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Summer Rules by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 8.30.26 AMThe summer solstice has passed, and while that’s a bittersweet truth, we shouldn’t fret about days getting shorter. Instead, why not wallow in the sweet joys of summer? Leave your boots and parkas in the closest for a few more months and dress down—not up—for summer.

Summer Rules. Yes. Yes it does. While on the golf course the rules that regulate play may be a bit more stringent in summer, the rules that govern our lives seem to let us breathe easier. We wear fewer clothes; ice is in our drinks, not on our windshields; maybe we get away for a week or two of vacation. (As a former teacher, I know that the three best reasons to practice my profession are and will always be June, July, and August.) We savor evenings that linger long into what my Scottish ancestors called the gloaming, sparkled by fireflies and the laughter of friends talking on the porch late into the night.

Summer in Chestertown: the precious few months between Tea Party and Downrigging. The Martha White is anchored mid-stream; the tables out in front of Evergrain are full of coffee drinkers (mornings) or ice-cream lickers (afternoons); when the sun starts to set, the tables at The Kitchen, the Blue Heron, the Lemon Leaf, and the Fish Whistle are buzzing with happy conversation. Sail boats and stink pots share the river; the Packet and the Sultana cruise stately downstream at sunset. The golf course gets a lot more play when the ball rolls farther. During the recent National Music Festival, there was music everywhere, wafting out of windows early in the day to serenade our morning coffee or later to accompany a post-5 o’clock glass of wine.

But it’s not all fun and games. Farmers are busy dawn to dusk—and maybe beyond—doing the hot, sweaty work that brings fresh corn, tomatoes, and all other manner of abundant produce to the outdoor market in Fountain Park on Saturday mornings. Landscapers and gardeners work overtime. Road crews do the work of highway repair under a hot sun while the bridge gets a midnight makeover. There are summer classes and camps up at the college; Echo Hill, Fairlee, and Pecometh are in full stride. Even nature is hard at it: ospreys and eagles are feeding hungry mouths; turtles are busy laying eggs; wary deer dot the fields at the end of day, instinctively counting the days until hunting season begins.

And yet, despite all the industry and energy that summer demands, there lingers over it all a lazy, hazy, lemonade laxity that we wish we could bottle and sip on a cold January day when the boat is shrink-wrapped and ice covers the fairways and the fields are hard as iron. I suppose that’s part of the beauty of summer: summer rules provide the fuel that warm our hearts when winter rules are back in play.

So enjoy summer while it lasts, even those few dog days when we pine for a fresh breeze or a cooling shower. The raspberries are ripening on the bush and all too soon, the crepe myrtle will be in bloom. Before you know it, we’ll all be back inside, bundling up, counting the days ’til we can play by summer rules again.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Out and About (Sort of): Hamilton Story is Telling Today by Howard Freedlander

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Beware, the lead this week is buried more than halfway into this column. Just bear with me.

About six weeks ago I attended graduation (“commencement” in academia) at the University of Pennsylvania. The speaker was the Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator, composer and star of the much acclaimed Broadway musical, “Hamilton. An American Musical.” Typically, I am rather dubious, if not scornful, of pop culture celebrities who are the headline speakers at a college graduation.

Just as typically, I am pleasantly surprised to discover they have much to say and say it well. Not too many years ago, I listened, reluctantly at first to Bono, Irish singer-songwriter, and found, much to my surprise, he was articulate, knowledgeable and passionate about poverty in Africa.

I guess I should be more open-minded and expect the best.

Now back to Lin-Manuel, who I understand who is stepping down in early July from his lead role in a musical where tickets now cost in the four figures. Instead of the usual sermon—dream big, seek your passion, overcome disappointment and be persistent—Lin-Manuel took another tack and told two stories.

For sake of space, I will refer to only one of Lin-Manuel’s stories. He and a friend, also an aspiring Broadway director, sought advice from a “big deal theater producer.” What they heard they rejected: inject sex and drugs in the story line. That would give them a chance to achieve real success, so they were told. They declined with no hesitation. Instead they worked five more years in collaboration with others on what became a successful Broadway musical, “In the Heights.”

Moral of this story: stick with your instincts and values, make adjustments you are comfortable making—and keep working.

