men


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It started with a simple set of questions… “Dad, what are people doing? Why don’t they want other people to marry? Why don’t they do anything about global warming? Why are they always fighting?”

How do I tell her? How. Do. I. Tell. Her?

1001, 1002, 1003, die… 1004, 1005, 1006, dead…

How do I tell her that every 3 seconds a child dies from something that we could’ve stopped? From hunger. From not enough food. From not having an apple. Or clean drinking water. Or just a little porridge in the morning. That we have it in our power to stop it if we want. But we choose not to. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that our friends can’t marry because some people just hate their love too much? That love is sometimes not enough. That caring for each other is not what everyone else thinks should be. That the insecurities of the heart and soul of others drive hate instead of seeing the love. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that some people talk freedom but don’t believe in it? That freedom is freedom even if we don’t like what others do or say. That freedom to marry. Freedom to love. Freedom to see the love of your life die in hospital. That these freedoms are killed by bigots every day. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her the pursuit of happiness is denied for most? That it’s a lie that we are told by so many who deny the happiness of others. That justice, equality and liberty is claimed by many but believed and practiced by few. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her people believe in carrying guns that kill but don’t believe in caring for love? That it’s okay to defend the right to carry a weapon of hatred in your holster but not love in your heart. That it’s okay to defend the right to carry that gun but not the right to love? How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that I don’t know what our earth will look like in her future? That maybe we are killing this world of ours with our greed and want. That wanting, buying, driving, wearing, making, living, eating too much and all those things we do might be killing our world slowly. So slowly that we argue while the pot is starting to boil. Like frogs we are killing ourselves slowly. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that most people don’t really believe in human rights? That they speak of it as if they care and are willing to fight for it and die for it. But that they will deny others those same human rights. Their right not to be tortured. Their right to marry. Their right to choose. Their right to believe and love who they want. They deny it all. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that people are willing to let their fellow Americans die. That they can stop it but they choose to look the other way and walk away? That a public option will save lives but some of us are too selfish and scared and would rather offer up American lives. American blood. All because they don’t care to care. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that so many men carry hate in their hearts. They rape. They kill. They take away. That these are men we see and know. But we don’t see and we don’t know. That it’s okay to love the world. But be careful with who you trust. They will hurt you if they can because we know of those who are dead and missing. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her to not trust the man who speaks of God because they use and abuse His name? That they will hate in His name. That they will lie in His name. That they will give Him different names and still be full of hate and lies. That the hate and lies is preached by bigots claiming every religion – Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim – you name it. That it’s okay to love God but to not trust those who speak in His name. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that there are mad men in caves wanting to kill a dream? That there are enemies everywhere willing to take lives. Innocent lives. And that we live in so much fear that we are willing to do the same as them. We are willing to let innocent people die because of our own fears. That we play into the hand of the warmongers with our weakness of fear. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this and so much more? Racism. Discrimination. Child labor. Obesity. Diseases. Sexism. And all this stuff waiting out there in the world. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this? How do I tell her that if we all just wasted a little less. Wanted a little less. Cared a little more. Believed a little more. Loved a little more. Spoke out a little louder. Did a little more…

How do I tell her that I see the faces of those kids dying? I know their names in my dreams. That they are my kids. Our kids. Not a number. Her kids.

How do I tell her that I feel the love of my friends being denied? That I only feel threatened because they are being denied the right to love and live in love the way I do? They they are not gay. That they are me. They are her.

How do I tell her I believe in freedom? That it’s worth fighting for even when others are trying to kill it with their freedom-my-way-or-no-way lies and bigotry and double standards. That I fight for the rights for all because I fight for her rights.

How do I tell her I don’t believe in guns? That I hate guns. That guns have killed in my family. That I will still defend those who want the right to have a gun. But that I expect them to fight and defend the right of my friends to love just as hard. That those rights are all hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t know everything about global warming? That I don’t know the science that well. But that I know that it’s better to be safe than sorry. That I will fight for this planet because it is all we have. The only one we have. It’s all I can give her. This little planet in the middle of nowhere is her planet.

How do I tell her that human rights means we have to give it to everyone? To those who are like us. Who love like us. Who live like us. Who believe like us. And those who don’t believe like us. Don’t want to be us. That human rights means we take the higher road and don’t torture. That human right means we allow everyone to be treated the same way we are treated. In love and in marriage. And that I will speak out and fight for those rights. Every single day until we all have it. Because it is her rights.

How do I tell her I believe in justice, equality and liberty? That I believe it is fundamental to who we are and how we want to live. Even though other say it but don’t live it or truly believe it through action. That I will fight for her to have justice. That I will stand up for her to have equality. And I will defend her liberty. Because justice, equality and liberty are hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t want these Americans we live with to die? That I want them to live. I want to help look after them. I want them to have an option to get looked after when they are sick. And that the only option for them is a government option. That I have not option but support an option that will let Americans live. Because I believe that Americans are good. And that it is our duty to love them and respect them and help look after them. Because we are them. American health is her health.

