“Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having except as a result of hard work.”
– Booker T. Washington
“Dare to be honest and fear no labour.”
– Robert Burns
“Nothing will work unless you do.”
– Maya Angelou
“No human masterpiece has been created without great labour.”
– Andre Gide
“If all the cars in the United States were placed end-to-end, it would probably be Labor Day weekend.”
– Doug Larson
“Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them.”
– Joseph Joubert
“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Labor Day is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race or nation.”
– Samuel Gompers
“I believe that summer is our time, a time for the people, and no politician should be allowed to speak to us during the summer. They can start again after Labor Day.”
– Lewis Black
“Before the reward, there must be labor. You plant before harvest. You sow in tears before you reap joy.”
– Ralph Ransom
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“A hundred times every day, I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
– Albert Einstein
“Work is no disgrace; the disgrace is idleness.”
– Greek Proverb
“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A man is not paid for having a head and hands, but for using them.”
– Elbert Hubbard
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the lines between work and play.”
– Arnold J. Toynbee
“It is labor indeed that puts the difference on everything.”
– John Locke
“As we celebrate Labor Day, we honor the men and women who fought tirelessly for workers’ rights, which are so critical to our strong and successful labor force.”
– Elizabeth Esty
“I’ve heard of nothing coming from nothing, but I’ve never heard of absolutely nothing coming from hard work.”
– Uzo Aduba
“Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?”
– Michelle Obama
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
– Vince Lombardi
“Though you can love what you do not master, you cannot master what you do not love.”
– Mokokoma Mokhonoana
“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.”
– Marc Chagall
“Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and – above all – don’t let anyone limit your dreams.”
Yesterday, July 3, the Washington Redskins football team made the stunning announcement that they would actually consider changing their name; at least change the “Redskins” part of it. If there’s a true case of better late than never, this is it. For decades, the nation’s Native American population and their supporters have demanded Washington remove the “Redskins” feature of their moniker. As recently as 2013, team owner Dan Snyder scoffed at the possibility of such a move. Many have expressed surprise that Snyder would be opposed to the alteration because he is of Jewish-American extraction. But I say it’s because he is Jewish-American that he remained reticent to a change. From what I’ve seen, many people of Jewish faith and ethnicity feel they are not only the “Chosen Ones” of humanity, but they are the ONLY ones who have ever suffered the horror of genocide. So much so that the term ‘holocaust’ has metamorphosed into ‘Holocaust’ as a direct reference to Nazi Germany’s attempt to obliterate the Jewish people. Snyder had spat out the usual Caucasian rhetoric of venerating Native Americans as fierce warriors with the word “redskin”.
In his formal statement, he declared, in part, “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise, but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.”
Not once did Snyder mention the derogatory nature of the word “redskin”. In the spirit of thick-skin football, I presume Snyder wouldn’t mind me recounting a couple of old Jewish jokes someone told me more than 30 years ago.
“Hear about the new German microwave oven?
“What’s a Jewish woman’s favorite sex position?
Bent over the checkbook.”
In the spirit of racial unity, I wanted to refer to one of my earliest essays, “A Matter of Respect,” in which I address this very issue. Because, like love and hope, respect never dies.
We’ve heard it so many times before. History has always been written by the victors. It’s a sad reality, yet very true. It means that much of the history of Africa and the Western Hemisphere has been recounted with a decidedly European viewpoint. As someone of mixed European and Indigenous American extraction, I always felt conflicted about this disparity. While trying to find information about Native American Texans in an encyclopedia during my grade school years, for example, I noticed that references to pre-Columbian peoples were treated dismissively. It wasn’t just archaic history in standard academic circles. It was irrelevant. Even mention of the state’s Spanish colonizers – the first permanent European settlers – was dubbed “pre-history.” It seemed Texas history didn’t actually begin until the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston arrived. And it didn’t matter that these men weren’t even born and raised in the state.
Only within the past half-century has the truth about various indigenous societies been revealed with advances in archaeological research and detailed forensic analysis. Lidar, for example, has taken the concept of neon lighting from the banal presence of liquor store signs to the jungles of Central America where long-abandoned Mayan structures remain shrouded by the foliage. As a devotee of Archeology magazine, I’m constantly amazed by discoveries of ancient settlements across the globe. Areas once thought to be occupied by nomadic hunter-gatherer types at best are revealing the ghosts of thriving population centers.
Yes, history has always been dictated and composed by those who somehow managed to overcome the locals – usually through the casualties of disease and pestilence or the sanguineous nature of war and violence. But the blood of history’s victims seeps into the ground and eventually fertilizes the crops that feed the newly-minted empires. That blood eventually metabolizes into the truth of what really happened – albeit many centuries or millennia later. Still at that point, it can no longer be ignored.
