010, it sought to deal with the fraught and painful issue long before Black Lives Matter emerged.
I wrote The Execution of Timothy McVeigh in one setting straightaway after his execution in 2001. It is basically a tongue-in-cheek consideration of the efficacy in the state putting criminals to death.
My parents were married for 51 years prior to my father’s death, so I always viewed the institution of marriage as sacred. It grieved me to witness the disintegration marriages all around me, including my own. In my restaurant management job, I’d met many couples who had been married over 60 years, and even one who boasted 75 years – I begged their secret, and their answer was “hard and easy,” they said. “Never give up!”
The Seven Year Hitch is an essay about saving marriage by raising the stakes. The proposal involves an expiration date for a marriage license, with a requirement for renewal.
All my life, I’ve never believed in the human construct of “race,” or harmful and vile hate, discrimination and domination based on skin color or physical attributes. There is but one race, the human race, and the only difference in skin color between a black and white human exists within one layer of the epidermis, a mere 10 microns thin.
And yet there are those who would exploit that slight contrast to profit by turning human against human so that as long as groups continue to hate or resent each other, they will be so steeped in petty issues about differences that constructive unity will never be possible. “Unity” is a dangerous concept to those in power.
What They Call Us details the collective experience from the arrival of Africans in America and their journey to the present. It examines words of denotation, the evolution of what they were called, the beginnings of self-definition, exploitation and an appeal to rebel against racial classification in the 2020 census.