Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Donald Sterling, Race, and Why I'm Still Asking Questions

Again.  It's happened again.  I suppose I shouldn't be shocked by this latest story, however I find myself walking around the house saying, "Hold on a minute.  What about....?" as I question the aspects of this story the media dare not touch.  So let me get this straight - Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers and a man with a noted history of racist practices asks, of his 'girlfriend' in a 'private' conversation, if she needs to advertise the fact that she is hanging out with black people.  Did I get that right?  Am I also correct in assuming that the one little snippet we heard on the news (repeated ad nauseum) is only a portion of the conversation?  I think we can all agree the media would NEVER play just a portion of such an occurrence that might be out of context, right?   Now, before you crucify me for saying this was, in fact, out of context or that there could be a context where this was in any way right, please understand that I'm not saying that at all.  I'm pointing out that our friends in the media tend to edit as they will whether it's the 'whole story' or not.  Too, I want to state in bold print - I do not believe in racism, racist comments, or actions in any way, shape or form.  What I am trying to state is that there are other factors to this story that seem to have been overlooked...and we should be greatly concerned.  As a matter of fact, a good friend posted an article earlier today written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  The sentiments and questions he asks, and the overall tone of the article, struck me as these were very much the same feelings and questions I had.  Basically, he points out that, while we are angry, there are many people and many reasons for the anger - not just Donald Sterling and his racist comments.  Where to begin?  As Kareem stated, I have a list.

Let's start with the girlfriend.  You know, the one that is now seen on roller skates with a visor pulled down to cover her face.  Wait a minute, she had no problem showing her face in any pictures that are being broadcast nationally every hour, on the hour, on every network.  My first thought, after hearing the comments Sterling made and seeing the vast age difference between the two was, "Oh, she set him up to bring him down."  Something about a 'woman scorned' perhaps?  Who knows?  Not my business and doesn't affect my life one iota.  Still, let's be serious - do we really think she saw HIM and thought, "Wow, what a hottie!  I have to have him!"  Uh, no.  Seriously, we're all adults here so let's call it what it was - he lavished her with gifts & cash, while she stayed with him for....well, the gifts & cash.  I could be wrong of hands - who thinks I hit the nail on the head?  Put your hand down.  It was a rhetorical question.  

So, as Kareem said in his piece, "She was like a sexy nanny playing 'Pin the Fried Chicken on the Sambo'.She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee."  He's right, of course.  And the news media loved it.  They had another instance that they could put on national news and bring down another white elitist for being a racist.  Are we really going to act like this episode is what should be the big deal, though?  Why weren't people outraged years ago when he paid almost $3 Million to settle a suit involving his discrimination against blacks & hispanics?  A picture of his girlfriend and his asking if she had to advertise she was friends with blacks is what brought him down?  THAT is what is getting Al Sharpton's panties in a twist? are a fews other things worth noting - The NAACP cancelled the award they were going to give him on May 15th.  Though we all know that part, what wasn't mentioned frequently, if at all, was that this organization, despite having full knowledge of his previous discriminatory acts, accepted multiple grants from the Donald Sterling Foundation, while giving him several, "Image awards," over the years.  NOW, we're outraged?  I'll bet if I look up the word 'Hypocrite'.......

My point is this - Sterling was wrong and, apparently, a habitual racist.  Why, 8 years after his massive lawsuit, are we letting THESE comments bring him down?  Why was he allowed to own the team then when, without nary a whisper from the press, he said, "black people smell and they attract vermin?"  I don't remember it being a story.  Did I miss something?  Seriously, in one day this guy received a lifetime ban from the NBA and has to sell his team (presumably) because he asked his girlfriend in a private conversation if she had to be seen with, and promote that she is friends with, blacks?  Wow, did WE miss the bus on the first go-round.

My other point is this - if Sterling has to play by the rules, EVERYONE has to play by the rules.  No longer should people of ANY race be allowed to say discriminatory things.  Racism will never end because the playing field isn't level.  As long as it is okay for people of other races to 'cry foul' when a white person says something, it won't end.  As long as, "I was only joking," is allowed to be uttered and accepted when someone of a different race makes a racial slur, it won't end.  It happens, folks.  To deny that is to be...well, in denial.  If we want change, we have to make the change for all.  I'd like to say that now is that time.  Sadly, that time came long ago.....and we're still trying to get everyone on the same page.

Until next time................

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Year Later...And Learning To Live

Today, March 10th, 2014, marks the first anniversary of my wife's death.  How strange it feels to even write that.  I will say, however, that the title bears witness to where life has taken me these past 12 months and how her passing taught me, and teaches me still, how to live.  I've learned much, experienced even more, and have come to accept that things do, in fact, happen for a reason.  I think it's safe to say I was not prepared for this in any way.  Who is?  Did I think that I'd bear the title of 'widower' before I was firmly in my 50's? No way...though I know there are those, close friends included, that have experienced it at a younger age than I.  Yes, this 'death & dying' thing is an ugly, nasty, cruel, mean villain, however I've also come to fully understand that life is more how we react to our circumstances than the circumstance themselves.

When I wrote a year ago, I said that I had no idea where life would lead me, though I knew I did not want to waste any time.  Doing what?  I had, and at times still have, no idea.  I came to realize, maybe somewhat subconsciously, that when an opportunity presented itself, I was taking it.  When the annual call came to spend time with friends going to a NASCAR race, I took it without question.  When friends suggested that they were going zip-lining and might I want to tag along and try it, the answer was a certain, "I'm in," almost before they finished the question.  When the time came to go to Tuscaloosa on Saturdays to watch the Crimson Tide, know that was going to happen.  Most importantly, when the opportunity to spend time with friends or family presents itself, I am there.

In all fairness, I stopped writing a moment ago (a pause indiscernible to you reading this, I realize) to ask myself what I am doing.  What I thought might be a long, poignant post....will not be.  I can abridge this and, today at least, feel I need to.  So what do I have to write about (rather than my usual rambling)?  It's a few simple truths I've learned - not Mom's Rules for Living, mind you, but it's what I've gleaned.

