May I Opt Out?

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.  The following day he arrived in Caesarea.  Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.  As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.  But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.  He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.  So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.  May I ask why you sent for me?”
Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter.  He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’  So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come.  Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

  • Acts 10:23b-35

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

  • Matthew 12:30

“You’re either part of the solution or you are part of the problem.”

  • Eldridge Cleaver

As for the first Scripture, the Apostle Peter was shown the sheet with the unclean animals three times and was told to kill and eat just before his visitors arrived.  The second Scripture is Jesus’ words which are modified a bit in the Eldridge Cleaver quote.  This quote has been used many times since, usually meaning a threat to join a radical cause, or else, even when the cause may be to your disadvantage.

As for the chosen photo, I took these photos at one of our platoon’s construction sites.  All the men were my guys.  They all wore green.  The guy laying a glass brick wall helped a licensed mason on another job for a few days, basically holding his tools and watching.  This was the second project that used glass bricks where this quick-study excelled.  He was African-American, but he wore green.

I have heard others write that the BLM seems to be a remake of the Black Panthers.  Eldridge Cleaver was an early leader in the Black Panthers.  I have not studied the political platforms of the two organizations, but of what I have heard, they seem similar, but I will not go as far as to say it is the same thing.

Yet, regarding Cleaver’s quote, I would like to “opt out.”  In a way, I have paid my dues, and I simply want to live as Caleb did.  Caleb, the faithful spy who, along with Joshua, were the two allowed to pass into the Promised Land from the time that Israel rebelled against God and that rebellion led to the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  He fought alongside Joshua and built his home in the hill country (Joshua 14:6-15) and lived in peace.  Caleb was part of the solution and then he rested.  That is what I want.

For a little about my past, I grew up in Mississippi during a time when schools, and much of everything else, were segregated.  The first black people that I remember being in school with was as a high school sophomore.  A black guy was in my physical education (PE) class and in the class, there was segregation, jocks versus nerds.  I would have been beaten up every day in PE by the white jocks (why I hated PE) if it were not for the black guy, the most jock among the jocks (going on to all-SEC football status at Mississippi State, one of their earliest black athletes).  When I moved back to my old hometown the next year and joined the track team, my old black friend would break another segregation rule (one school versus another) to come over and wish me well – the “violation of blurring the lines during competition” was allowed since he was a sprinter and I was a miler.

In my senior year of high school, we had a black fellow ride our school bus.  As the only senior on the school bus, I led by example, making him feel a part of the guys on the bus.  He was shy, and it took him a while to warm up to us.  There were four high school boys, no girls except for a brief time, one from each high school year.  The sophomore was a Baptist preacher, so we were not intimidating at all.

The university was integrated, but there were few black engineers, a lot of Asian-American engineers, but few blacks.  When I went to ROTC summer camp (tougher than present day boot camp – so don’t think we were on ‘vacation.’), every platoon was integrated, but the bigger segregation was the North versus the South in conversation and verbal battles, never coming to blows.  After all, we were about to become comrades, fellow Army officers.

Then at my first job, the Equal Opportunity folks got a complaint that there was racial profiling toward promotions at the chemical plant where I worked.  I was assigned the task of proving to the EEOC that race was not a factor in the personnel records that governed promotions, having to hand write race and sex data into the report that was generated by the company database.  Soon after that encounter, I was promoted and sent to another division, replaced by two black engineers, to appease the EEOC.  I was promoted again a few months later to return to my old job when my former officemate, an Indian (from India – please no letters) saw how I was doing well in the other division and threatened to quit if we didn’t switch roles.  I think he ended up at the VP level with the company, but he was too smart to be a token minority.

It was while I worked at the chemical plant and went to graduate school that I married a woman who classifies her race as “Other.”  She is Eurasian:  Indonesian, Chinese, Dutch, and German.

But that was not long before the Army required me to serve my military commitment.  As the sergeant always said, “There is no black, white, brown, or purple in the Army.  Just green.” 

I wrote in a post not long ago that I thought military service should be mandatory for all as a means of a learning experience.  This was a good example, in that everyone was “green.”