As a pointed aside during his remarks, Lin-Manuel said that Alexander Hamilton, an impoverished orphan from the West Indies, “built our financial system. A story that reminds us that since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again, immigrants get the job done.”

My column now takes a different tack.

The anti-immigrant sentiment fed and fueled by Donald Trump causes me great concern. And so does the nationalistic undercurrent that propelled British voters to vote 52 to 48 percent in favor of leaving the European Union. The bias ignited by the presumptive Republican nominee toward immigrants bodes poorly for sustainment of the values of decency and acceptance that have always characterized our diverse nation.

An American economy that has left many struggling to just get by, bitter because of stagnant wages or no wages at all, provides a potent source of anger and bigotry. Hope is a remote, maligned concept. This state of unfortunate and perhaps unfair current affairs in our country worsens when prodded and stirred by irresponsible bombast.

Harkening back to Lin-Manuel, I suggest that one story, a national and cultural one, should never stop being told:

“Immigrants get the job done.”

We all have stories. Some we choose to tell, some we don’t. We define ourselves by our stories. Alexander Hamilton is one of many, many success stories.

I have a story. I think every day about my grandfather, who immigrated in the early 1900s from Austria through Ellis Island in the New York harbor to Lower Manhattan and eventually Pittsburgh, PA. He sought and achieved the American dream. He worked hard, able to use his natural talents. His portrait and my memories about this remarkable East European are an intrinsic part of my being. Others have similar stories.

Lin-Manuel’s incredibly successful musical about a controversial Founding Father brings us back to the foundation of our often discordant, messy American Experiment. It reminds us of our shared values and beliefs.

As we face an acrimonious Presidential campaign, I suggest we try, despite the noisy, emotional political combat, to treasure what immigrants have contributed to our country.

And still do.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

The Naval Academy Invades the Easton Airport

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For a few months during the summer a minor invasion takes place at the Easton Airport. Without much notice, almost 250 midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy come across the Bay Bridge every day to participate in a highly selective flight training program.

With the help of dozens of flight instructors, a fleet of seventeen planes, and the full support of the Easton Airport staff and control tower, the USNA offers its students one of the most comprehensive and intensive flight training programs of its kind in the country.

And heading up this remarkable program is John Galdieri, president of Trident Aircraft. An alum himself of the Naval Academy, Galdieri felt that Easton Airport offered the location, facilities, and staff needed to gain the support of USNA in bringing their flight school to the Eastern Shore. And as a result, Easton has become the home for students getting their first experience with flying.

In our Spy interview, we talk to John about the program as well as listen to three midshipmen talk about their experience as they begin their long and challenging road to becoming apart of the Navy’s aviation program after graduation.

This video is seven minutes in length.

The Fullness of Empty Spaces by George Merrill

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Driving east from Annapolis toward the bridge, once past the tollbooths, the world opens before me, as if I’d exited a tunnel and fallen into the light. The Eastern Shore spreads out ahead of me, low and green, and to the north and south, the expanse of the magnificent estuary we call the Chesapeake Bay presents like an inland sea. It’s all about open spaces, the peculiar way that these expanses reverberate with something deep inside us as if the openness out there mirrors the infinite space already existing inside each of us. Open expanses speak to the stuff of eternity that course through us with the regularity of heartbeats. There’s a distinctive feeling this scene awakens in me every time. It feels something like a release.
Poet Emily Dickinson locates herself in this space this way:
Behind Me – Dips eternity –
Before Me – Immortality –
Myself – the Term Between

The wind sluices through the cables and stanchions of the Bay Bridge and I can see the gulls plunge and soar. They search for the wind, and like surfers waiting for the big one, they steady their wings and catch the wind while effortlessly riding its currents. I suspect they’re doing it for the sheer joy of flight, experiencing the exhilaration of transcending gravity, the way children enjoy jumping or skipping. The gulls need lots of space for this maneuver. It’s our regional scenario that bespeaks the harmony and grace with which the ecological phenomena plays out all around us in our tidewater home.