Here in the U.S. we’re now seeing statues and other emblems of the American Civil War come down by government decree. Supporters of that conflict have maintained its genesis was the battle for states’ rights, while truth-tellers insist it was a battle over slavery. They’re both correct, in some ways. It was a battle over the right of some states to keep an entire race of people enslaved. I certainly feel removal of these statues is appropriate. Those who fought for the Confederacy wanted to rip the nation in half over that slavery issue and therefore, should not be venerated as military heroes. They’re traitors.
The debate has now shifted to renaming many U.S. military bases. In my native Texas, one military base is named after John Bell Hood, a Confederate general who – like so many other Texas “heroes” – wasn’t even born and raised in the state. Hood also wasn’t an especially adept military commander; having lost a number of individual conflicts. And yet, a military base is named after this treasonous fool?
The U.S. Pentagon has expressed some willingness to rename military bases that reference those ill-fated Civil War characters. Naturally, it’s upset many White southerners who annually reenact various Civil War conflicts; not realizing how ridiculous they look in their antebellum garb. I can’t help but laugh at them. They’ve been fighting the war for over 150 years and STILL haven’t won!
In his usual brusque and toddler-esque manner, President Trump announced last month he would veto a USD 740 billion defense bill if it included an amendment that would rename many of those military bases. He declared, “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”
Remember, the Confederacy lost that war. A million reenactments won’t change that reality.
Some 30 years ago my father discovered that Spain’s Queen Isabella (who funded Christopher Columbus’ voyage) was an ancestor of his mother. According to documentation my father found, Isabella learned of the atrocities Spain’s military officials were committing against the indigenous peoples of the “New World” and ordered them to stop. That’s one reason why Latin America has a stronger connection to its native peoples than the United States and even Canada.
It should be worth noting that, while Italians celebrate Columbus as a national hero, he probably wasn’t even a native son. For centuries he was considered a Genoese sailor with grand visions of finding a westward route to India and subsequently gain an edge in the then-contentious spice trade. Contemporary research, however, has declared he was actually the son of Polish King Władysław III; often dubbed the twelve-toed king because allegedly had 6 toes on each foot. And I have to emphasize that Columbus couldn’t get Italian leaders to finance his ventures, so he turned to Spain. In the 15th century C.E., Italy was actually a conglomeration of city-states.
In one of my earliest essays on this blog, I lamented the term “redskin”; a derogatory moniker for Native Americans that has figured prominently into the names of many sports teams, from grade school to professional. Just this week the Washington Redskins football team announced what many previously considered unthinkable: they might change their name. Team owner Daniel Snyder conceded he’s bowing to pressure from its largest corporate sponsors (big money always has the loudest voice in the corporate world), as well a growing cacophony of socially-conscious voices demanding change. Snyder said the team has begun a “review” of both the name and the team’s mascot. Detractors, of course, moan this is political correctness at its worst. But, just like Civil War reenactors still haven’t won, Eurocentrics still won’t admit they didn’t obliterate North America’s indigenous populations.
Change on such a grand scale is always slow and painful. But, as with time itself, change will happen; it can’t be stopped.
We can never correct or fix what happened in the past. Nothing can ever atone for the loss of millions of people and the destruction of the societies they built. But we can acknowledge the truth that is buried. It’s not rewriting history; it’s writing the actual history that remained entombed in that bloodied soil for so long. It’s adding the needed and long-absent color to reality.
The new “Joker” movie is a rehash of an old conundrum: middle-aged man tries to remain relevant in a society that views him with mocking contempt, while he seeks true love and cares for his elderly disabled mother. Said middle-aged man then experiences a cerebral infarction that plunges him into a psychotic pit of hopeless violence.
How the hell did the screenplay writer get hold of one of
“Joker” reminds me of a 1950 Mexican film entitled “Los Olvidados” (The Forgotten Ones), directed by Luis Buñuel. Also known as “The Young and the Damned”, it focuses on a small cadre of teens trying to survive the brutalities of urban life in a México City slum.
By the 1950s, many films began to acquire a more
realistic approach to the world’s problems.
While a post-World War II America seemed to relegate itself to colorful
musicals and grand westerns with clearly-drawn heroic and villainous figures,
filmmakers in other countries expressed a more cynical, jaded view.
In “Los Olvidados”, Buñuel depicts poverty exactly as it
is: cold, violent and oppressive. It’s a
birth place for anger and hostility; not ingenuity where people go from victim
to survivor through sheer will power and determination. American movies of the time often showed Mexicans
and Negroes as happy and laughing, despite their economic hardships and
substandard living conditions. In “Los
Olvidados”, poverty doesn’t hover in the background like trees in a park. It’s tangible and painful; it’s a source of
cruelty and hate – not an inspiration to forge ahead through rocky obstacles
and build a better life.