  • Family & friends are the most important things in the world.  These relationships should be cherished, loved, and nurtured.  Make time for them.
  • Everyone grieves at their own pace.  I, personally, had issues with this and was frozen with indecision at times.  I now realize you get to choose and decide what and when is right to move forward.  This is YOUR journey - no one else has to walk your path and they do not know what your life is like.  To say they do is ludicrous.
  • Do your job, do it well, but do not get lost in it.  Again, for me it was easier said than done.  it was my comfort zone and provided normalcy when I needed it.  That, and the people at work are family so it was easy to migrate to 'that place' at times.
  • Life is short - play hard.  Okay, in fairness, this is nothing more than reiterating the fact that, when presented with an opportunity to try something new, different, or fun, take the chance.  Not only will it keep you occupied, but you might just find something you really enjoy, as well as learn something.
  • Be gentle with others.  Okay, now I'm sounding like a Hallmark card, but hear me out.  Nothing makes you feel better than offering help to the elderly, holding a door for someone, picking up dropped packages, etc.  Kneeling down to talk with a child or to make them smile?  It's a feeling like no other.  Momma taught you to do good deeds - do them.
  • Act a little crazy and laugh at yourself.  In light of what happened, I can tell you it gives you a different perspective.  Things you might have worried about previously, don't seem that significant.  Hey, listen, I'm always going to be the guy that trips over that crack in the sidewalk, then jumps up to see if anyone saw me.  Always.  It's just that now, I've learned to get up and see if anyone saw me....then view them as an audience.  I don't pirouette yet, but why not, right?
  • Plan and prepare - PLEASE!  I said it last year and will again - make sure you have a will and that your beneficiaries are updated.  One thing many of you do upon seeing me now is either A) tell me how you've planned, or B) tell me how you're going to plan.  Do it.  Today.  Trust me, your family and loved ones will be glad you did.  
  • Don't let loss make you fear losing again.  Okay, even I read that several times to make sure it sounded right and made sense.  I'm pretty sure one of the 'Grammar Gurus' will point it out if I erred, however an explanation might help.  Just because your spouse/significant other died, you shouldn't be frozen with fear that you'll experience that pain again.  Because here's the harsh reality - you will.  No matter what happens, we are all going to experience this at some point.  Refer back to earlier points - live, laugh, and love.  You'll be glad you did.
These are but a few, albeit most important, of the lessons and realizations I've had in the past year.  I said it before and will share it again - I was blessed to have had Sharon in my life at all.  To love her, and be loved by her, was something I will carry with me always and will smile with every memory.  You've all taught me, though, that life goes on and this was a chapter in the book, not the end of the story.  There are many....or several, at least...chapters yet to be written, I hope.  I'm counting on many of you to take an active part in those chapters as well.  Thank you for being the amazing friends and family you've been, and for the love, caring, and kindness you've shown me.  I truly do not feel worthy, however I promise to do my best to show you, through actions, how grateful I truly am for all of you.  You've helped me learn what it is to truly live again.

Until next time.............

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Dying Country, Its Beliefs...And Our Apologies to Our Children

Many of you reading this know that, lately anyway, it takes something drastic for me to write.  Something that is so incredibly appalling or makes no sense to me whatsoever.  Something that, I'm fairly certain, will make most of you want to scream.  Now is such a time and refers to the insanity gripping our nation.  I know there are probably many of you already saying, "Gee, don't you think you ought to be more specific?"  True, there are many things happening right now that would make people think the situation is dire.  It is.  More specifically, though, I am referring to the situation in Morgan Hill, CA, a suburb of San Jose.  The events that took place at Live Oak High School have outraged many and have me, at least, wondering where our common sense has gone.  When did we 'sell out' and why?  Before going there, however, let's recap the story in case you haven't heard it.

Live Oak High School, from what I've read, seems to be an ethnically-diverse school.  That certainly doesn't make it different from most schools these days.  As a matter of fact, in the not-too-distant future, whites will be in the minority in the United States.  I get it.  Still, I'm not sure that our forefathers imagined this 'melting pot' to be as divisive as it is...or will be.  So, American students at Live Oak decided to wear American flag t-shirts to school during the Cinco de Mayo Mexican heritage celebration last year.  These students were ordered by the school administration to either turn the shirts inside out or were sent home from school that day.  Let me say that again - American students, wearing shirts that represented the United States flag, were ordered to either remove the shirts or leave school.  This is the same flag that, when parading past the reviewing stands in the Olympics, will not be lowered for ANY country in the world.  It simply isn't done.  In this case, however, school officials expressed concerns about racial violence based on previous problems between white and Latino students.

The case quickly gained national notoriety when the American Freedom Law Center, as well as other similar organizations, joined the cause and sued the school district.  They lost.  Yes, you read that correctly - they lost in court.  Not to worry, though, as our legal system has that most wonderful option - an appeal process - that will allow a higher court to review and rule on the case.  Thursday of this week, February 27th, 2014, the ruling was handed down by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.  In their view, the school district acted appropriately when they made the students remove the shirts or leave school.  Again, based on past instances of racial violence, the school thought it best to send students home.  This ruling, handed down by a unanimous 3-judge panel, can also be appealed by an 11-judge panel.  Already, the lawyers are planning such an appeal.  Okay, so there are the facts of the case.'s my turn.

Are you kidding me???  How dare you trample the right of our citizens and The Constitution?  Before anyone starts to argue, hear me out and let me summarize what I've said above, as stated by one of the American students lawyers - "The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled and upheld the rights of Mexican students celebrating the holiday of another country over US students proudly supporting THIS country."  Let me also say that I, as well as many of the people I know, are certainly glad to celebrate the holiday along with our Mexican friends.  Should it ever come to violence if a student wants to wear an American flag?  Certainly not.  If the students of Mexican heritage find that offensive, let's deal with that. the name of all that is precious and right, WHY do we have to keep concerning ourselves over not wanting to hurt the feelings of other nationalities here at home?  This is the United States of America.  I can understand if we were in Mexico...or France, or Spain, or Germany or.....the list goes on.  I could understand why we'd have to be respectful of their heritage and customs.  This isn't, however, any of those countries.  Again, lest anyone think I (those that know me, know better) am a bigot or racist, let me reiterate my personal stance - I am fine living in a mutually-respectful environment where we all can, and do, get along and live in harmony.  Let's be honest, though - if there were previous problems and the school district feared it happening again, they made this decision so that the Mexican students would not be offended and start any racial violence.  