How do I tell her not all men are bad? That there are good men out there. Men who love and care. Men we can trust. And that it’s worth trusting and finding the men we can believe in and trust. That we men will fight those who hurt. Because these are her men.

How do I tell her that God is good? That it is okay to believe and not be part of the lies told by those who claim Him – no matter what they call Him. That God is good and God is love. That I will fight for Him and claim Him back from those who use and abuse His name. Who lie and spread hate in His name. Because He is her God.

How do I tell her not to fear the mad man in the cave or anyone else who lives to hate? That fear is not what makes us who we are. That love makes us who we are. That the love we have is stronger than the hate of others. That love should never be seen as a weakness. Because I will fight for it. Because this love is her love. My love for her. My gift to her. Love.

How do I tell her that when I am alone in my thoughts… On the bus. Running. In a hotel. Flying. That I cry inside when I am alone. And sometimes I cry on the outside for all these strangers to see. Thinking of this. Knowing that I don’t know what we are doing. That I don’t know what we are leaving for her tomorrow. For her future. Her world. I just don’t know.

I don’t know what world she will inherit from us. I don’t know what world we will leave behind. For her. And for her kids.

But I do know that I will fight for what I believe in. I will fight for her rights. Her right to love, believe, be free, have no fear, carry a gun, marry who she wants. her right to be herself. My big angel. Because I love her. And it’s all I can give her.

I want to tell her that the world is full of good people. That every single day I work with people who make this world a little better. One step at a time. Sometimes small but always forward. I want to tell her we will fight the good fight. Every single day. There are more of us than what the world might think. And we are strong. And we will never give up.

I want to tell her I do what I do because of her. That I see her face when I work. I see her face when I fight for what is right. I see her face when I live my life. It drives me. I want to leave her a world to be proud of. I want to leave her a dad to be proud of.

But I don’t. I don’t tell her any of this…

I take her hand and we dance on a Saturday. I joke with her and I tickle her. I play with her and I tease her. I help her with her homework and I say I’m proud of her great work. I have fun with her and walk her to the bus stop. I hang out with her and watch Harry Potter with her. I lie watching music videos with her and write silly stuff to her on Facebook. Sometimes we talk about Madiba or God and space-time limitations. Or science and mathematics. Geography or food. Even a little bit of serious stuff like politics and rights. And then I talk to her about crazy silly things and give her my books to read. I pull her finger and burp as loud as I can. I go mess up her bed and chase her around. I just do the things a crazy silly stupid dad is meant to do. Because she is my girl. My oldest girl. My big angel. And I’m just her dad. That’s all I want to be. The cool guy who loves her more than life.

She is my Ubuntu. I am because we are.

So I don’t tell her. But I know. I know we have to fix this world to make it ready for her. She deserves nothing less. She is perfect. She needs a perfect world.

We’ve got work to do. My big angel is coming and I’ve got a world to clean and get ready…

It's a fight for my freedom to love...

It's a fight for my freedom to love...

I am pissed. Really pissed. I can’t believe that another piece of bigotry was allowed to be written into law. By those pseudo liberals from California. Actually, those pseudo people from California. No Californification for you then.

I mean really. Get off it. Let people love who they want to love. Why can’t you live with that? Why can’t two people who love not marry each other? Sorry. I guess you don’t believe in a happy marriage and would rather continue with the “woman barefoot in the kitchen” style fake love marriage you have. How about those pregnant teenagers then hey? Or the wife beating? Like the child abuse going around?

Actually, that is unfair. That can happen to anyone. But my point is that marriage is nothing sacred to protect for a group of men and women partners only. Really. What the hell is so sacred about it? This country gets divorced left right and centre. We have loveless marriages. We have arranged marriages. We have rape in marriage. We have child abuse in marriages. We have all this crap in marriages.

And none of that can be blamed on gays! You stupid… argh! You did that. Not me. And not my friends. You killed marriage. With your stupidity and superiority complex of failure and violence. Dip…

You know what? I love my wife. More than life itself. And I look around me and see very few marriages actually working. And guess what? Those marriages where people actually focus on each other and how much they love each other? They don’t give a damn what you call it or who else are allowed to get married. As long as (i) you don’t f*ck with their marriage and (ii) you have a chance of having the same love as they have. We want people to get married for love because we want to save the idea of being married.

Dammit…

Let my people marry!

Clean your own house. Clean your own church. Clean your own crap before you tell other people what they can or cannot do. This is how we get into trouble each and every bloody time. Someone somewhere deciding that their way is the only way and let’s go plant a bomb / start a war / execute someone / torture a few people / etc. Look inside and fix that you stupid… argh… I promised my wife I won’t swear.

No one is telling you who you should marry. No one is telling you what you should do. So shut the hell up about other people. Okay…

Let’s play this game.

You are not allowed to have a sense of fashion. You are not allowed to be happy. You are not allowed to smile and laugh. You are not allowed to be gay – in the smiling and laughing way I mean. You are not allowed to be flamboyant. You are not allowed to be an actor. You are not allowed to watch a movie with ANY gay actors or characters. You are not allowed to love.

