Worthy Sacred Kings

We discussed in a previous post how many of the individuals revered by people of our country were not worthy of such reverence, and what qualities would merit such respect. We also discussed the process of meditating on changing our national group mind to more closely reflect the values our country claims to be founded on. I would like to expound on that in the next several paragraphs. But before I do, I should apologize that I missed my posting last week. The events of the week were beyond astounding, and may reflect the beginnings of a change in our national consciousness. Our true sacred kings may indeed be putting their fingers on the scales. And now for this week’s letter.

Our country purports to be founded on three fundamental principles: equality, liberty, and the rule of law. These three principles are intertwined, and not one can be realized without the other two. It is impossible to conceive of a country operating under rule of law when people are not equal under the law. It is impossible to imagine liberty as long as some are subservient to others. And so on. These principles are interdependent and cannot be separated.

There are different schools of thought where sacred kings are concerned. First, the term “sacred king” can apply to either men or women. Some schools believe that the persons have to have died or been killed as a “sacrifice” in the performance of their sacred acts. Others believe that the persons need not have died a sacrificial death, that they may have instead lived a sacrificial life. Others still do not believe that the persons need to have died. I reject the last definition, as that person is still working out his or her sacrifice and making it worthy. In every case, it is not required that the sacred kings live a perfect life, for there would be non. It is that the lives they lived did not violate the principles in question, in this case, equality, liberty and the rule of law.

If we choose to go by the first definition, there are some potential sacred kings who have given their lives for the principles of this country. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Joe Hill, and Emmett Till come to mind. There are certainly others who could qualify, but their names and deeds have been lost to our collective memory. These are people who bravely marched forward, knowing the danger, enduring the difficulties, and ended up killed by those opposed to these ideals.

I also like going by the second definition in addition to the first. I believe that it is as hard, and probably harder, to lay down a lifetime of service to the betterment of one’s people and collective consciousness. In the arena of equality, I look at John Lewis, Elijah Cummings, Dorothy Day, Frances Perkins, and many, many others.  I include Dorothy Day and Frances Perkins here because equality implies that even when incomes are not the same, all humans deserve a certain dignity, including shelter and food (and today I would add health care). In the area of liberty, I include the freedom to work at a job that pays a living wage. I look at Harriet Tubman for the actual freedom, and Caesar Chavez for the dignity of work, and many others. I am sure Delores Huerta will be added to these luminaries upon her passing.In the arena of rule of law, I salute John Marshall, Thurgood Marshall,  and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In fact, they all overlap, because, as I said before, they are all intertwined and cannot be separated. We see how they overlap when we look at what happens when one is attacked. They all begin to crumble. When equal access to the polls collapsed, when the wealthy were given better opportunity to promote their agenda through unlimited financial contributions that ordinary people cannot make, and large corporations were classified as persons with all attendant rights, when the rights of women were denied, we saw the rights of working people for a safe work environment, a comfortable retirement and living wage also crumble. Many of these things are in clear sight today. The fabric of the society is badly frayed. This is why we need sacred kings who gave their lives, either in sacrificial death or sacrificial life, as examples to meditate on.

My request for this week is that we take fifteen minutes a day to think on appropriate sacred kings. I imagine them gathering around a large round table in the capital rotunda. I visualize them talking about our country, what it has become, where it is going, what needs to be done. I listen to what they say. In my mind, I ask them to impress on the minds of my fellow countrymen what changes need to be made in our collective mind. I ask them to impress on the minds of my fellow countrymen what thoughts we should think to enhance the values we claim to hold. In my last post, I wrote how the meditation should take place. Please feel free to comment here on the thoughts your meditations bring to your minds.




One Reason Why Equality Matters to Me

I would love to share with you what link Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, John McLendon, Marlin Driscoll, and my dad share.  It is a fun story that I think you,  would love and I have not been able to share with anybody.

John McLendon John McLendon

My Dad was born in a very small hut in a very small town in Adamsville, Tennessee.  The hut where he was born was located at what is now home plate in their baseball field. His mother died in childbirth, unattended.  Not only did he never have a birth certificate, noone, including himself, ever really knew what year he was born.  We guessed.  (Coming up may be some words that I know are offensive.  I hope you will forgive that, as it was part of the era – he was born in either 1917, 1918 or 1919 so the world saw things differently.)  Since his father was the town drunk who never quite forgave my dad for “killing his mother,” he was shuffled from aunt to aunt.  He worked in the fields with the black kids, hoeing cotton and tobacco.  When the hoeing was done, they would together go slip under the fence to watch the Negro leagues baseball games.  He fell in love with baseball.  He also fell in love with basketball and would practice shooting and dribbling until the sun went down.