Here is my ultimate question - when does it end?  When do we start concerning ourselves with how Americans feel rather than foreigners?  We, as Americans, have been told we need to be tolerant.  In actuality, it is demanded that we be tolerant.  There are ongoing issues and legal cases involving those of Middle Eastern descent.  My message to those folks is quite simple, and I will say what many think - People of your nationality hijacked several planes for the sole purpose of killing Americans on our home soil.  Those same people make it known, daily, that the only good American is a dead American.  I know I am generalizing, however this is America - please do not act incredulous when we feel this way.  As a matter of fact, if it is so horrible living here, there are options, though I assume there is a reason you are here and not in your country.  Please, too, acknowledge that fact that if this were in a Middle Eastern country, there is absolutely NO WAY we would be given the same considerations you are being given by our government.  Do you seriously think those governments and courts would side with an American or rule that their own people were discriminating against us.  If you say anything but, "Hardly," I will call you a liar.

The same goes for this situation, so let me ask a different way (as I am a big fan of analogies) - If we were in Mexico in July and decided we wanted to celebrate the 4th of July, do you think Mexican school officials would make Mexican students remover THEIR Mexican flag t-shirts?  How do you think it would be accepted if the American students resorted to violence?  Would they send them home and consider the rights of American students over Mexican students.  Again, if the answer is anything other than, "Absolutely not," I will say you're either lying or naive.  It would not happen.  So what do we, as white Americans, have to do get the same consideration guaranteed by the Constitution, as those living here from a foreign country.  Better yet, what do we, as white Americans, have to do to get the same consideration as any minority?  Is violence the answer when someone disagrees with our own personal beliefs?  it seems to work with others so why not us?

Perhaps we need to start a revolution, again, to take back our country.  Our elected officials are overly consumed with bowing to the demands of these groups, while neglecting the needs of their fellow Americans.  At times like this, I think how fortunate I am to be older as I will, eventually, not have this as a concern.  I worry, though, for our next generation.  Something has to be done and, I believe, it has to start soon before we give away our identity as a nation.  Perhaps revolt is needed.  Unless we give in to the demands of these groups, there is little peace anyway, so what remains?  How can this change?  I really have no answer other than reevaluating our (apparently) outdated ideas on how we allow immigrants into the country and what we give them that costs us much.  I've said it before - our forefathers came to this country and were expected to learn OUR ways, OUR language, OUR heritage.  I can almost say, without hesitation, that they never envisioned a world where we had to, "Press 1 for English."  We need help and we need it now.  Our government, as evidenced above, MUST start using common sense and punish the offenders, not those that might fan the flames of violence simply by being themselves.  I only hope we can find our common sense before our children live in a country we do not recognize and whose beliefs and values have been trampled all in the name of not offending our 'guests'.

Until next time...............

Saturday, January 4, 2014

An Open Letter of Apology as a Crimson Tide Fan

I hate that I even have to write this.  I guess I should have seen it coming but, still, I hoped it wouldn't be necessary.  I've spent a few days reading countless posts online - editorials, Facebook, etc - and feel it necessary, for myself anyway, to write and apologize.  I think the culmination of all of this was when a 'fan' launched herself over two rows of Oklahoma fans to get to one that was taunting her.  Actually, I'm not sure it wasn't the other way around, though I will assume it was mutual.  We were at the game and, as usual, alcohol played a part in the melee.  Does that make it right?  Of course not.  Was it in any way justified?  Never.  It was, as I said, the culmination of a season in which some of the Alabama fans consider it their birthright to win every game.

As many of you know, my daughter will be attending the University of Alabama next fall.  I was ecstatic and elated at the news.  I have been one of the Crimson Tide faithful for years and was extremely proud of the fact that she will be attending her 'dream school'.  One of the things that I have always admired about the fans at Alabama is the reputation that preceded them.  I remember a few years ago when the rivalry with Penn State was renewed.  It was to be a home & away series - once in Tuscaloosa, then in State College, PA - when Joe Paterno would coach against Nick Saban.  It was a bit of the 'changing of the guard' in some ways.  Joe Paterno, winningest coach in NCAA history (don't get me started on the NCAA stripping him of the wins) against Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.  At that point, Coach Saban was one of two coaches with championships at two different schools.  That club consists of Saban and Bear Bryant, Alabama's other beloved legend.  When Penn State and their fans came to town, Alabama fans had only recently won their first championship in 17 years,  There had been a long drought and they were proud without being arrogant.  Penn State fans went home with stories of 'southern hospitality' and kindness shown them in Tuscaloosa.  The following year when we went to Penn State, I recall vividly their fans showing us great kindness.  I remember friends telling other PSU fans, "Let's show them the same good time they showed us last year."  It was a great experience tailgating and spending time with the majority of the fans (as I'm sure they experienced the previous year), and they were nothing if not the most gracious of hosts.  We even spoke of the other schools that are not as gracious.  They shared their Big 10 stories and we shared the SEC stories.  It was a camaraderie that left us feeling good and, more importantly, I recall feeling humble as Alabama was victorious.  Both fan bases left the stadium that day feeling good about the experience, acknowledging both the victory and the defeat, yet laughing together afterward.  Now, sadly, I fear we have become one of 'those schools' that we discussed that day.