We’ll leave that for us. You have your stinking marriage and put it where the sun don’t shine. You can kill marriages like you have done over the last 1,000 years and more. But you can’t kill love.

Let there be love. Let there be love…

Today I hope that my daughters will one day be gay. This way they stand a better chance of finding true love and see true tolerance in life.

Take your marriage and go flush it down the toilet like you have done since you “owned” it. You are killing it but you can never kill love. That’s what we have to offer. We didn’t plan on killing your holy marriage. You didn’t even know it but we are here to save the concept of marriage. To let two people who love each other make a lifetime commitment to each other. Respect each other. Honor each other. Love each other. Always…

You are flushing away the chance of saving this beautiful practice of marriage. Because you covered your eyes with your blinkers of hate. Well done. I hope you are proud. But not as loud or proud as us.

May God be ashamed of you and what you stand for.

I know I am. And I am bloody “straight”. You are not one of me. You don’t represent me. You don’t represent what my marriage stands for. You never have and never will.

My marriage is one of love. Somehow you just don’t get that.

The right to love. The right to marriage. It’s basic human rights.

It’s simple. You’re stupid.

Now go and leave us alone.

You know what I am really afraid of? That my own marriage and right to love will be next. That this limitation on marriage threatens my marriage. You never know when or where bigots will stop. Their history tells me they won’t stop anywhere we would think they would stop. Guantanamo Bay – they did this. Torture – they did this. Iraq – they did this. It’s always them. Those who look at others and find ways to hate and discriminate. Who forget to love and live first. This fight for my friends to marry the one they love is a fight for my right to stay married to the one I love. And a fight for my daughters to marry someone who will love them the way I love their mother. With no strings attached. Just pure and perfect love. I am fighting for my wife and my daughters. For their happiness. And their life. This fight is my fight. Our fight. A fight for a life of love.

Let there be love.

Dammit. Liberty, justice, freedom and equality for all.

Just add love…

To you bigots out there. Here is a nice little song for you. From the bottom of our hearts…

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To Vanessa, Mark, Randy, Steve and all my friends. I am sorry. I am truly deeply sorry. But I will never give up this fight. Never ever. We beat Apartheid and we’ll beat this crap as well. Remember: Justice, equality, freedom and liberty ALWAYS wins. We are right. We will overcome. We will win. Today is just a little bump in the road. Tomorrow we fight again. We will not be defeated. We might lose a battle but never the war.

The voice from the “right”: “Less regulation! No! Wait… I mean, more regulation! Oops… Not that type though!”

No, this is not about economics or bailouts. Nothing as fundamental as that… Just another something that has been bugging me. (As if that is something new…) No, this is about the  argument “some” make that they are in favor of less regulations. Unfortunately, they lie. They love regulations. The more the merrier.

They talk a good talk. But they don’t walk a good walk. You see, they only want to regulate so that everything fits their behaviour model. “This is me and everybody damn well be like me”. They live bigotry. Why bigotry? Let’s first look at the definition of being a bigot and what bigotry means…

“A bigot is a person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own, and bigotry is the corresponding state of mind. Bigot is often used as a pejorative term against a person who is obstinately devoted to prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false or not universally applicable or acceptable.” Thank you Wikipedia…

It.. p… hum… you know… me off. Let’s just say it gets under my skin. This bigotry. But it is bigotry of self. Intolerance of their own opinions. We are aware of the “standard” bigotry of anti this and anti that, hidden or blatant racism etc. But there is a deeper level of bigotry happening here. These people are actually intolerant of their own ideas. WTF?

Good question. They say they don’t like regulations, but they actually love regulations. They don’t like to regulate the market. (In fairness, they do like it now that the market tanked.) But, as I said, it goes beyond the market. They love regulating behaviour. They are bigots when it comes to social behaviour. They say they don’t want government to interfere? Hmm, I think they might be lying. No, I know they are lying.

You want the right to own a gun? Yep – don’t regulate that buddy. Don’t want no government to regulate that. “Step away from that regulation sir. Put your pen where I can see it.”

You want to chop down that tree? Yep – don’t regulate that. “It’s my yard and my bloody tree. Go hug your own tree.”

You want to join the KKK? Yep – don’t regulate that. “It’s my voice and I can pretty much say what the hell I want to. And join what ever I want.”

You want to form your own little sect down South? Yep – don’t regulate that. “It’s my religion and my sect so don’t dare go there. Really, the kids are very happy here.”

You want to scream “kill him” at your political opponent? Yep – don’t regulate that. “People died to protect my ability and right to shout what the heck I want to.”

It’s a noble principle. And one I agree with. To be able to have freedom I have to accept the freedom of others who do not look, speak, think, act or live like me. My freedom is dependent on that racist being able to say what he wants to say. My freedom is guaranteed by the loony also being able to carry a gun. That nutcase shouting “Kill him” embodies the freedom I enjoy to shout him down. The weirdo who has a few indoctrinated souls in the house of sects secures my right and freedom to walk around my house as an equal to others. The tough guy chopping down the trees makes me chaining myself to those same trees possible. It’s the beauty of being anti-regulation. It ensures freedoms we might not like but freedom that ensures our own freedom.

