In his book Writings on the Wall, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says that 90% of all Americans are sports fans. I am not sure what other categories I might be in the 10% of, but for sure I am in the not a sports fan 10% category. I think of dear friends who watch tennis with total pleasure, who are hockey or basketball fans, who are glued to the TV during the Olympics. I watch the Olympic opening and reruns of ice skating, skiing, gymnastics, some others. But watching the competition in the moment gives me nerves. I am so anxious for the competitors. This is their LIFE. For years, every moment has been focused on the next three minutes. Lordy, the pressure. Too much by far.
So, it might seem a bit surprising that while in Michigan last week I attended, with pretty close to 2,500 others, a 45 minute interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and have greedily soaked up his book Writings on the Wall. I agree with all he has to say. He deserves to be heard. Not only is he naming the problems the US is currently experiencing, he has solutions. He is easy to understand. It is a quick read book.
I do not read non-fiction. I only write non-fiction. I only read fiction. A few exceptions I must admit. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic being one exception and Abdul-Jabbar’s another. I like both of these books because they make sense to me and I agree with them. In my eyes, that makes them smart and me wise!!
Abdul-Jabbar writes about aging (he is 70), racism, sexism, poverty, politics, religion, and he has advice for Generation Z as he calls our youth. Two significant things I read that stick with me strongly: we absolutely must provide education and jobs for the poor if we want anything to change politically in the US. The poor are not voting. Lack of education and self-esteem have a lot to do with their not valuing, understanding or trusting the importance of going to the polls and having their voice heard.
Poverty in the US is rampant. Seniors, children, African-Americans, Latinos, families with a single parent (usually a mother), do not have enough food, live in small unsatisfactory dwellings, and have no incentive or energy to seek education or search for jobs that are highly unlikely to be available anyway. Not the American Dream I believed in as a child growing up in the United States. The greatest country in the world, my father taught me with pride. And so he should……for him it was. Today that is sadly changing for far too many people.
The second thing that stands out for me at the moment that Abdul-Jabbar says in Writings on the Wall is that until women are truly equal there will not be equality in our world. Women come in all races, classes, religions, abilities, genders, ages. The word feminist must no longer be viewed as a pejorative word. It does not need nor is it intended to threaten men. It is simply about equalizing all beings. To ridicule a man who calls himself a feminist is sexism. It clearly says the word feminine or anything with female in it is less than.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary says of the word feminist: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” It says equal, not preferential as some people fear. Nothing about women have to go out of the home to be valued. Nothing about men will be overlooked and women be given their jobs. Equal. Everybody. To quote Abdul-Jabbar:”The simple truth is that no one is free unless everyone is free, because permitting any prejudice encourages all prejudice.”
If you had asked me three weeks ago if I believed a hugely honoured, highly respected, and gifted basket ball star had a message of value for me, I would have been way too quick to say no. I am ashamed of myself.
My no may have been racist. It certainly had to do with my lack of trust and value in athletes. Which surprises me because I frequently say that in my next life I want to be athletic. I long for the strength and prowess of those who understand, work, and play at sports. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has given me an incredibly valuable gift: the gift of looking deep inside and recognizing my own bias and unfairness. So very many people who have so very much to teach me and are smart so I can continue to be wise.
I am blessed.
I’m preparing to take my place. I don’t know where that place is, what it will feel like or when I will be there. But I know there is a place for me and I am coming…..
Hugs and love always, Nancy