Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Have Changed (book)

Life is no sprint. It's a marathon - a long, long, long-distance race over hills and through valleys, sometimes even stops along the way, and it's how you run that marathon, not how soon you get to the finish line, that matters. Because there really is no finish line. As long as you live, there's another hill, another valley.
- Jesse Owens (with Paul Neimark), I Have Changed (1972)

cliché (n.) an overused word that's usage is more cliché than whatever it is that's being called cliché. - Urban Dictionary
Jesse Owens achieved signal triumph at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and has gained immortality not merely because of his athletic ability, but as a symbol of independent spirit triumphing over totalitarianism. The fact that he made his mark as one of African descent, championing over Hitler's "Aryan race" while inspiring is tarnished by the fact that he returned to an America whose entrenched racism was, to put it best, milder than Hitler's.

But not much. Not if you were black. You could still be murdered because of your ethnic heritage, and if not merely live your life as a second or third class citizen. In America.

However, Jesse was a conservative man in the better sense, who truly believed in success based on achievement, and that there were far too many who spent time carping about disenfranchisement without actually doing anything about, or worse, working to tear down the system without striving to create anything better in its place.

In 1970 the first book Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man was published, credited to Jesse Owens with Paul Neimark. In this book (which I have not read) Owens holds forth on the civil rights era, and his disdain for activist and extremists such as the Black Panthers. American blacks had received a great deal of equality through LBJ's civil rights legislation, and these agitators were merely violent separatists taking advantage of the new social climate.

He was surprised by the reaction the book received, apparently. He riled those African-Americans close to him he mistakenly believed as he did, and garnered derision from whites who he knew believed as he did, but mistaken believed also respected him. Two years later he released I Have Changed (which I just finished) which seeks to repudiate this previous work.

It's all a little confusing and disheartening. I had picked this one up because I wanted to know him, and how he thinks, and was taken by the title -- I never found Blackthink in the library catalog, or I surely would have picked that up, too.

The book is challenging to read, like running a marathon. There isn't a life event Jesse Owens (with Paul Neimark) can't turn into an athletic metaphor.

Also, in this book he refers numerous times to his "confrontation with Hitler". He sounds as though he has so altered history in his own mind that he once came face to face with this man and bested him. At a different time in his life, Owens reported that Hitler smiled and waved at him.

But what was truly challenging was listening to this man, this great man, who worked every day to make a living based on his youthful exploits, dither and twist in his beliefs. I feel I will read Blackthink and disagree with him about everything, but at least I would know where he stands. This book would have been better titled I Am Changing, as he moves into the final stage of life in the process of opening his mind to different ideas.

Temperature: 34°
Climate: cool, bright, clear & dry
Distance: 4.25 miles

Ooh, ah ... chafing. This new jockstrap seriously sucks. One functioning supporter with serious anger management issues, and two that sag like I may as well be wearing a diaper. I will need to take a trip to the sporting goods store as soon as possible. Happy holidays.

Help I'm Alive Playlist
I Feel It All * - Feist
Infinity Guitars * - Sleigh Bells
Start a War - The National
Underneath the Sycamore - Death Cab for Cutie
Letters from the Sky - Civil Twilight
White Sky - Vampire Weekend
Dark Paradise - Lana Del Rey
Song For No One - Miike Snow
On Melancholy Hill - Gorillaz
Flathead - The Fratellis
Spotlight (Twilight Mix) - Mute Math

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