Leaving the bridge, I soon arrive at Kent Narrows. Crossing the Narrows Bridge, I can see row upon row of lusterless gray townhouses, built upon the edges of the fragile marshlands. The sight is depressing. I imagine them weighing down the marshes. If they were providing homes for local residents, it might make some sense, but many of these townhouses serve only as second homes and except for weekends, are left vacant.

A lovely place carries the latent seeds of its own destruction: its existence is an invitation to live there.

There was a time in human history when to get to civilization we had first to travel through wilderness. Today we have little wilderness left and we get there only when we pass through civilizations.

I welcomed Tom Horton’s recent article in the Spy making a case for the unsustainability of today’s growth patterns. “Development” and “growth” have been the American mantra in our consumerist era and are spreading like carcinogenic cells, which, when left unregulated, destroy the host on which they live. To develop means to bring something to its destined fullness and fruition. Proper growth is the process through which this happens. In my mind there is no question that the proliferation of malls and tract housing is not being governed by an enlightened vision of ecological growth or development, but primarily by corporate profit. Big money manipulates small towns while the land is given no rights in the negotiations. Our contemporary vision of “development” regards our landscapes as commodities to be turned for profit.

In addition to the abuse of overbuilding, this postmodern attitude has spiritual ramifications. As much as we regard ourselves as more “civilized,” than our Native American cousins, they enjoyed a sense of place that included a reverence for the land. They lived on and were fed from the land and didn’t need to own it. They even regarded certain land as “sacred space.” They did not dominate the earth, but cooperated with it.

Mikhail Gorbachev, a leader of the former Soviet Union once headed Greenpeace.  In an interview, he once said about the excesses and abuses of the industrial age, where more is always reckoned as better, that we had no sense of “enoughness.”

Humans hunger to experience beauty. It reveals itself in the universal need to decorate our homes and to create gardens. My guess would be that most wallpaper images are variations of flowers, leaves, shrubs and vines. Exposure to beauty is as critical for being fully alive as access to food is. In the ugliness so apparent in urbanization and in our social and political scene, not having the inspiration that beauty awakens leads to brutality and cynicism that today dominates so much of our social and political lives. A sense of openness and space sooths our human spirit, promotes a sense of mutuality, cultivates gentleness while fostering feelings of gratitude. Witnessing beauty reminds us that the life we’ve been given is not an entitlement but a gift.

“For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms,” writes Anne Morrow Lindbergh. “Only in space are events, objects and people unique and significant – and therefor beautiful.”

She writes from an island surrounded by water, not unlike our Eastern Shore. In walking the beach she says, “We can have a surfeit of treasures – an excess of shells, where one or two will do.”

In 1989, Dr. Roger Ulrich studied the relationship between exposure to nature and psychophysical restoration of medical patients. He was able to demonstrate that patients regularly exposed to water views and greenery recovered more quickly, used less pain medication and were given fewer negative evaluations than patients who had views of only buildings, parking lots and other urban structures.

As I write this essay the sun has just come out. I walk a short distance outside my studio. I see how the shades of green on pine needles still wet and dripping, vary from the leaves of deciduous trees. They all glisten as the sun strikes the lingering droplets from the recent rains. The flowers we planted recently are now radiant white, yellow, red and orange and the grass, usually scraggly and thin in front of the studio, with all the rain has become thick and verdant.

Happily, the open spaces surrounding my house are uncluttered except that they are filled with the fullness of empty spaces and lots of birds.

Choices by Al Sikes

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There will be four choices for President in most States–the two principal parties along with nominees of the Libertarian and Green parties. While it is highly probable that either the Democrat or Republican nominee will be the ultimate winner if you, like me, are fed up with the major parties, 2016 is the year to send that message.

I have been an active Republican during most of my life. I served as a Presidential appointee in both President Ronald Reagan’s and George H.W. Bush’s administrations.

While I am pleased to have served both presidents, neither succeeded in reducing the growth of centralized government. They were overwhelmed, at least in part, by Washington-based incentives. They were victimized by interlocking interests that act to enlarge not shrink the central government.

This year the third and fourth Parties on the ballot appear more intentional and less compromised. The Libertarian Party, which favors less centralized government is perhaps on the verge of entering the national conversation. Its nominee is favored currently by about 10% and needs 15% to be included in the televised debates.