Winning will do that, I suppose.  When you win as much as Alabama has recently, many come to expect (and almost demand) a victory in every game.  To the other Crimson Tide fans, I have to share this harsh reality  - there will always be a winner and a loser as we all understand the cliche, "You can't win 'em all."  Oh, yeah, you can certainly try.  As a matter of fact, that's why they play the games.  We'd better try to win them all, but the sad fact is it just won't happen.  Period.  Unfortunately, some people not only take losing personally, they become violent and vindictive.  This is the part I dread writing as it brings back unpleasant and unpopular memories.  We all remember Harvey Updyke poisoning Auburn's beloved oak trees.  Lest any of you think, "What's the big deal?  They were only trees," you have to understand what they meant to Auburn and their traditions.  This would be like toppling the statue of Bear Bryant in Tuscaloosa or taking a sledgehammer to the Nittany Lion Statue at Penn State. The sad fact is that this man brazenly called in to a radio talk show and admitted he did it.  There is also video evidence of the woman at the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma a few days ago engaging the OU fans, being pulled away, then returning and literally jumping OVER other fans to get to the person that was arguing with her.  Her name is Michelle Pritchett and she is now trying to justify what she did.  Even with the video of her jumping the OU fan, she wants us to believe she did it because her son was being taunted and challenged to fight.  Never mind that there are other pictures of her taunting earlier - she wants to say that, "earlier, these OU fans were throwing bottles in the stands because they were drunk."  Michelle, I was at this game and many others - I can promise you that, had that happened, they would have been removed far earlier.  You were visibly intoxicated and are now trying to lie your way out of this.  You come from a town with a population of 258, I believe, and you own a photography business.  Something like this cannot be good for business, can it?  Neither can lying, nor can it be for the fan base at a school with proud traditions.  You are an embarrassment to your family, your children, and the school that, honestly does not need you as a 'fan'.  Moreover, and I hope I speak for many when I say, we don't WANT you as a fan.

As I was writing this, I had an exchange on FB with a few friends from work - one in particular that is an Auburn alum.  After this year's Iron Bowl when Alabama played Auburn (oh, please, you ALL know which game it was.  Think "for a second."), there was a shooting here in Birmingham where, allegedly, a woman shot another, saying they, "weren't real Alabama fans because they weren't upset enough about Alabama losing."  That was where the story stopped when it went out to the national media.  Sensationalism sells and, living in Birmingham, we know there is more to the story as it was reported locally.  Yes, that exchange took place, however the women then left the party and, as the first woman (the eventual shooter) tried to drive away, her car was blocked in by the second woman.  She then got out of the car, yelled for the victim to move and, when she did not do it quickly enough, the shooter shot several times, killing her.  Yes, they were at a party for the game, and yes, there was an argument about the game.  There was also alcohol involved and this is in an apartment complex that is known for violence and shootings.  So, was it related to the football game?  It would be easy to help paint Alabama fans are stone-cold killers when they lose by relating this story, however (and many will believe what they want anyway) I think this was more than a bit unfair.  Paul Harvey would have had a good time telling 'the rest of the story'.  The problem, though, is that there are the Harvey Updykes and Michelle Pritchetts in this world whose actions automatically make the shooting a very real & believable story.  The next step, and what we see happening now, is that we all get lumped into that category.  I, for one, have had enough.  To those that feel the need to act this way - we don't want you as fans.  You are classless and poor sports.  Take it somewhere else.

As for the Sugar Bowl game specifically, let me point out to Tide fans that want to complain - Alabama lost.  They got beat by a better-prepared team.  Are you seriously going to blame Oklahoma for AJ McCarron overthrowing his receivers by 10-15 yards?  Are you going to be upset because the Oklahoma freshman quarterback was deadly accurate with his passes and their offense moved at a pace Alabama couldn't defend?  Nick Saban has freely admitted he doesn't like the 'hurry-up, no huddle' offense.  Want to know why?  They haven't figured out how to, as one reporter put it, 'kill it' yet.  They cannot, with their detailed defensive schemes, defend against this style of play.  They will eventually, but for now, you cannot blame Oklahoma or their fans.  Were we all frustrated?  Hell yes!  Did I punch anyone or jump someone?  No, we cheered more loudly and supported the team.  That's what fans do.  Let me ask this, too - you wanted Mal Moore to go find you a coach that would restore the winning ways here.  You'd do almost anything to get 'that guy'.  We got him.  In the beginning, Nick Saban challenged all of us, players and fans alike, to do our part to restore this proud program to where we expect it to be.  We all bought in and made our promises.  We wanted a coach that would avoid NCAA infractions and ensure compliance.  We all know the knot we get in our stomach when we hear there's even a whiff of impropriety, right?  Earlier this year, Clinton-Dix was suspended for two games when an assistant coach let him borrow money (that was repaid immediately) when his car broke down and he had to get home to his family.  The coach got fired.  Nick is trying to do his part to maintain the highest standards of the program, right?  Then let me say this - DO YOUR PART, TOO!  We can no longer hold the team to a higher standard than we are willing to give ourselves.  If we don't, I'm telling you now that I do NOT want to hear any bitching when Nick Saban decides the fan base here is more than he wants to deal with and he leaves or retires.  Go ahead, tell me how, "He's under contract through 2020."  I suggest you ask Penn State fans how that works.   

I'm not sure where we, as a society, are headed when this behavior seems to be rampant.  Honestly, we see it with pro sports teams and have witnessed it, in person, in college sports.  We've all read the stories and seen the news about this happening with high school and youth sports, too.  It's time for it to stop.  Coach Saban, after the loss to Oklahoma, made the statement that he thinks it's time to go back to where we, as a program, were in 2008 before they began their winning ways again.  It's time to, "start over again," and get back to the basics that allowed them to build championship teams as they have to this point.  I think it's time for the fans to do that, too.  It's time for people to remember what the 17-year layoff felt like.  It's time to remember what it was like when the coaches stayed only 3-4 years because they were NOT winning.  It's time to go back to that point and recall Tommy Tuberville's Auburn teams that won six Iron Bowls in a row.  It's time to support the team, not act like classless fools that pout, kick, cry, and scream when the team does not win.  As a matter of fact, if you really want to stymie an opposing fan, congratulate them on their win.  On our way home from the game, we stopped for gas in Slidell, LA.  Several other cars arrived at the same time and, as the people entered the store, we could see the Oklahoma jacketed and sweatshirts.  I happened to be next to an OU fan as we walked in and jokingly said, "Oh, no, Oklahoma again. I saw so many sacks tonight, I'm expecting to be tackled."  This, alone, helped start a five minute conversation about the good and bad of the game.  As we left, we both congratulated the other and wished each other the best next year.  Does that make me any less an Alabama fan?  Those of you reading this, that truly know me, know that answer.  I bleed Crimson!  Technically, we all do, but you get the point.