But… And this is a BIG but… (Single “t”.) That’s not what the American “right” really believes in. They don’t want freedom. They want their life just their way and no other way. So freedom for them but not for others. Only their “freedom”. That’s the bigotry. Sorry people, freedom goes both ways. You have to take the bad to have the good. But you don’t believe in that do you? You want “freedom” that is false and limited. The result is no freedom at all.

Why do I say that?

Well, easy… I’ll just give you one example of your bigotry of self.

Marriage. Gay marriages to be more specific. Look, I am not asking you whether you are gay. Or whether you want a man to be able to marry a man. Or whether you like the idea of a woman marrying another woman. All I am asking you… Why regulate? Why regulate who can marry who? Why regulate marriages but not guns? The one kills and the other doesn’t. I thought you don’t like regulations. Or is that just a double bigot I see? The one who doesn’t like anyone who isn’t as narrow-minded as yourself… And the one who likes to really regulate but who says he doesn’t? I call it snake oil bigotry. You say freedom but give us all chains. You included. Because your limitation of freedom for all means limitations for yourself. Of thought and of deeds. Bang-bang! Double whammy for you. A bigot with a forked tongue. A bigot of self.

Gay marriages. It’s not your call. I don’t like guns. I don’t like racist. I love trees. I don’t like sects. I don’t like people screaming rude insults ta rallies. But I acknowledge your right to carry a gun as part of the freedom that secures the freedoms I cherish. I know you chopping down the trees might be helping in killing this earth slowly, but I know it gives me the chance to plant some more. I despise you screaming stupid hate filled slogans at rallies, but I know it gives me a change to show those fence sitters how ill informed you are and get them on my side. And I know your racial hatred might make me vomit, but I know it is balanced by my right and freedom to shout you down and show to the world how pathetic you are.

You call yourself someone who doesn’t like big government? You call yourself an American who doesn’t like being told what to do? Right. But you can’t have it both ways. You are either for freedom or not. Not selective freedom. Selective freedom and rights are not what make America great. Freedom from interference… Freedom from over regulation…. Freedom for all no matter what… That’s what made America great. Can you handle it? Can you handle freedom? Can you handle being American?

I’m not even American but I sure like what it stands for. Freedom…

And once you taste real freedom… Damn, those pesky little “freedoms” sure go down well over here. It’s worth it. It’s worth being American. It think so. Do you?

I am inspired by the women in my life. My mother, my wife, my daughters and my sisters. I love you all. You inspire me. And then those women from Africa. Those women who carry our people on their backs and cradle our continent in their arms. The same women who suffer at the hands of us African men. This piece was written for them…

 

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Long Live Mama Africa!

 

I am always amazed at how people from outside Africa look at Africa and always have an “oh shame” expression on their faces. They somehow feel sorry for the people of Africa. You know. How could you not? How could you not feel sorry for the people of Africa when all you see in the papers and on the charity cards are the faces of hungry children and suffering women. You can’t have a heart and not feel sorry for them. Especially not for the women of Africa. Or can you? Sorry is not the emotion we want you to feel when you look at us. And sorry is not the feeling you should have when you look at the women of Africa. They have given birth to Africa. To all the children of Africa. And they carry Africa on their backs. The same way they carry the children of Africa on their backs. They carry Africa and the children while they work in the fields. While they toil in the sun. Getting the food ready for our people to eat. Don’t feel sorry for them. Celebrate them. They are the power in our arms. The speed in our footsteps. And the food of our souls. Hear them roar.

Let me tell you a story that plays out in Africa every single day. And then you will know to never feel sorry for the women of Africa.

Every single day you will find women selling fruit next to the road. Walk the dusty roads of Africa and there they are. Working from before the sun rises to after the sun sets. To sell their goods as people commute to work and back. And they walk for miles to go and buy those fruits and vegetables. To get ready to open the “doors” of their business in time to hit the commuters before they are all off to work. And they sit there day in and day out. Waiting for the commuters to come back. Selling their fruits and their vegetables. Bananas. Apples. Oranges. Mangoes. Tomatoes. Carrots. Potatoes. Whatever goes and grows in that region – and what they can find at the main market. Come rain or sun, floods to droughts. They sit there and sell their goods. And feed the people. And you want to feel sorry for them?

Don’t. Do not feel sorry for them. Think of Bill Gates when you see these women sitting there. Running their business. With a hundred competitors each side. Competing for the same small group of buyers. They run their business. But they also run Africa.

Celebrate them because they run their businesses with all those competitors on both sides. And hardly any schooling. And no business training. And they support an extended family. Feeding them and keeping them safe while the men are off somewhere else. Making war or making love. With another. And you want to feel sorry for them? What is there to be sorry about? These are strong women. Women with pride. Women with a business sense that Bill Gates could only dream of. They run a successful business with nothing but the sweat on their foreheads and strength of their souls and the heads on their shoulders. They don’t suffer. They don’t suffer fools.

