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My great-grandfather was thrown in prison in Europe when he was aged twelve. He was put in a small mud filled room with water dripping from the mud ceiling and walls. In fact, it was a hole, some sort of chamber dug out underground with a few barred windows at street level up high beyond reach from the inmates for air receipt for the prison occupants, who were crowded there together with standing room only. The rest was all muck — drippy moist mud walls, drippy wet ceiling and muddy puddles on the mushy mud floor through which the inmates trudged if they chose to move at all.

Was there a bathroom there? No. If you had to “go” — you went to a particular corner and stood in slop from people who stood there before you.

He was placed there with grown men of whom some were there for horrendous crimes, such as slitting the throats of their girlfriends and their babies, shooting up police in attempted bank robberies, rape of same-sexed children even younger than himself and so on.

My great-grandfather’s crime was that he had stolen an old loaf of thrown out bread from a trashcan outside of a bakery in Germany. Such an act was against the law and he got caught trying to pilfer the old bread.

He did so because he’d been tasked with tending the family after his father left for America to try to find a better life after which his father intended to send for the children one by one and his wife, too, after the last child was in a new circumstance. So my great-grandfather, as the oldest male left behind, was left with tending the family so that its members would not starve to death. (This is the action that he stove to undertake as best as he could given his age and the fact that he lived in a patriarchal German society, one extant at the time of his life such that he was in charge after his father left.)

Eventually he was released from the prison muck-hole and it became his turn to come over to America. On account, he was deep in the hold of a ship and exchange for passage, he cleaned out animal stalls and fed the livestock. He got very smelly and dirty on account. In short, he was in another muck situation.

Indeed, he became after a time  caked in his own sweat mixed with dried out animal dung and urine. His clothes were stiff with the combination of various sorts of filth congealing together and drying in a mass. against his skin.

So once he landed at Ellis Island and passed through inspection, his next task was to find a store with German words on the front of it so that he could ask to get food, soap and directions to the train station to take him to Syracuse, NY, where his father was located. {He was just a teenager at the time.)

He finally found a German store in the lower side of Manhattan. The owners there pitied him and gave him food and a bar of soap for free, along with directions to the train station.

Then he went under the near by Brooklyn Bridge, stripped off his caked stiff clothes, washed them, washed his body and put back on the wet, now soft, clothes — the only clothes that he had. Then he trudged to the train station with just enough money in his pocket to buy the ticket to Syracuse. Yes  he washed himself here and then set on his way to a new, presumably better life:

Image result for old picture brooklyn bridge

Brooklyn Brige

My grandfather, this man’s son, also was a family man like his father. He too took care of family as best as he could manage.

Indeed, he had to financially take care of three families involving wives and children since his two brothers died at an early age while leaving wives and children in their wake. He was told that this is the honorable action to take by his own father, who was growing old and feeble at the time.

So Grampy worked around twelve to fourteen hours a day every day of the week to ensure that his relatives would not starve in the tenement apartments in which they all lived jammed together in a few small rooms. Indeed, he practically worked himself to death at an early age because all he had was work, travel to and from work, eating, sleeping, doing bathroom activities, dressing and going off to work again day after day seven days a week.

He owned no slaves. He killed no natives and simply worked himself to exhaustion day after day after day to make ends meet for all of the people for whom he individually was responsible. He had no choice since his values caught him up in the role to supply for other ones, who were family members.

Were these ancestors nasty people? I suppose that they may have been since they weren’t willing to sling dung day after day in the deep hold of a ship to stay alive. They weren’t willing to work nearly every waking hour to make ends meet for themselves and others for whom they were responsible without striving to get ahead.  Yet their worst activity was probably to take over land originally belonging to the Iroquois.

Is this situation that I just described about what people are talking when they claim there is white privilege?  White privilege is certainly not a part of my experience, nor part of the experience that my ancestors had — ancestors who had nothing to do with the slave trade, Indian wars or other travesties going on in America. … including wars against foreign nations, such as my country is undertaking right now.

