Monday, September 26, 2011

Why There WIll Always Be Racism...and Who Is Responsible

Why is it every time I hear the word "racist," I cringe?  Probably because I just know we, collectively as caucasian Americans, are about to get slapped.  Fortunately, it's usually just a verbal 'dressing-down', though there have been other times that it became physical.  Seriously, am I the only one that feels this way?  Why, too, is this term allowed to be bandied about with such careless indiscretion?  Let me put it this way - I feel, personally, that every time something doesn't go the way certain blacks think it should, we're racist or the situation is racist.  I'm undoubtedly going to be on the hot seat for not being politically-correct, too, and using the term 'blacks'.  I'm sorry....but I'm not doing it.  I refuse to use that term.  I will not use it until we start identifying everyone by their heritage.  You know, calling people Spanish-Americans, German-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc.  How 'bout we try a little thing I like to call, "Common sense?"  How 'bout we just call everyone, regardless of race, creed, or color....Americans?  I am sick and tired of so many people thinking we owe them something.  No, I am not speaking solely of blacks now.  I am speaking of...people regardless of race, creed, or color. 


I suppose many are wondering why I am on this tirade now.  Why am I doing it tonight and what sparked it.  I'll tell you (you knew I would, right?).  The President gave a speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner on Saturday.  When said speech got transcribed for the press so it could be in the print media, the Associated Press, in a certain section, dropped the President's "G's".  The excerpt read this way:

"Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes," he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do."

We've all heard the President speak and, admittedly, he makes those words sound like that for a reason.  It's not that he is a buffoon, lazy, or uneducated...and we ALL know it.  He does it for emphasis.  He does it because he knows how to change his speech patterns at certain times to convert a certain message.  Face it, whether you like him or not, whether you think he is a good President or not, whether you are racist or not....the man gives a great speech.  He is an effective orator.  Don't believe me?  He's living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, isn't he?  He "sold it," even if we don't want to admit it.  So here's the thing - in this speech and this particular segment, an AP writer was present and heard the President's delivery.  THAT is how he wrote it so he could convey the President's intent as closely as possible.  To change it and make the words say, "complaining, grumbling, and crying," while grammatically correct, would have diluted and changed the message.  We all know it because we've all heard it.  Now, here's the issue and the point of this posting today - Karen Hunter, an author that also teaches a journalism class, called the passage above that was written and posted by the Associated Press, "Inherently racist."  She even argued with a linguistics expert who said the passage, based on the President's delivery, is actually the correct version rather than the version printed by other media outlets.  They, in fact, added the "G's" to the words.  "For them to do that," she said, "it's code and I don't like it."

My blood pressure is rising and I am livid, quite honestly.  The author wrote a story.  he did not use any code to make the President sound ignorant, nor did he do it because he is racist.  he did it because he got the story right.  I....nay, we...are tired of this kind of verbal lashing.  It seems to me that blacks want civil rights.  Abe Lincoln put us on a great path.  Rosa Parks helped.  Dr King helped.  Listen, we are ALWAYS going to have something that bothers one group about another.  It's inherent in human nature...but damn it, do we ALWAYS have to use race?  How much longer are we going to play that card?  There's an old saying that is appropriate here - "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."  You want race to stop being an issue - stop making it an issue.  Someone grab Jesse Jackson the next time he takes his show on the road because he wants "equality," and make sure he cannot spew his venom about how we, the white man, continue the atrocities of our great-great-great-great grandfathers.  I never owned a slave, nor do I want to.  I have worked with some of the best black men and white men in the world.  We all have.  We've also met and seen some of the most disgusting black and white people, too.  It isn't a race thing - it's a people thing.  The race issue will not go away until blacks are no longer allowed to use it to get what they want.  Ironically, the ones that don't use it are the ones that seem the classiest "Americans" to me, too.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis, Al Sharpton, Starr Jones...and Watching Dreams Come True