“Joker” is a modification of that, as it highlights the
humiliation individuals often experience in their ongoing quest for acceptance. It also points to the hostile and sometimes
violent reaction people have when they don’t gain that acceptance or
respect. It’s why, for example, American
society exploded into rage and bloodshed in the mid-1960s; more directly, why
many non-Whites exploded. They’d finally
lost their patience. They’d done
everything possible to be part of the American mainstream, and it still wasn’t
good enough. They were still being
treated as second-class citizens; intimidated at the voting booth; forced to
sit in the back of mass transit vehicles; sequestered into a proverbial
closet. Beat an animal long enough and
it’ll eventually bite back.
For me, patience was always a given. I had a long fuse. It took a lot to aggravate me to the point of hysteria. That may seem like a good thing, a positive attribute – and it is. But like paralyzing fear, it has its drawbacks – namely that I let people take advantage of me. Then, in the quiet of my home, I’d complain about it – to no one. When I would finally bite back, I would unleash a barrage of bloody emotions. And people would have the audacity to be shocked and get upset. In other words, I’d scare the shit out of them. But the primary drawback? It made me look mentally and emotionally unstable.
I can recall a number of examples where I let myself get
pushed too far, but here’s one. July
2000 and I worked as an executive administrative assistant for a large bank in
Dallas. I supported two bank officers,
plus the manager to our little group.
That summer our particular division decided it wanted every individual
officer to submit letters to every client in their portfolios;
personally-signed letters – not electronically stamped. The letters for each of my two officers
arrived later than for those of the others.
They’d been sent to the wrong floor. One of my officers seemed to get upset that I
didn’t get all 800+ of her letters out on the same day she dropped them on my
desk. She’d taken them home and, after
two weeks, finally had them all signed.
I reserved a conference room for half a day, just for the
sole purpose of folding each and every one of those letters and placing them
into respective envelopes with two of the officer’s business cards. When my manager realized how far behind I
was, he enlisted a few others to help me get them done. One of the helpers was a fellow
administrative assistant who loathed the idea of helping anyone do
anything. In between folding and
stuffing, that one particular officer I supported kept yelling at me to answer
her phone – while she conversed with another associate. I finally told her to stop yelling at
me. She and that one admin, however,
took the time to stand at the desk of the admin to the department supervisor
and discuss beauty secrets with his roommate who did drag shows at local queer
bars. The roommate was on speaker phone.
The next day – after all the letters had been dispatched
– I confronted my manager to complain about the fiasco. His dismissive attitude, along with the
eye-rolling response from that one officer and that one other assistant, served
as the final knife into my back. To
enhance the aggravation, they pointed out that I’d taken the time to talk with
my father (when their own family members would call several times a day) and
then accused me of “fraternizing” with yet another admin.
Thus, my patience disintegrated faster than tequila at an
open bar during a Mexican wedding. The
level of anger that spewed forth from beleaguered soul terrified even me. My voice rose in such extreme anger that some
people on the other side of the floor hear me.
When our department manager threatened to call security if I didn’t
“calm down”, I took the liberty of calling them myself. On speaker phone. With that supervisor (and my immediate
manager) standing beside me. They were
both stunned into silence, as the security official on the phone waited for a
“No, it’s okay,” replied the department supervisor. For once she sounded nervous.
A security official did come into our area; as equally
perplexed as he was curious about my call.
By then, however, the department supervisor’s boss – they were all
C-level executives – had learned of the situation and consulted with me
privately. He was angered – not with me;
but with my colleagues and my direct manager.
When he gathered all of us together, I thought that one officer, the one
who’d accused me of “fraternizing”, was going to melt into a puddle of tears
I didn’t like what happened that day. I didn’t like that it got so ugly. Hostility breeds nothing but contempt. But I had to take a stand. I had to let people know how exactly I felt
and why I was so angry. I rightfully put
the blame back on them; that if they’d shown me the respect I deserved as an
adult and a business professional, none of that would have happened. Then again, if I’d only said or done
something earlier; if I’d just reacted sooner, the day would have proceeded
Sometimes, though, we do have to yell; we do have to make
a scene. It should never get to that,
but it happens. Some people just can’t
grasp the concept of keeping peace in the neighborhood or maintaining a high
degree of business professionalism. We
have to lower our intellect to their level, so they’ll comprehend what we’ve
been trying to tell them. I hate doing
that – because it really does make us look emotionally unbalanced. But occasionally, there’s just no other way.
The title character in “Joker” is embroiled in the same
dilemma. He’s trying desperately to
remain relevant and garner respect. He’s
been beaten down and disrespected for far too long. Then he explodes. He’s been pushed to the violent breaking
point. And there are literally millions
of people like him across the globe.
It all goes back to one of the most human of desires: to
be acknowledged and respected. The lack of
respect creates hostility in the workplace, but it also launches wars and civil
unrest. We saw that here in the U.S.
with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.
We saw it with the 2011 “Arab Spring”.
People can only take so much.
Whatever happens, it’s no laughing matter. Respect will always equal dignity.