As well the Green Party includes in its statement of principles: “Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens.” The Green Party will be on the ballot in a large number of states.

At the very least our national debate should be more inclusive. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should have to hit curve balls, not just the expected fast ones. It is relatively easy to script a debate between two people who have been debating at long distance for months.

Politically we have evolved into an emotionally fraught binary society manipulated by wordsmiths who labor for one or more deeply entrenched interests. These wordsmiths, over the next four months will insist that a vote for a third or fourth party is wasted. What is wasted are the enormous numbers of dollars and accompanying faith given to the organized interests of Washington—the government and its satellite industries.

Certainly centralized government is needed in foreign affairs. Air and water pollution across state lines and, as the Green Party notes, civil rights must be accorded all Americans.

When my wife and I moved our family to Washington from Springfield Missouri in 1986 so that I could start working in the Reagan administration, our home-secured debt increased several times. We got a quick and indelible education in Washington economics. It is no accident that Washington does not experience recessions.

We all live on some sort of economic ladder. In Washington moving up the ladder often requires a job that depends on a more expansive government. If you work in the government, the economic fruits of more power are self-evident. If you work outside the government, but rely on it for your economic ascent, you are most likely to favor more spending or tax breaks or regulatory protection.

If large, centralized government worked to our benefit, we would call this interconnected activity a “virtuous circle.” Unfortunately, this is often a destructive circle.

My words, of course, suggest that sometimes big is good. Size enhances our defense posture and our central bank is the world’s largest and most influential. And, as we blend diverse sensibilities, our constitution and laws protect diversity while encouraging unity. Yet an unbiased measurement across most public and private enterprise shows large bureaucracies are most often rigid, self-serving and ultimately self-defeating.

Self-government that unifies and measures up is not easy. It requires insightful and public-spirited leadership. It is increasingly unlikely that a leader of this caliber can make it through the Washington based filter. Today’s two party lineup, offers a thoroughly establishment nominee in an anti-establishment moment, and one who specializes in division. Revealingly, many are so disenchanted that Donald Trump looks good.

The lineup also points to structural weaknesses. We are increasingly subjected to an exaggerated political process forced on us by hard-edged advocacy organizations that push the candidates left or right–well beyond the electorate’s comfort zone. It was once said with some pride that the two Parties represented big tents—no more.

Relatedly the costs of a campaign and the resulting draw of big money undermine democracy. The constitution’s guarantee of free speech makes it maddeningly difficult to legislate limits so we are left with a duopoly that ill-serve our nation’s long term health.
So I am now looking for opportunities to express support for the Libertarians and Greens to be included in the televised debates. We need a real debate not just scripted talking points.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published of Culture Leads, Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.  He and his wife, Marty, now live full time on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

 

Making it Work on the Shore: Barbara Esmonde on the Bay in Betterton

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It’s a bit of a tongue twister to say Barbara’s on the Bay in Betterton three times, and that might have been intentional on the part of owner Barbara Esmonde. After several decades working in some of the country’s most original restaurants from New York City to Portland, Esmonde decided she was going to do it her way after turning 50.

Finishing up her tour of duty with the Chester River Yacht & Country Club two years ago, Barbara looked high and low for the right place to start her first restaurant in Kent County. And in keeping with her resolve to go down a different path, she selected Betterton, with a population of 335 full time residents, to break away from conventional thinking.

In her Spy interview, Barbara talks about the reasons she wanted to start a business in Betterton, but also how she has turned it into a sustainable, long-term labor of love.

This video is approximately five minutes in length

Cal by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Everyone knows who man’s best friend is. In my case, it’s Cal, a vizsla named for—you guessed it!—Cal Ripken, Jr. But here’s the spoiler alert: Cal belongs to friends who live in Lewes. The good news is that I get Cal custody one week a year when his extended human family heads down to the Outer Banks for vacation. This week is my Cal week.

Cal came into my life six years ago. His human mom wasn’t too sure about the decision to adopt; she already had two human male puppies and a big human dog to care for and she would be the first to admit that she wasn’t a natural-born “dog person.” Truth be told, she was even a little afraid of souls with four legs. But the wishes of the kids prevailed and if Cal didn’t have her at hello, it didn’t take long for him to win her human heart. My job, as a neighbor, friend, and admitted vizsla lover, was to babysit, walk, feed, and clean up when Cal’s human family weren’t available. It was a labor of love at first sight.