By now we've all heard that Troy Davis was executed.  We've probably all heard, too, that he didn't do it...or, at least, was warranted a new trial.  Many, many opinions from many, many people.  Does the judicial system work?  Is it fair?  Was this a racially-motivated execution?  Wow....all these questions, I'm posing them, and they're driving me insane!  I have to admit, my opinion is....I don't know.  I'm torn by what I've read.  Let's review - the judicial system has reviewed this case at least four times on appeal.  Those are exhausted.  But what happened?  By some accounts, the witnesses recanted (some of them) their testimony and said they felt coerced.  Well, yes, they did, however the opposing side of that is that these witnesses were interviewed again by the courts and, in their (the court's) opinion, there was no reason to warrant a new trial.  I watched Today today (sorry, I had to do that) and Al Sharpton and Starr Jones were weighing in on the topic.  Get ready for this comment...because I never thought I'd say it, but....Al Sharpton made a point I agree with.  Too often, he and Jesse Jackson show up only when there is a visible, viable black man that can offer them some free publicity and camera time.  Today, though, I found myself agreeing with Al.  His point was this - he thinks, in cases where the death penalty would be warranted, that it should be removed as a consideration if we are convicting solely on eyewitness testimony alone.  Hmm....I....well, I have to agree.  Think about it.  If a person is killed and someone points to you and they are eyewitnesses that get you convicted, should you be put to death?  I have to mention, too, that this is in the absence of any forensic evidence.  There was no weapon (though the bullet was fired from a gun used by Davis previously), no DNA, no nothing.  Period.  There were, however, eyewitnesses.  Like I said, I have to agree with Al.  Pro- or Anti- Death Penalty, you have to consider that life without any chance of parole is a safer bet if we are to be humane.  Al's right - how do we stand at the UN and argue about other countries inhumane treatment of their citizens when we are doing this?  Okay, genocide, this isn't, but you get the point.

So why did I mention Starr Jones?  Because she was on the Today show and made a glaring comment that sent shivers through me.  It was, "You'll never see a rich, white man being put to death in America."  Wait, what now?  You just....did you....really, Starr?  Yeah, for the life of me I cannot figure out WHY we have any race issues in America.  Let me get started here, Starr.  First, watch the evening news.  Who do we see most prominently displayed on the news as committing crimes and killing others?  Why are there race issues?  Let me tell you, as a country, we have not done enough to help that divide, however it will NEVER be fixed if people have that attitude.  Please stop blaming the whites for your lot in life.  I have black friends, Asian friends, Indian friends.  I blame them for nothing.  I am not racist and, if you are going to play that card, you best be ready for the racial inequality to continue.  She then said it was because rich white men could afford, and had access to, better lawyers.  really, Starr?  Let me throw out one name, then we'll continue this conversation.  Ready?  OJ Simpson.  Okay, want to go on?  Didn't think so.  Let it go.

Now, on to watching dreams come true.  I am/am not a fan of reality TV shows.  I love some, I cannot stand to watch others, and yet others, still, I have to watch to prove that money cannot buy you brains, class, or style.  But the new Simon Cowell show, The X-Factor, was on last evening.  There was a 42-year old woman with three children who, for the past twelve years had been beaten down by her boyfriend (who she got rid of) and he told her she would never amount to anything.  Just a tiny little thing - a single mom - who came on to sing Aretha Franklin's, "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman," and she....well, she nailed it.  It was moving and to watch her wow the crowd was amazing.  The best, by far, for me was the 28-year old former drug addict who has been clean for 70 days.  He has a two-year old son and wants nothing more than to be a good role model for his kid.  When he told the judges he wrote his song, "Young Homie," and would perform it, they gave him the, "This ought to be good," sarcastic look.  Then, as he began to sing his hip-hop tune related to getting clean, how important life is, how he values it and that everything is precious to him...he won them over.  Simon's exact words, I believe, were, "The part I love most about doing this is when I sit in this chair and meet a star for the first time."  This kid is a trash collector.  He is now on his way to a chance at $5 Million to give he and his son a better life.  Even if he doesn't make it, he realized his dream last night.  Too often, though we want to think we can still dream, we let them go and never realize them.  To watch someone actually make it happen, if you have any feeling inside you at all and cheer for the underdog, is powerful.  It was moving. I think music takes us there...but performers sell it.  The power of a dream is amazing...and to see it, alive and well, was really kinda cool.

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

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gathering Topics...and Glad I Did

...and, we're back.  Yes, it's been quite a while since the last posting.  If, as I hope, some of you were wondering what happened, well...let's just say it was a busy week.  After driving a grand total of 3,928 miles the previous week, I was tired.  Plain and simple...oh, and there seemed to be a shortage of 'real' topics, too.  Then, as I sat listening to the news a couple of days ago, I couldn't make notes fast enough.  When I'm traveling, I get lost in the "No news" cycle.  Yeah, I see and read the papers, watch the nightly news, etc, however I never seem to have the time to write at that point.  The stories I read when I finally caught up, though, were more than worth mentioning.  Maybe you've heard some of them, perhaps not.  One thing you can count on, however, is my twisted opinion of all of them.  So...where to begin?