So here is my challenge, going forward, to ALL Alabama Crimson Tide faithful, as well as fans of every team and sport - "Hold ALL fans of your team to the same high standard you expect of a competitor and their fans.  We must bring back the 'spirit of competition' and remember that, ultimately, there can only be one victor."  No longer, as far as I'm concerned, will I stand by and allow some of the actions I've witnessed.  I challenge all of you to do the same.

Again, on behalf of the arrogant, ugly actions of (apparently, more than) a few, I apologize for the stories making news.  I apologize to the University, the coach, and the players for allowing bad press to reflect poorly upon them.  It sickens me that it has come to this, but know that I, for one, will do my part to see the change I wish to see in others.  I'll do this so I can, once again, proudly say, "ROLL TIDE."

Until next time…………..

Saturday, December 21, 2013

We're At That Point, Apparently…And I'm Not Sure We Can Find Our Way Back. Thoughts Sparked By The Duck Dude

As I start, just let me say that, much like anyone else, these are purely MY OPINIONS.  I've written more than a few times and hope it's always, if nothing more, thought-provoking.  Something that will spark debate.  Cause the need for argument on both sides.  Please understand, too, that when I say 'argument', I am not talking of fighting but, rather, of two (or more) sides expressing their viewpoints in a calm, rational way so as to help the other side better understand.  For this to happen, we need to be open-minded and LISTEN to the other side.  To argue with a close-minded person is pointless.  No matter what the debate, they will never allow for the possibility there might be another viewpoint other than their own.  With that said, do you REALLY think I was going to let this go without commenting? Where, oh where, to begin?

Yes, a few days ago, the patriarch of the 'Duck Dynasty' family, Phil Robertson, was quoted in an article with GQ Magazine.  I want to state publicly before going forward, that I have never seen this show.  Yes, I've heard about it and seen the merchandise, however I have yet to see the show.  I know this is a deeply devout, religious family with strong Christian beliefs and morals.  This is what I have heard, then read, of them.  I did read Phil's statements about both homosexuality and blacks in his native Louisiana.  In my humble opinion, Phil was not comparing homosexuality to bestiality.  Perhaps I'm wrong (oh, like THAT would be a first!), but it seemed to me that he was listing sins as he understands and views them.  He could've mentioned anything he considers sinful - let's say he mentioned homosexuals, then suggested we, "morph out from there to thieves, adulterers, etc."  Would we be having the same conversation?  Would we be in an uproar because he compared homosexuals to the man robbing a store at gunpoint or someone cheating on their spouse?  Probably not.  Bestiality might not have been the best choice to throw in as the next sin, however he (again, my opinion and interpretation) was merely listing sin, not comparing.

He also made comments about pre-civil rights blacks that he knew.  His quote was,

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person," Robertson is quoted in GQ. "Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Again, this is purely my opinion, however all I am reading are the words of a man stating what he saw during his life experience.  He spent time with them.  He worked the fields with them.  I'll tell you right now, there are people I work with that, when asked about me, might tell you they never saw me unhappy or complaining about anything.  Does that mean I don't?  Does Phil not witnessing something mean it didn't happen or didn't exist?  Not at all - he was merely telling the interviewer HE never saw it.  I did not read anything in the article that said he thought blacks should be slaves, that he thought slavery was right, or that he hated homosexuals.  As a matter of fact, I do believe (actually, I know it's there) he said we should love everyone - it's The Almighty's job to sort them out.  So why the uproar and why has this made mainstream, everyday news?  Because those asking for tolerance have become the intolerant.  Because being politically-correct has become the expectation rather than common decency and courtesy, not to mention using common sense.  There, I said it.  Now, I'll expound on it.

Oh, and let me clear up one myth - this is NOT a First Amendment issue.  Phil exercised his right to free speech.  Free Speech, as noted in said amendment to the Constitution, merely says the government may not infringe upon that right.  A&E was purely within their rights to place Phil on hiatus.  The question, though, is are there anti-discrimination laws that would protect him?  Probably not.  They cannot discriminate based on his religious beliefs, however they can terminate him if his views are something the network doesn't like.  To me, it almost sounds like a very narrow line and I'm not sure where it gets drawn - that's for the courts to decide.

Now…back to my rant (the one you saw coming some time ago).  First, I find it difficult to be politically-correct.  Not because I don't want to, I just don't see the need.  When people are NOT politically-correct, we tell them they must be tolerant or say their views are offensive.  No, I don't say, "the N-word, or the R-word," but at the rate we're going, you're going to have to fill me in on all the 'insert-letter-here' words.  I can't say, "nigger," but it's okay if blacks do?  I don't care if it's 'Nigger' or 'Nigga' - if it's not right for me to say it, it's not right.  Period.  Let me get this straight - you won't accept me using derogatory terminology but YOU CAN?? For the record, I do NOT use that term and, when I did hear it many years ago, my parents taught me to ask, upon hearing it from someone else, if the person meant a 'white nigger or a black nigger'.  They then told us that, should we feel the need, we could politely say, "I'm sorry but I find that offensive."  If the person insisted on continuing to use the word, remove yourself from the situation.  There needn't be conflict - just leave.  Just like this situation - if you don't like what the man is saying or his beliefs, change the channel.  Period.  All I am saying is respect is earned, not given.  If you can't respect yourself enough to NOT say something derogatory, why should you be able to DEMAND that I don't?  By the way, I also understand the offensiveness of the word, "Retard."  Again, can we please be adults?  If someone says it and you find it offensive, let them know, politely, and if it happens again, remove yourself from the situation.  Is there really a reason to be hateful and despise a person for insensitivity?  I've a better idea - try educating them.  Whoa!  What a novel idea, huh?