No. Don’t feel sorry for them. They are the arms who cradle Africa. Feel sorry for the men of Africa. Feel sorry for the men of Africa because they don’t know what they are doing. Feel sorry for the men because they make the wars. And the women bury the dead. Feel sorry for the men who beat our women. And the women give birth to them. Feel sorry for the men who have no pride. And the women pick up the pieces behind them. Yes. The women of Africa clean up after the men. These men with no pride. These women of strength.

You know why the men of Africa are so weak? Because the women of Africa is so strong. The men see it in the eyes of the women. This strength. And they know they can never be that strong. And they do whatever they can to kill that light in their eyes. But you can’t. Not with African women. They are too strong. And that is what makes the men so weak and so scared. They can never roar like the women of Africa. Never. And they know it.

Yes. We men treat the women of Africa like second-class citizens. We treat them like that because we know we can never be that strong. We can never be the backbone of Africa. We can never give berth to a nation. We can never care for Africa the way the women do. We are not Africa. We can never be the women of Africa. That is why we call her Mama Africa. She is our soul and she is our life. She gives us life and she keeps us safe. Viva Mama Africa. Long Live the Women of Africa.

 

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You know about my father and me. We didn’t get along. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t do much together. None of that “dad and son” stuff. We might not even have liked each other much. There was bad blood. Lots of it. And still I learned so much from the man. Even when he didn’t mean it and I did…

We had many arguments. Many, many arguments. Almost always about politics. He was on the side of Apartheid and I was on the other side fighting what and who he stood for. He was a bigot and I was always happy to point it out to him. And I was just as stubborn as him. I refused to budge. I refused to try and understand. I refused to give him one single little bit of ground. I refused to give him or what he stood for the benefit of doubt for even a split second. He was wrong and so was everything he stood for. No movement on bigotry. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I was right about Apartheid being wrong. Why should I move even an inch for any form of bigotry? I still won’t. I refuse to compromise just because it might make people feel better. Or because it would be the nice thing to do. I won’t. Not with bigots.

And I do expect people to point out my own bigotry. Trust me, I have a thick skin and I am a big boy – I can handle it. It’s the only way I can ever answer The Question…

Anyway, back to me and my father…

Back when we still spoke we had almost daily fights about Apartheid and the fight against Apartheid. He called those who fought the Apartheid government terrorists – Nelson Mandela to Breyten Breytenbach and everyone from the ANC to COSATU. Yes, we fought like hell. It eventually tore us apart completely. There was a moment when I just gave up. And there was a time that I realized he just taught me the biggest lesson of all. He didn’t know it but it has driven me since…

It was just one of those days again. We were arguing like hell. I can’t even remember what triggered this one. The ANC was already unbanned. It could have been him calling Nelson Mandela racist names again. Or him bitching about anyone who was black and who didn’t agree with his warped view of the world. Actually, you didn’t have to be black to be hated by him. Even Reverand Beyers Naudé was a terrorist in his eyes.  But we were off on our usual little boat ride down the rough river of arguing.

My poor mother was just sitting there half in shock as always. Every now and again trying to calm us down. But she knew it was a losing battle. I was never going to keep quiet. Not anymore. And it gave me a chance to fight him on every issues that I ever thought he was wrong about – from Apartheid to my mother. So once I started I would never let go. And he egged me on by pushing one button after the other. We were predictable…

He was on about the Apartheid National Party giving him a job and me an education. He was shouting at me that the ANC and Nelson Mandela will always be terrorists. I was throwing it back in his face that he must live with the fact that we have won. That it is over. You lost your right to bigotry and murder. No more. We won, you lost. And, to rub it in, that if Nelson Mandela is a terrorist then so is his own son.

It shut him for a little bit. He stared at me for a moment. I could see he was ready to explode. He was about to say something. And then it came. The question. I popped the question without even thinking…

“Tell me dad, what did you do?” (“Sê my pa, what het jy gedoen?”)

It shut him up. He had a puzzled look in his face. Not sure what I meant. That’s when I hit him with the meaning of my question…

“What have you ever done to make this country a better place? Where were you when they were murdering people? Where were you when all the killings were taking place? What did you do to stop all the madness? What did you do to end all the hate and bigotry dad? Where is the love and the peace and the freedom dad? Tell me dad, what have you ever done to make this world a better place? For me. For my sisters and mother. And for the kids we will one day have? Tell me dad, what did you do with your life?”

I only stopped when I saw his face change. I can’t even describe to you what he looked like. That expressions…

It was as if the life was sucked out of him. Like an animal in complete fear of his life and knowing that this is the end. That he has no more to offer. That everything is empty. That all that was left was this shell of a man standing in front of me. The look of a man knowing that everything he has ever done is meaningless and worthless in the eyes of his son. The look in his eyes was of a man knowing his life and what he stood for meant nothing to his son. Nothing. Like him. His life. Meaningless. All in a single expression.

it is difficult… I can’t really describe to you what he looked like…

But I will never forget it. That look in his eyes. It was something that made me shut up. I knew there was nothing more to say. I knew he was not my father anymore. He was… He was… Nothing…

Because his expression also told me something else. It betrayed him. It told me the answer…

Nothing…

I looked at him for a little while and said it one more time softly – almost a whisper, “Tell me dad, what have you ever done?”