White privilege – Wikipedia

White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit people ….. In her article, “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person“, she recounts that as an adolescent she was “making ramen noodles in a coffee …

Now, maybe there is something correct about the original sin idea as posed in the old testament of the Bible. You know — Adam and Eve passing badness onward for generations. So maybe I need to give reparation to natives living in the Syracuse region of NY for my great-grandparents and grandparents having settled there.

The problem is, though, that I don’t have lots of money and give as I can for relief and aid to, for example, Puerto Rico already. I do so since I do personally contribute to global warming through my personal carbon footprint so I am a bit responsible for the devastating hurricanes. … Yet, one can only squeeze so much blood from a little stone. So I only have a modicum to give, little stone in the mix that I am.

Now, the resource pie in the USA and other countries is just going to have to be divided up in a more tight fashion than it was when my great-grandfather and grandfather were alive. It is because the human population is going to pop through the roof while both renewable and nonrenewable resources are going to diminish. Ergo we can all brace ourselves as new hatreds arise about financially derived privileges, skin tone, religious variance, disparities in socioeconomic class, politics and more contentions come further to the foreground.

How sad it is for me that I may have to eventually fight for my only granddaughter to have basic resources such as is happening currently in South Sudan, Somalia, Yeman and other locations. This child, born a year ago from my only child, necessitates that I  will do so if still alive and will try, as I always have done, to share with anyone else in need besides her.

Love me, like me, be indifferent to me, hate me for being white skinned or for any other reason. I frankly don’t care. I know where I stand in terms of bringing life forward. … I’m sorry for the hell that so many people, including my relatives, have endured.

Yet don’t lay this hell in my lap. I’m definitely not the cause.

Instead, I’m dedicated to foisting  forward the best that I can strive to do to improve the world with every ounce of my being and everything that I can muster out of my psyche for over sixty years of facing off against the myriad sorts of hell that this planet can creatively make. Yes, I pull everything up out of my little singular self to the max.

All the same, I can’t uplift everybody. I can’t uplift all of  the progeny of slaves of whom many live in slums. I can’t uplift all of the people, who have ruined lives due to Middle East wars that my country has undertaken with my federal tax dollar in the mix. I simply can’t help much at all to turn events around to a new direction.

I can’t help this:

war-baby

Instead of accepting this butchery, I  try to accept my small placement in time.and limited influence. Accordingly, I simply do the best that I can do. I strive my best to provide all that I can to bring the world to a better place and I know that thanks for my stance amounts to practically nothing. (… not that I care one way or another to get thanks because that is not the reason for my taking the position that I undertake.)

The coming deprivation and fighting over resources will be fierce in times to come. That which our ancestors experienced regarding both fights and lacks are nothing compared to that which is coming given resource diminishment, a population of people way past the7.5 of us currently on Earth and our ever updated weaponry, which is way past everything that our ancestors could ever imagine existing. …
Meanwhile I do what I do to try to thwart this terrible trajectory that our species has taken simply because my doing so is right. I have no choice in the matter since it is based in the way that I’m configured as a person in all of the individual complexity that we each carry within our unique time-limited selves.

As a result, I don’t care whether I’m loved for my actions. I don’t care if others join me in my efforts. I just know that I have to do as I do without any alternative course of action. It comes from the core of myself. It derives from my deepest sense of being and no other alternative serves as an option given this placement in my being.

Truly I don’t mind being a slave to my values. Truly  I have no choice whether anyone else joins me in my thrust forward out of everything that I can give forth or not. … Yes, “it is a sad, sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd” … Yes, indeed …

Ray Charles & Elton John – Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word …

Feb 17, 2009 – Uploaded by RonnieFriend

From Ray Charles‘ duet album “Genius Loves Company” (2004). Sadly, Ray passed away shortly after …

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU Babu says:

    Life is an endless struggle. It has been proved by ancestors due to whose relent less struggle for better lives to their future generations that our generation is enjoying their hard – earned labour ….but, by our destruction of environment, we are destroying the fruits of their struggles.