I don't say, "African-American," for several reasons.  NONE of those reasons are because I don't like blacks or have friends that are black.  No, it's because of what most of THEM say, most notably (at the height of the fervor) a black man in Richmond, VA that was a US Marine.  He wrote to the Richmond Times-Dispatch and said he found the term offensive to him.  He traced his family's roots and, going back 5 generations, could not find anyone that was from Africa.  He was born in the United States and served proudly in the US Marine Corps.  He was not in any way associated with Africa, nor was his family.  Yes, we all studied our history - we know they were brought over from Africa and sold as slaves.  I never have, nor would ever, own a slave.  This was our history, not our 'today'.  My family came from different parts of the world, too, and we traced our roots back to Ireland and Greece.  Why am I not referred to as an 'Irish-Grecian American'?  You get the point, right?  Ironically, most of you that are sitting there nodding, are in the majority.  The people that feel we need to be tolerant and despise those that don't use their politically-correct terminology, are in the minority.  Funny, though - most of us do it, not because we want to be politically-correct, but because it's easier than going against the system and it avoids conflict.

The same applies to the homosexual comments Phil made, too.  For years, ever since homosexuality has become more open ( remember the term, "coming out of the closet?"), we have been told we need to be more tolerant.  Again, I have friends that are homosexual.  Okay, if that's your choice, that's YOUR choice.  Do I agree with it?  Do I think it's right?  Ha - like I'm going to bait myself into answering that.  You see, I understand the backlash - it's a losing proposition no matter how you answer.  It's a trick question.  What is NOT a trick, though, is our tolerance.  We (heterosexuals) have seen Gay Pride parades, the struggle for 'domestic partners' given the same rights as spouses, etc.  Why, just recently, a gay friend of mine got married.  Do I have a problem with it?  No, because it is not my place to judge.  When someone like Phil Robertson, though, openly makes statements about gays, blacks, etc, my question is this - Where is the tolerance from those demanding tolerance of us?  Again, I am not agreeing or disagreeing with his comments - my problem is with the intolerance and hypocrisy.  I saw a great quote regarding this earlier today in regard to the radical groups that beg…nay, demand….our tolerance.  It was:

"It's moved far along from these radical groups just asking for tolerance of their lifestyle.  They now demand endorsement."

I find it difficult to do.  I find it unbelievably offensive and hypocritical that groups that demand our acceptance and tolerance are, well, hypocrites.  Lest I generalize, let me also say that many of them are NOT like that.  I read many comments from blacks that said Phil Robertson's comments were merely stating his experiences.  I saw many comments from gay people that were accepting of his right to say what he did and respected his beliefs.  They might not agree, however they were showing that tolerance.  The ones that bother me are the organized groups like the NAACP or GLAAD that have to use the media to create a bigger media circus and frenzy than is warranted.  I simply don't understand.  I mean, I turned on the television today and, turning to Bravo, immediately saw a gay Persian man in bed with his…male lover.  I was subjected to 60 minutes of this show that openly showed a gay man.  Sean Hayes openly plays one on NBC.  Phil Robertson, however, cannot make a statement (in response to a question, by the way) stating he is against it because his beliefs and the Bible say it is wrong.  Wait…WHAT???  People are going to make insensitive, irresponsible statements.  Period.  I guarantee it, actually.

The actions will take place, too, that are slanted toward the demands for 'equality'…while being unequal.  Don't believe me?  Let's think Trayvon Martin.  Then, let's think about the little white girl that was brutally attacked by three young black men and killed.  Didn't see it on the news or listen, repeatedly, to how she was a good girl that did no wrong and didn't deserve it?  Of course not.  Sad & tragic, yes.  An opportunity to make a point on national television?  Hardly.  If the story had gone on the air, we would have had Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson screaming about how these boys were racially-profiled.  Amazing how they show up to criticize a certain situation…..but only if the victims are black.  I have yet to see their 'equality' organizations fight equally for anything.

So, I've gotten off the topic…kinda.  I think it applies, though, as I am painting with a wide brush and these are, overall, part of a bigger picture.  We ALL need to be tolerant and understanding.  Start using common sense and decency.  Be kind to one another.  We don't (and won't) all think the same ever.  All I am saying, though, is that if you demand I be tolerant of your sexual orientation, skin color and past injustices, or religious orientation even in the face of our country being attacked, then I deserve the same tolerance.  Is that so difficult?  We need to understand we don't have a lot of time here.  Do what is right and just.  Do what is fair.  Do nothing more than (and let's face it, it all comes down to one thing) respect and practice the 'Golden Rule' - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Quite honestly, doesn't everything come back to that?  Why, I'm betting the Ten Commandments wouldn't even be necessary if we practiced that, eh?

Until next time…………be kind, gentle, and loving in this Christmas Season.  Yes, Merry Christmas.  Don't even get me started on THAT one………..

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 - A Rough Beginning, A Better Ending

As I sit here preparing to share Thanksgiving with my family, I have time alone and was reflecting on the year so far.  2013 began with such promise (don't they all?) as we watched the Swarovski crystal ball drop in Times Square on New Years' Eve.  I was home in Alabama and in only a few days would be leaving for Florida to watch my beloved Crimson Tide compete for another BCS National Championship.  I'd be going there with my daughter - one of the two important ladies in my life that shared my passion for Alabama football.  My wife was unable to travel and sit that long as she was disabled, her body attacked by severe fibromyalgia.  While nothing would have made her happier than to be in the stands, she was disappointed but still wanted me to go.  Brittany and I went to the game and, as we all know (because I make no secret of sharing it constantly), Alabama spanked Notre Dame 42-14 to win consecutive crystal trophies.  It was amazing....and something I wouldn't trade as an experience.  It was only two short months later, though, that 2013 began to turn for the worse.  In early March of this year, my wife passed away at home.  It was sudden and unexpected.  It was a time that, through the coming weeks and months, was the starting point for the year that seemed would never end.  In the following weeks and months, it seemed the only news I got was of another friend or family member of friends passing away unexpectedly.  Suffice it to say, I started to believe 13 is, in fact, a very unlucky number.