His expression also betrayed something else…

It wasn’t just the question that cut him up. It wasn’t just his lack of answers that drained is soul. No. It was also my expression that sucked the life out of him. The expression of someone that felt nothing anymore. The look of someone who knew his father no more. The face of someone who knew a common love no more. The questions from someone who believed in his own blood no more. The end of the blood running through our veins. He knew that my own questions and eyes told him that we were no more…

That was what he saw… And what he heard…

And then I turned around and walked away. Leaving him there to… I don’t know… I just left him there without thinking about what I wanted from him. I didn’t want anything anymore. I didn’t need anything anymore. I got what I wanted…

I will never forget his face. I still see that expression. Daily. It drives me. That single question and that single expression drives me daily. Each and every single day. Because I never want to be asked that question. Never.

Maybe I am over sensitive to what is going on around me. Maybe I love my wife and kids a little more than what I would have if I didn’t know about that question. Maybe I get angry about bigotry and injustice and inequality more than I would have if I didn’t know about that expression. And maybe I see the beauty around me a bit clearer thanks to the face I saw that day. I don’t know. But I know this…

I never want any of my kids to ever ask me that question…

And I never want them to look at me the way I looked at my dad that day…

dont-ask

______________________

Note: I should have added that I did make peace with my dad shortly before he died. I do understand where he came from even though I never agreed with his politics or the way he treated some people. But we did make some form of peace. Do I wish our relationship was different? I am not sure because I would not be who I am without him being who he was. I am at peace with how it all turned out – it could have been better but it could have been worse. I focus on the here and now. The question I asked him doesn’t drive me a in conscious way where I think of them daily. It is only when I think and reflect on what I do that I recognise some of the events that played a key role – and this was one of those key events.

hello

“Hello.”

And then a big smile and a wave.

I just loved it. Just loved it. My oldest daughter used to walk around greeting everyone in the streets. It doesn’t matter who they were. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know them. She just smiled and waved, and said hello. We do that in Africa. Walk around like a bunch of happy-clappies waving and greeting and smiling at people we don’t know.

It made me feel part of something bigger. Just knowing that they are my people. We are one big family. Really. You should see how we greet each other. Not just a little nod of the head or lifting of the eyebrow. No, not us crazy Africans. We go all out. We say hello as if it is our best friend that we haven’t seen for years. The long lost brother. The sister that went to college. The Biblical son returning. “How are you?” “I’m great thanks! And you?” “Great! Cheers!” Crazy Africans.

We have enough shit going on in Africa to enjoy the little things like greeting each other on the streets. Just acknowledging that it’s okay. That we are okay. That we are somehow connected.

It didn’t matter where I was in Africa. I can be walking in the streets in Zimbabwe and people will greet me and I will greet them – with a smile. I’ll sit in a bar in Zambia and someone will walk over and start talking to me. Asking questions about where I’m from and what I’m doing in Lusaka or do I want another beer. “Hey buddy, why don’t you come with us to the Green Frog?” Aah… The Green Frog. Dancing and drinking with people I’ve never met and will most likely never see again. The market in Bamako (Mali) and the guy walking with me to show me around and help me out with the French spoken at the stalls. Guess what. He didn’t want to get paid for it. He just wanted to show me his town and maybe have a beer with me.

It used to drive my wife crazy. I’ll walk into a bar and “check out the scene”. Searching for my next victim… I mean “friend”. Anyone that’s alone. And I’ll start talking to them. It is especially good when it is a foreigner. Just talk and hear their stories. Where they are from, how is their mom and dad, what they are doing over here, what beer do they want. You name it and I’ll talk about it. I’ve heard some great stories thanks to these strangers. And then we’ll say goodbye and never talk again. But I’ll remember them and I hope they’ll remember me. The crazy guy from Africa. They were African for a day or two. One of us. All of us. And it started with a simple “hello”.

And I miss that.

I miss the warmth. The sense of humanity. The acknowledgement of each other. The small moments of happiness. The connection of life and living.

And I miss seeing my daughters do that.

My oldest daughter was just a few years old when we moved over to the UK. She still walked around greeting everyone. Thank God we stayed in a small village of about 2,000 people. They got to know her. The crazy African kid who greets everyone. At first people stared at her and then slowly looked up at us parent, thinking that she must be a “special needs” kid. Some even gave us the “shame, poor you” look. Feeling sorry for these parents with the backward kid. But the little one didn’t care. She just kept on greeting.

And slowly but surely she won them over. The older people were the first to come around to her way of thinking. They loved seeing her greeting and waving at them. Shocked at first and then just a huge smile thanks to this skinny little girl with the big eyes and even bigger smile. And the looks they gave us parents – that was just all that was needed for us to know that we were okay as parents. They would look at us and greet us as well. With a big smile and a thank you in their eyes. And sometimes a little “What a nice little girl” comment to go with that.