Now that we humans have moved apart, Cal comes on an annual visit. We hang out, go for walks out at Turner’s Creek, or chase tennis balls off the dock. We even sleep together thanks to my accommodating wife who enjoys having Cal as a house guest as much as i do. Well, almost as much as I do.

Like all vizslas, Cal likes to be velcroed to his caregiver (in this case, me) all the time; ‘underfoot’ is an understatement. But he is also a terrific athlete. He can run forever and he even surfs; in fact, there’s a t-shirt with his image and “Surf Like Cal” on sale down at the beach if you’re interested. Charming as he is, he’s also a bit of a goofball who gets obsessed with tennis balls and hates thunder storms. He likes to take over the couch when I’m watching tv. Vizslas are short-haired pointers, and Cal, true to his breed’s ethnicity, speaks fluent Hungarian which admittedly limits our conversation. However, he’s a good mind-reader which facilitates our discussions about what to eat for dinner. He’s a dainty eater who prefers goulash to kibble, but he’s not nearly as discriminating as my wife whose palette leaves me flabbergasted about notes in wine I never knew existed. But that’s another story.

Cal is a good house guest and I honestly believe he is a happy visitor. That said, I don’t delude myself into thinking that he doesn’t dream of his absent family. I lead a relatively quiet life which must surely seem strange to a dog who lives with two teenage boys and parents who are always on the go. By the end of our week together, I sense that one of us is ready to get back to the way things were. If a dog year is equivalent to seven human ones, then a week must seem like a pretty long time to Cal. Sometimes he looks at me wistfully as if to say, “You’re nice and all and I love you but I miss them.” I don’t take it personally; I miss them, too.

On Sunday, after Cal is back on his favorite chair with his family in Lewes, my house seems even smaller than it is. There’s an indentation on the couch. Tennis balls turn up in odd locations. All the goulash is gone. I glance at the calendar: only 51 more weeks until my next Cal visit.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Vincestock: Remembering a Friend and Celebrating Life

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For those of us who knew Vince Raimond, Saturday’s First Annual Vincestock gathering was a sweet way to remember an old friend and to renew acquaintances with his large constellation of family and friends.

The evening progressed toward a sunset Solstice toast with an amazing assortment of music from Tom McHugh’s blues harp to Karen Sommerville’s acapella, along with anecdotes and a poignant story about rediscovering his long lost family as told by his daughter, Checkie.

I knew Vince from my earliest days in Chestertown. In 1968 he was my girlfriend’s landlord —wasn’t he everyone’s landlord one time or another? But I knew him most as the person who introduced me to a lifelong love for the theatre arts. I’d wager to say that Chestertown would not have the presence it does today for the performing arts. He and his wife Leslie launched, curated and nursed a fledgling theatre group along for 30 years and his spirit is still present in the Garfield’s performances.

Vince was not an “all things to all people” kind of guy. Part of his charisma was his strong set of values, and he’d announce his take on life at the drop of a hat. Agree or disagree you always knew where he stood, and if he was a friend, I knew it never to waver.

One summer, I think 1969, I was looking for part-time work, Vince hired me to do some copywriting for a brochure advertising some of his real-estate properties. And as I was an english and creative writing major at Washington College, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to flex my poetic muscles, such as they were, and embroidered each property description with an over-abundance of adjectives hinting at colonial charm where none existed, breathtaking value where there was little more than a “starter house”, and impeccable landscaping where there might have been one withered rose-bush. I proudly turned my copy in at the end of the week and awaited his glee. He sat at his desk in a short sleeved shirt looking like a Roman wrestler on vacation from the Coliseum. In fact, the first time I saw Vince I thought, “Damn, Spartacus lives in Chestertown.”

He looked up from my copy sheets, shrugged and said, “Dissette, these are just houses.” And so began my interest in non-fiction.