Over the past few weeks, I have seen many people on social media sites posting the reasons they are thankful.  Some are doing it on a daily basis and numbering them - "Day One - I am thankful for my kids.  Day Two - I am thankful for my job. Day Three - I am thankful for my friends," and so on and so on until they are finally reaching for things to be thankful for. "Day 26 - I am thankful for the wind and the grass and the....."  You get the idea.  Others are writing a long post about the reasons they are thankful.  Some (SO annoying) are even writing a blog post.  Wait...what?  Yeah, yeah....please keep reading?  So here I am reflecting on the reasons I am thankful and came to the amazing realization that my reasons are all....people.  I mean, I'm thankful for many reasons but, ultimately, it all comes down to people.  I know all of us have, at some point in time, been touched by the loss of a loved one.  When it happens unexpectedly, we tend to look inward and reevaluate our lives, what we've done, are doing, and can do.  We question how we want to be remembered and how we want to touch the lives of others.  Been there, done that - believe me.  One of the things I also came to terms with was how I treat people and how little, truly, the everyday things don't matter in the big scheme of things.  If you think it really matters that your child broke your grandmother's vase, try to remember that, in about 60 or 70 years, it won't be such a big deal.  It may be difficult at first, but trust me, you'll get over it.  So, as is typical of my posts, you're starting to wonder where this is going.  Well, I'm trying to say, "Thank you...and I am thankful for you."  Never at a loss for words, I'm about to become more specific.  In light of all that has transpired, it's important to me to say these things, you know...'just in case' I don't have the chance in the future.  If I do, great.  If not, they'll have been said...and THAT will make me feel better.  So why am I thankful and who are these people?

First, to my family - my mother, grandmother, sisters, brother-in-law, step-mother and daughter - I am thankful for all of you first and foremost.  There are also many cousins, aunts and uncles - I am thankful for you as well.  My grandmother, who has battled breast cancer not once but twice, is the rock of our family.  She did the 'single parent' thing long before it was as common as it is today.  She helped raise us while mom was in college and then, after her graduation, my grandmother was always there for us.  My mother, whom I have said repeatedly was a 'one woman show', was the lady that gave us our values and taught us about life.  She worked hard to provide for us so that we had what we needed...and more.  She is a brilliant woman with a sense of humor that showed us what it meant to be a friend and care for family.  My sisters are both hard-working women that I love dearly, and I wouldn't trade the time I get to spend with either of them or their families.  My brother-in-law is someone I rarely get to spend time with, as is my step-mother, yet they are both invaluable to me.  They are both only ever a phone call away should I need anything.  My daughter is the girl I am watching become a lady.  She has a deep compassion for others and a sense of humor that is quick and unparalleled.  I am amazed at her daily....and so incredibly grateful I get to share any and every part of her life.  She is my lasting legacy and of that, I am proudest.  I could not and would not be who I am today were it not for all of you.  I love you, appreciate you, and I am proud of each of you.

Next, I am appreciative and thankful for my friends I have known for years.  Those from 'the old days' that I grew up with, went to school with, shared families with.  It's rare, I think, to have reached the age of (almost) 52 and to have friends that I can say I've been close to for 47 of those years.  These are people that, to this day, will welcome me home when coming back to the town where I grew up, and sit for hours sharing meals and adult beverages talking about everything and nothing.  We spent many hours together as kids and, though there are some that were only acquaintances during those years, I have gotten to know them 'again' and appreciate the people they've become and their lives. We are in the process of planning our 35th Class Reunion and the one recurring theme as we've planned has been, "We never really knew each other in high school, but now...".  It's been fun getting to know and appreciate these people.  They are all good people that have grown into their own lives, and sharing our collective stories has been amazing, interesting, and fun.  How much better would it have been if we hadn't had the 'cliques' that are inevitable when you're a teenager?  I am thankful for all of you...and want to know and hear more.  We need to get together more often.

I am also thankful for, and appreciative of, the people I have gotten to know through my job and profession.  I've worked for only a few companies in my 28 years in the industry.  10 years with the first company, 8 with the second, now 10 with my currrent employer.  I remain friends with a select few that I met with the first company as we've watched our familes grow, watched as kids have gone off to college and gotten married and, sadly, have watched some die.  I am thankful for these people because, though the years have passed, they have remained a constant and I know they will always be woven into the fabric of my life.  They are part of me and whom I have become.  Over these past 10 years I have met even more people, some who are now competitors, of whom I am thankful.  When my wife passed away, I expected (as is standard) a flower arrangement or sympathy card from the company and my 'work family'.  What I got instead was nothing short of absolutely amazing.  To see people coming to support me from all corners of the country, literally, moved me in ways you can only imagine.  These are the people with whom I spend more than 1/3 of my life now, and to know I can pick up the phone at any time and count them as friends, too, makes me incredibly thankful.  They have been there in my darkest hours, as well as my best days...and without them, life would be much less enjoyable, fun, and amazing.  To name all of the people that I am truly thankful for would entail listing names that would exceed what I've written so far.  I thank you all and hope nothing but the best for you and your families always.

Lastly, I am thankful for the 'family' I have come to know in Alabama.  My neighbors and close friends that were there, and remain so now, when things changed so very drastically.  The people that supported me with their kind words and gestures, that take care of pets when I travel, that never hesitate to stop what they are doing to come say hello when we see each other.  The people that are with us, too, in Tuscaloosa when we tailgate.  It restores my faith in people to know there is still much good in the world, and to know these people is to love them.  We read stories and see it on the news daily about the downward turn of society and how people care less than they did in years gone by.  If these people are any indication, I can honestly say that 'southern hospitality' is alive and well, as is love kindness, caring, and compassion.  They are truly amazing and I feel blessed, and am a better person, for knowing them.  You are there for me daily and I am so very thankful for you all.   