My youngest one – born in the UK with the American accent (but South African passport)? Well, I don’t know if it is in our blood. But she greets people. She’ll stop to talk to people as we walk to the park. Especially if they have a baby or a dog. “Isn’t she cute dad?” Me? “Hi, sorry about that. She just loves babies.”

When did I lose my “hello”?

I really can’t say. I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it was the continuous looks I got in the UK. Or the stares in the US. Maybe I started switching off after too many blank returns and rejections. But I don’t really greet strangers anymore. And I miss that.

We don’t accept peple for who they are anymore. We are too scared. Scared shitless. We reject people for who we think they might be.

I am not crazy. I am not a rapist. I am not a child molester. I am not a sex offender. I am not a maniac. I am not a murderer. I’m not a mugger. I am just me. Living a life and trying to be as good as what I can be. I live Ubuntu. But Ubuntu isn’t always around.

Must I wear a banner around my neck to say who I am not?

I see little kids and sad grown-ups around me. All I want to do is stop for a minute and ask them how they are. Maybe give the little one a hug and a kiss. Tell them that the world will be okay. Just go and be a kid and enjoy going down the slide for a while. Swing low and swing high. Go around and around on the merry-go-round. It a bit like life. But without the worries that go with it.

But I can’t. Because of others.

I have to pick my battles. Be friendly to the person behind the counter at Honey Farms. Smile at the girl in Starbucks. At a push, talk to the person squashed in next to me when the train is packed like sardines. Hug a client I got to know really well. Or kiss a friend I haven’t seen for a while. On the cheek, of course. Oh so European.

What have we done? What the fuck have we done? To this world and to our lives?

Why can’t we even stop and talk anymore? Or just greet each other?

I know some things are cultural. Where I come from we kiss on the lips just to say hello. Men and women. Okay, more women than men. But I kiss my cousins on the lips when I see them. Men and women. I kissed my father on the lips even though we hardly spoke. And my brother. And my brother-in-laws. Even my ex brother-in-law. I kiss my best friends. On the lips. It’s just a hello.

I don’t want anything more from them. I just want to feel the link. That we are one. That we love each other. In a different way than when I kiss my wife. But so many times I just want to kiss the person I am friends with. Say hello in the way I know best because it means I open myself to my most vulnerable self. Take my lips. Our eyes will be close for a minute and the connection is confirmed. Just a kiss hello.

But I can’t. We can’t. It doesn’t fit in with our culture. At best I can get a hug. Or a kiss on the cheek. And I can live with that. It is easier because I know them already. We are already friends. There is already some connection. And with time it will grow. I hope.

But I know I miss my hello. When talking to strangers.

I have become one of those who worry about my kids. Not like when I was young. I could play in the streets and talk to strangers. But not today. Not in the life we live and the craziness that goes around.

Even that little girl in the blue house. I gave her hugs and ruffled her hair. But I always had to check who was looking. Just to make sure they don’t think anything funny was going on. She was just a little girl. Needing a hug. And I had to check that no one thought anything else.

How did we become like this?

We can say it is because of all the weirdos out there. The rapists and the child abusers and stealers of kids. I know they are out there. But somewhere along the line we allowed them to win. We allowed them to define who we are. And how we say hello.

How did the hello start to hurt us? How did the hello become a way to divide us? How did the hello move from love to scare?

I struggle with this every single day. How do you bring up your child to love everyone and still know about the danger out there? I don’t know. We all play it safe. We tell them not to say hello. Not to talk to strangers. Not to trust people they don’t know. Not to just say hello to everyone.

And slowly but surely we kill ourselves as we kill the hello inside our kids.

Talking to strangers.

How did we become the strangers?

20070315093644_stranger_fog

firebucket1

Sorry about being so quiet over the last few days. I haven’t been feeling too well. That’s why I have this heading today…

Do any of you watch Monty Python? More specifically their movie The Meaning Of Life? I used to love them. Actually, I still love them. I met John Cleese once! But that is for another day. Do you remember the scene in The Meaning of Life where this huge guy called Mr Creosote is in the French restaurant eating? I mean really huge. Larger than life in so many ways. Anyway, the waiter asks him how he feels. Actually, here is the sketch:

Maitre d’: Ah, good afternoon, sir; and how are we today?

Mr Creosote: Better.

Maitre d’: Better?

Mr Creosote: Better get a bucket – I’m gonna throw up.

Well, that’s how I have been feeling the last few days. But I am better now. Not “better”, really better…

Oddly enough it’s only the third time that I have ever asked my wife to “better get a bucket”. Really surprising if you know my willingness to try anything at least once – mopane worms, horse steak, kapenta nibbles, frog legs, “mystery” meat of various looks and flavors. You name it and I’ll try it at least once. Only thing I will never eat again? Cabbage.

Anyway, the “better get a bucket” scenes follow the story of my life. At least the signs that I am getting old. Let’s go through my three times of “better get a bucket” experiences.

First time was at my bachelor party. Big surprise hey? Actually, it was a cool party. I have some weird and wonderful friends so I knew it would be safer to have it somewhere where I would be safe. Just in case they decide to put me in a cast and ship me off on some train to nowhere. You don’t know my friends… They’ll do stuff like that.