When he graduated from high school – he was young to graduate even with the uncertainty of his birth – he tried to get a baseball scholarship.  Eventually he got one at Milligin College in Tennessee.  He had athletic scholarships, an orphan’s scholarship and cleaned the gym to pay for his education.  He played on the varsity tennis team, baseball team and basketball team.  He graduated with a degree in English.

Here is where it gets murky for me – Dad didn’t talk about his past much.  At one time, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him.  He played second base in their farm team in Johnson City in Tennessee.  Somehow he wound up in Raleigh-Durham playing baseball and basketball and coaching women’s basketball (yes, they had that in the south then).  Recall, John McLendon was coaching in Durham at that time.  Hold that thought.  (It was also in this time that Sam Snead taught him to play golf.)

When the war came, since he had a college degree, when he enlisted in the Navy, he was made an officer.  Eventually he wound up a captain in the Navy, but I am not sure what he went in as.  They made him morale officer at Pearl Harbor.  His ship just missed being there when Pearl Harbor was bombed – Dad said Sam Snead was late for the ship.  Not sure if that was true or tongue in cheek.  His job was to recruit entertainment for sailors coming to Pearl to heal.  It included sports teams, entertainers, etc.  At various times, his baseball teams had names like Stan Musial (who he had met in the St. Louis system), Pee Wee Reese, Johnny Majors, Bob Lemmon (who dad converted from shortstop to pitcher because Bob couldn’t throw straight), Dom and Vince DiMaggio (Joe went with Army), Phil Rizzuto, Leo Durocher, Bob Feller, and many more.

This next part I am not sure of.  I sat one day as a kid with Satchell Paige.  Satchell had come to Denver (during the minor league days) to do some sort of pregame demonstration and since Dad was doing color in the announcer’s booth, Dad left me with Satch.  (A lot of the grown ups sitting around us did NOT approve.)  As anybody knows, Satchell could spin a yarn, but I don’t know how he could invent this out of thin air …

At some point while at Pearl Harbor, according to Satchell, Dad decided he wanted to recruit some of the players he had watched from the Negro leagues.  Dad (this I know is true) had always believed the black players were at least as good as the white players.  So anyway, Satchell and Dad agreed that Dad would start getting his players mentally ready to accept playing with “coloreds” while Dad tried to get the ok from his superiors.  Finally, Dad’s superiors threatened his commission and he dropped it.  But a thought had been planted …

Several years later, Jackie Robinson was selected to break the color barrier.  Branch Rickey was the President and GM who hired Robinson.  But on the team were Johnny Majors (I think he was General Manager), Pee Wee Reese (Team Captain) and Leo Durocher (I think he was coach?).  Satchell wondered if maybe Dad’s preaching in Pearl had something to do with getting Jackie accepted by the team.  We will never know.

The rest of this is not from Satchell.

After the war, Dad moved to Denver.  He got a masters in business at Colorado College and became an English professor, baseball and basketball coach at Regis Jesuit College (even though he was a Methodist).  He became a celebrity in Denver because his basketball teams were very successful.  They used a totally different style of play – and if you studied it you would see shades of John McLendon.  Over time, he became active in bringing sports to Denver.

First, there were the Denver Broncos.  Dad secured the financing so the team could be brought to Denver (Dad was a banker with Central Bank).  He led the drive to build Mile High Stadium that would keep the Broncos in Denver.  And he pushed Denver to bring in Marlin Briscoe as quarterback.  Marlin Briscoe was the first black quarterback in professional football.

Then there were the Denver Rockets (now the Denver Nuggets).  Dad was part of the original ownership group. While he was still an owner, he convinced them to hire John McLendon as their coach.  John was the first black coach in professional basketball.  However, he lost almost all of his investment when the partnership sold.

Many years later, he co-chaired the Colorado Baseball commission.  He started working on getting baseball to Denver in the early 70s, and I can remember him talking about some choice meetings he had with Peter Ueberroth as they argued over whether Colorado could support a professional baseball team.  Anyway, they finally got baseball in 1993.  And, of course, the first home run hit at home for the National Baseball League team was hit by Eric Young, again, a black man. So, Denver had our first black quarterback, our first black professional basketball coach and nominated our first black president.  That just tickled the heck out of me and I really wanted to tell KO that.  (When my dad died three years ago, only the family was at the funeral.  The rest of Denver had forgotten him.)

I don’t know how to verify parts of this story, but I do know the rest. This battle for equality has not been waged by black people alone, but by people who knew that skin color has no more relevance to a person’s character, capability or intelligence than hair color.