I arrived as a 1Lt, but I was green.  Sure, everyone in the Army was ‘green’, but I was green with inexperience.  This was peacetime, but we were not far from the front lines of the Cold War, and one of our construction projects was nearly on the border.  But even then, I considered that I had to make the right decisions, because the lives of 38 men depended upon it.  I had a strange mix of people.  I had people from nearly every state by the time I left the platoon after a year and a half, losing and gaining people every month.  There were blacks, whites, Hawaiians (one of Philippine ancestry), and a Canadian (having lived in Washington state in his high school years, afraid people would think him a draft dodger by moving back home to Canada … ).  We had more trouble with “family arguments” between the city guys and the country guys – probably the biggest difference in backgrounds to make people think differently with different values, far more contentious than race.  After all, we were all ‘green.’

I had a variety of irritants, human irritants, while a platoon leader.  One white guy from the inner city had the inner-city attitude and was lazy.  He destroyed one of my field jackets when I impressed upon him that the painter’s job was not finished until he had washed his paint brushes.  We kept finding the paintbrushes thrown into the tree line and we were running out of them.  The next day, I had a white “X” on the back of my field jacket when I picked it up after a hot work day – and officers had to pay for their uniforms while the enlisted had their uniforms issued to them.  My mistake.  I did not instruct him in how to wash the paintbrush, and I never took off my other field jacket after that day, luckily having two.  There is an actor these days with the same name – not the same guy.  Every time I see a movie with him in it, I cringe.

Of the guys, I had three problem people.  They all had the same problem.  They were drunks.  They lost their money and were constantly in debt to everyone else.  The two white guys would go to one of the ‘fish’ bars after work on payday.  They were called ‘fish’ bars in that young German ladies would flirt with the American soldiers, slip them a mickey, and then drag them into the alley and ‘fish’ through their pockets for all their money.  These two white guys were affectionately called “Trout and Pike.”  Pike caused enough trouble to get kicked out of the Army, the last straw was pulling a knife on the sergeant of the guard.  Trout went on to being a substitute group therapy leader for addiction therapy – for when a therapist was not available.  Why not?  He’d been through the program enough times, he knew all the answers.

As for the black soldier, he should have never been in the military.  He was an inner-city kid, who ran the streets instead of going to school.  His mother had him go to the recruitment office.  He flunked the entry exam, with an intelligence ranking that was extremely low, lower than low.  His mother insisted that he get into the Army anyway.  So, the recruiter got him into the Reserves, and the recruiter instructed his mother to not let her son know when the Reserve meetings were, allegedly.  For punishment for missing Reserve meetings, he was sent to active duty and assigned to my platoon.  He was once run over by a Mercedes.  As the arresting officer put it, he was so drunk and limber that, after flying fifteen feet in the air, he just rolled into the ditch with hardly a scratch.

One day after Pike was sent back to the States, and Trout was transferred to another unit, my platoon sergeant asked about our problems.  He knew we only had one problem left.  He asked if I wanted to simply “eliminate” the last problem.  I told him that we had tried everything that we could think of to help this guy, and the Army was never going to be a good fit for him.  My sergeant asked why I thought that.  I told him that this guy saw black and white, thinking that every drunken confrontation was racial in nature.  I said, “He doesn’t see green.”  My sergeant laughed and said, “Don’t kid yourself, Sir.  More than half of his fights are with the black guys in the platoon.  The only time he got in a lucky punch was when he knocked your jeep driver’s teeth out.”  We offered him an early out from the Army under the premise that he would go home and go back to school.  He took it.  I pray often for him, that he took advantage of the opportunity, but I wonder if he survived.

And then, as a civilian I was working as a mid-level manager while being paid entry-level engineer pay.  I was told that I could not be promoted until sufficient minorities were promoted, but that was just an excuse.  I was doing a great job in the management position without a promotion, so upper management had no incentive to promote me.  Part of my job as the training manager was to determine which minority employees had what it took to get promoted.  It was sad.  In the Army, everyone was ‘green,’ but in civilian life, I was forced to see color and to get minorities promoted while the other guys, who had waited for the promotion, were passed over.

So, like Caleb, I was part of the “solution” – for better or worse.  I’m tired, and I just want to opt out on this new solution versus the problem thing.

When can we get to where we don’t see color?  I am thinking that might be in Heaven.  It will definitely be heavenly.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. Fascinating that the biggest difference in your group–that is, the one that led to the largest number of confrontations–was city folk vs. country folk. How much of that do you see in the USofA in 2020?

    Liked by 1 person

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