So I decided to have it at my regular watering hole. De Akker. My home away from home. Man, I have stories about that place for you… But that is also for another day. Oh the memories… Jose, still the owner today, played soccer with me and I knew I could trust him. At least trust that he would not allow me to be carried away into the night and never to be seen again. Not because he was worried about me. More that he (and many others) was sh*t scared of what my (then future) wife would do to them.

The evening started off well. I made a few rules. Only whiskey (John Daniels – what you call Jack Daniels if you are really good friends), beer and Tequila! Anything else would get me… hum… better get a bucket… So I had a few shots and a few beers. It was going very well. All according to plan. And then bloody Christie had to do his Christie rules. Christie was a legend in my town. A huge guy. And I mean HUGE! Always had this XXXX large multi-colored jersey on (sweater for the Americans). He taught politics at the local university – that’s where we met – we both studied and taught politics there. He was a few years ahead of me though. In many ways. Anyway… He got up and shouted in a booming voice, “Listen everyone! It’s his bachelor party and you all better buy him a drink! Tequila, whiskey or beer! Now!” And no one argues with Christie. No one. Not even me. But it was a Saturday night and the place was packed. And everyone bought a bloody drink…

Now, I knew I had certain limits. I have never been a heavy drinker. But I’ve had my fair share at university. And this was the time to show my metal. But 18 tequilas lined up? Come on people! And a few beers and a few whiskeys? I knew I wasn’t going to make it through this night. Not without a trusty bucket.

I lost count somewhere along the way. Count of everything. I have no clue how I made it back to our flat. But I wasn’t feeling well. In all honesty, I never get physically ill from alcohol. I feel bad and might have a huge hang-over the next day, but never physical ill. But I knew that I might just drive that lorry with the white steering wheel later that night…

And that was where my (future) wife found me. I still wasn’t sick, but I felt awful. And she walked in, looked at me driving the truck and asked, “How are you feeling?” I looked at her and had no clue who she was. No idea! A little wet face cloth was given and I got up to lie on the couch for a while… And she was brilliant with me. She never saw me like that before. And she was great when I asked softly, “Better get a bucket…”

Haha! Surprise, surprise. I never actually used the bucket that night. The next day I felt like a truck hit me and only had some grape juice at the wedding we had to attend (not ours). But that was the first time I asked for it. I was young and still in top shape. The next time it happened I was a little bit older…

De Akker again many years later. We went there for a drink with a friend. All I had was one beer, one whiskey and one tequila. Nothing too heavy. Stretched over a few hours. But I started feeling ill very early on. Very ill. We took our friend home. I stopped the car and said good night. And then I opened the car door and leaned out to be sick. Right there in front of their home. Needless to say I haven’t lived that one down yet. I am reminded of my sorry state whenever they get the chance to mention it. Me barking like an Alsatian in the middle of the night at the cars driving past… Sorry about that. That’s just how it happened.

Again I had to say “better get a bucket” when we got home. I wasn’t feeling well. And this time I needed the bucket…

The reason for this? Bloody antibiotics. No one told me that I couldn’t drink while on antibiotics… My age was catching up to me. I was at the age where I needed antibiotics every now and again for a major middle ear infection I kept on getting. From swimming to much. Yeah… Surfing was becoming a hazard to my health and my ability to handle my drinks…

And this time? Why did I say “better get a bucket” this time? Popcorn. Bloody stupid popcorn…

We went to watch the new Bond movie on Saturday and I had some popcorn. Of course I had to go all American and decided to add some of that buttery stuff on my popcorn. I gulped down the popcorn during the movie and fell slightly ill afterwards. But I was still okay. I should have known better. I am not used to junk food. We eat healthy stuff at home. I am not a health freak, but I like home cooked food – no crap and no deep fried stuff thank you. My delicate African system can’t handle the rich food over here…

But that wasn’t what made me call for the bucket. No. It’s because I am bloody stupid. That’s why I needed the bucket the next day…

We took the girls to the movies the next day to go and watch the new Madagascar movie. It was cool – hey, it was all about Africa! Anyway… I had more popcorn. With that buttery stuff on it. Even more than the day before. Yes, I didn’t learn from the warning signals of the day before. And this time I really felt like sh*t when we got home. I had to lie down for a little bit. My lovely suffering wife gave me some stuff to “settle” my stomach. And then asked the question… And my answer? “Better get a bucket.”

I didn’t need it in the end. I was fine after a few hours of sleep and some more medicine and ginger ale to “settle my stomach”. But I knew… I just knew… Old age is starting to catch up with me.

Gone are the days of eating a whole pizza on my own and not even blinking. Or not putting on any weight if I eat until my shoulder hurts. (That’s the sign that I have eaten too much.) No more drinking as much as I can. One half of a beer and that’s it really. That little piece of fat that is so nice and crispy on the meat that just came off the braai? No more…

I am getting older. Some call it mature. Yeah right… Better get a bucket. I think I might be sick…

popcorn

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