What struck me most about Saturday’s gathering was how our matrix of friendships, new or generationally, link us to each other in unexpected and long-lasting ways. With stories and celebration, we not only pay tribute to a friend who is no longer with us, but rekindle the qualities that most attracted us to that person and by sharing them keep that person among us, not as a shadow of the lost, but internalized as someone who breathes and walks among us.

You’re still with us, Vince.

 

 

 

It’s Not That Easy Being Green by George Merrill

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I like taking walks.

Usually I won’t notice the landscape or even the people nearby. Oh, yes, I might see neighbors, but my mind is busy with itself and I, in truth, take little if any heed of the ‘other.’ Familiarity with my environs can breed a level of inurement that causes me to miss seeing the world around me. I like my thoughts. I spend too much time with them.

My wife teases me about this. “We’re off in la-la land, today, aren’t we,” she’ll comment. This brings me – no, this jolts me – into the moment, but not with an open mind eager to embrace it. She makes the comment with feigned innocence. I take it as a rebuke and feel defensive. “So why can’t I be in la-la land?” I fuss to myself. Her comment is like a sound awaking me at night; I scramble to orient myself.

This is to say that I had an unusual experience recently as I took a walk. I was engrossed as always with my own thoughts when, for no apparent reason, I noticed how the world was alive with color – one color – the color green. It was early morning, both sides of the road were lined with stands of large trees and, as the morning sun struck their leaves, they radiated, like verdant flames, each leaf luminescent. Except for the arctic, and the desert most times, the world is a very green place.

There’s a culvert along the road. A large bullfrog lives there. As I walk by I hear him grumble as he plops himself from the bank into the water that collects by the culvert. My guess is that I’m intruding on his space. I notice that he, too, is two shades of green, quite lovely, really. It’s odd that for something so ever-present – a green world with many kinds of green critters – that I should suddenly see them as if for the first time.

During my epiphany along the road that day, I noticed the various shades of green; the strong sunlight tilting the green toward yellow and in the shades of the conifers, the trees appeared almost blue, the blue, which, along with yellow, constitutes the color green.

Kermit, the Muppet’s celebrity frog, struggled with being the color green. In his famous ballad, he didn’t like his color because it was ordinary, not “like flashy-sparkles in the water or stars in the sky.” Kermit wished to be different because he believed green was plain and ordinary. It was not dashing like gold or silver.
I was relieved that he finally came around to love the frog that he is, in all his greenery. “Green” he concluded was “cool and friendly like . . . and can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.” One of life’s great gifts is to have been personally and socially nurtured enough to love oneself, not like Trump, all puffed up and full of contempt for others, but possessing that reassuring feeling down deep that you’re OK and by feeling that way, you know that others are too.
African American Psychologist Dr. Kenneth Clark conducted an experiment years ago with children. He would place two dolls in front of several black children. One doll was black, the other white. He asked the child to choose the doll they wanted. The child was then asked why she or he chose the one doll over the other. Of the twenty-one black children, fifteen chose the white doll. The experiment becomes even more painful.
When asked which doll was the nice one, the child identified the white one. Asked which was the bad one, the child pushed the black doll toward the interviewer. When the interviewer asked why the black doll was bad, the child replied, “It’s black.” The experiment was a disturbing demonstration of how social and cultural toxins had insinuated themselves into the self- image of African American children. The white majority, by legal and other means, had poisoned the souls of the black children so that they assumed contempt for themselves because of their color.

In America, it was never that easy being black.

Let’s demythologize some of the murky world of stereotypes. Strictly speaking, black people, whom whites refer to as people of color, is a misnomer. As I see it, whites are the people of color. The reflection of all colors of the spectrum is what we call white. Black, which reflects none of the color spectrum, is not considered a color at all. What remains the least distinctive among colors is white because it contains a smorgasbord of everything on the color spectrum. If there are such things as mongrels on the color wheel, it’s whites that qualify, not blacks. White has no one lineage. Black, on the other hand, is distinctive, a pure strain, if you will, as black does not depend on the colors of the spectrum to define it. Black in that sense is distinct, unique. Black is beautiful.

Where does this leave our friend Kermit? Being a white frog would never do it for Kermit. I’m glad he’s green all over. And in my book, he’s beautiful just as god made him . . . with the aid of Jim Henson, of course.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.