Shortly before finishing this, I got a note from my daughter.  One of her high school classmates was killed in a car accident last evening.  That news reiterates what I was saying - I cannot wait for this year to end.  It brings echo to the sentiment we should all remember - "Tomorrow is promised to no one."  If I have been remiss and not specifically named any group of friends, please know it is not intentional.  It's because it is Thanksgiving morning, I'm getting old and the memory is shot, and there is cooking to be done.  I'm supposed to be showering so I can help, as well as the fact that there is a parade on television.  I've got to go and, if you're reading this, well.....I am thankful for that, too.  Please know that, while I am still hoping this years ends quickly and on a better note, I am thankful for everyone in my life.  While we are pulling for the beloved Crimson Tide to win an unprecedented third straight National Championship, people ROCK...and I am a better person, truly blessed, because of you.  May you and your families have nothing but the best and, as you sit around the table this Thanksgiving day, take the time, if even only quietly and to yourself, to appreciate each and every person there with you.  God Bless all of you...thank you again.

Until next time..........................

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why Racial Inequality Will Not End Soon

As much as I've said in the past that we've come a long way toward ending racial inequality, I realize now just how far the pendulum has swung...the other way.  Does this still exist?  Absolutely.  Who bears the brunt, though, of this inequality?  I'd say whites, though that simply won't be a widely-accepted opinion.  How can it be denied, though?  How can anyone, anywhere view the events of the past few days and think that whites aren't the ones that are on the outside looking in?  In a day and time when Paula Deen is almost crucified for, "using the 'N' word," as they say in politically-correct circles, I am amazed at the audacity of some people and what they can get away with saying on national TV.  After George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin (a juror, by the way, said they did NOT feel this was about race), I watched as two black men were interviewed on The Today Show.  The same people that want to tell us how racial tensions need to end and how we need to have "The Conversation' about the race relations, said some pretty damning things.  Dare I say, too, that this so-called conversation (based on what we've experienced so far) would probably amount to not much more than a list of demands and how we should further cater to the minorities.  Whatever happened to, "All men are created equal?"  I don't mind equality.  What I mind is people telling me how I have to give so others can get.  When there are people in a position to initiate the conversation, though, and they say the things they did, I submit that we will not get where we need to be very quickly.  Case in point, and what I heard - here are the comments from the black men that so desperately want "Equality":

"Black life means a little bit less than white life in America."

"With an almost all-white jury, you'll almost never get justice in that case, especially in the South."

"All black men feel vulnerable because we are all racially-profiled."

"When we have Stand Your Ground laws and a gun culture that allows us to be vigilantes and a court system where we are over-arrested, over-prosecuted, over-convicted, and over-sentenced as black people, then we can't have the conversation about race."

Read those again if you're not fuming and angry about it.  You see, that's what this does to us.  I truly try to be color-blind, however when you have educated black men saying these things on national television, they're giving other blacks permission to act any way they deem fit.  IT IS NOT OKAY!  You want to have 'The Conversation'?  Okay, but let's remember a few things first:

No one I know has ever owned a slave.  Please stop screaming about past injustices in which none of us were involved.  I understand that you'd like reparations for the 'sins of our fathers'.  While I won't stroke a check and hand it to you directly, I think it safe to say that we are doing our part by working so many can have government services provided at no charge.  Again, I've dealt with the mentality of (yes, I know it is a stereotype, however I saw it firsthand) a black woman that had four kids and was pregnant with a fifth because, "The government pays me more if I have more kids."  Direct quote.  You want to end the stereotype?  Stop the behavior.  Let's also take a look at the Evening News.  There are far more crimes and acts of violence with complete disregard for others committed by blacks, statistically speaking.  When this is mentioned, there are multitudes of reasons - he came from a broken home, couldn't get out of the ghetto, had no role model, lived in a society of drugs, etc, etc.  They're called excuses.  When you see a black President, don't tell me there's inequality.  It's about doing for yourself rather than expecting someone to do it for you.

I saw a sign that read, "It's not a crime to be black."  Certainly not and I couldn't agree more.  When you use that, though, as justification to demonstrate, cause violence, beat others based on the color of THEIR skin, how does that make you any better?  I read a few comments following the story about the rioting folks in Los Angeles, and one person asked a great question - "What happened when OJ was acquitted?"  Hmm.....interesting thought.  I don't recall any whites rioting, burning buildings, throwing rocks through business windows, or beating random black people on the streets.  If we had, what then?  Do you think the police would have allowed that behavior?  Not at all.  In fact, I'd say the whites would have been treated rather harshly immediately.  With the blacks (or other minorities), however, we have to be sure we don't step on their civil rights lest Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson arrive on the scene.  I heard Al Sharpton say, "Trayvon Martin had a civil right to go home."  Well, yeah, he did.  Let's remember, too, that HE initiated the physical altercation with George Zimmerman.  As they stood facing each other, the kid sucker-punched him and it went from there.  Tragically, one person lay dead. Yes, it was tragic, but what if they had both looked at each other and said, "Look, I'm just going home."  I don't think george Zimmerman would have pulled his gun and fired.  Call me crazy, but I believe he pulled the gun when he was in fear for his life.  I can also tell you I would have feared for my life, too.  I hope I am never in that position, but I do empathize a bit.  Still, it was a tragedy that could have been BOTH parties.  To say, though, that this was a violation of just Trayvon Martin's rights is ludicrous.  That argument can be made for both of them.

Equal means just that, folks - equal.  The same for everyone.  I submit to you that things are NOT the same for everyone at this point.  I don't like it - not for me, but for future generations.  Where are we headed when we cannot get the masses to even agree on what equality is?  I'm not sure, however I know I'm glad I'm on the 'other side of the hill' at this point.  Things need to change...on that, we can all agree. It's how we get there that will determine the extent of that change.....IF it comes.

Until next time...........