Let's get to the most recent - the President is going to propose legislation designed to ensure that the wealthiest of our citizens pay their fair share of the taxes.  The "Buffett Tax" is a nice gesture and, though I'm sure Warren Buffett meant it when he said he believes that wealthier Americans should pay their fair share, it certainly will make the President look good with upcoming elections.  Does it have a chance of passing?  In my opinion, maybe.  That's the best I can offer because the Republicans say they will not let it pass.  Still, the President is making the gesture.  He'll look good for the voters and still impress upon us how mean and nasty those darn Republicans are.  I'll say it again - bipartisan politics will always continue and our system was designed for it.  Bipartisan, however, was to share opposing views, then compromise.  We are doing neither.  Our political parties do not 'share' opposing views - they spew them at each other.  They do not compromise, they reach an impasse.  We, the people that elected them, are held hostage.  Enough.  Time for this to end and, for everyone that thought 'Change' was a good idea when electing the current administration, remember this when walking into your polling place next year.  Seriously, we need to really examine the candidates and not their rhetoric.  This time it might be best if we vote on past performance rather than who gives the best speech.  Just sayin'...which leads to another story I saw.

Apparently, there are a few states that have improperly paid their citizens unemployment benefits.  "How much," you ask?  Let's try to the tune of $19 Billion.  Yes, with a "B".  I'd like to point out to our elected officials that a bit more oversight is in order.  No, for the love of God, do NOT hire more people.  make do with what you have.  Private industry is suffering cutbacks and layoffs at an unprecedented level.  Time for those working for the government to understand we need to run our country as they do private businesses.  Ask Steve Jobs.  Apple, it seems, does just fine.  Anyone in DC taking notes?  How do you let $19 billion get overpaid?  Who is monitoring the system?  Perhaps, and I'm going out on a limb here, we ought to get the best qualified, caring individuals to work those government jobs.  We've all had to deal with certain government agencies...and I think most, if not all, of us would rather have a root canal.  Am I right?  How about we get someone that actually cares about their job to monitor how unemployment benefits are paid.  Oh, and while we're on the same (kinda) subject, how is it that Jersey Shore gets a $20,000 tax credit for their production company?  There you go, citizens of New Jersey - you're footing the bill for these dolts club-hopping, tanning, and acting like fools.  I'd say I might be a touch unkind, however most of New Jersey's own population feel this show makes them look bad.  It's simply wrong.  Before anyone asks, too, about my envy or jealousy of the situation, let me point out that we'd all like to have that job.  Again, partying, tanning, fighting, looking like dolts....and we'll pay you for it.  Show of hands - who'd turn it down?

Gee, I'm having a fair bit of luck with these subjects running together so let's try this one, too.  One in six families are now at or below the poverty level.  So everyone knows exactly where that level is - $23,416. Annual income.  People are doing it, too.  One in six families.  I'm accustomed to dealing with teens these days that expect to have a cell phone in one hand as they are paying with mom & dad's credit card for their new clothing.  Wait, here's a thought.  I know one guy who's paying child support alone that is half that amount annually.  How does this happen?  I'm not sure, but I would rather help a family in need that sits at that level before I supported paying illegal immigrants.  I'd want to help these families struggling to make ends meet before we cut more welfare checks for people that are sitting in an apartment, oblivious to where their kids are or what they are doing, as they light up another joint or stick a straw up their nose to get the meth in them.  Entitlements.  I'd say they've gotten quite out of control and we, as a people are tired of footing the bill.  Stop me if you disagree, please.  I realize I am ranting again, but hope this is something that will be read and was missed.  I'll keep 'em long as the government keeps doing what they.....what am I saying?  They will NEVER keep us short on topics.

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

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wearing Red in Happy Valley - A Rivalry?

We had been waiting for this past weekend for a year.  The date had been circled on the calendar ever since the Nittany Lions of Penn State came to Tuscaloosa last year.  Fortunately, two things occurred - Alabama won the game and the Penn State fans went home talking more about the hospitality they were shown than anything else.  Prior to that meeting, Nick Saban had made a point of telling fans everywhere that he expected respect to be shown to one of the perennial, premier programs in the country, as well as to the winningest coach in college history - Joe Paterno.  At 84, Paterno is still doing just fine in State College, though it's time once again for the question to be asked - "Is this the year Joe will call it quits?"  It happens every year, but lately the question comes earlier and lingers longer...depending, of course, on the record the team posts.  Still, you have to love a guy that, two years ago, broke his leg while teaching the team how to perform an onside kickoff.

This is a classic rivalry in college football with two of the oldest, most respected programs in the NCAA.  While other teams are wearing their Nike Combat uniforms, here are two teams that use simple styles with powerful players.  Penn State in their classic white pants, blue jerseys (with no names on them), and white helmets with a simple blue strip.  Alabama with their away game uniforms - white pants, white jerseys, and the crimson helmets with the player's number on the side.  Throwbacks.  It was, in all aspects, a classy look.  The best part, though, had to be the 'rivalry'.  In years gone by, many of us remember bear Bryant and Joe Paterno walking the sidelines.  The most famous of the games, personally, was the Sugar Bowl when Penn State was ranked #1 and Alabama was #2.  With Alabama leading late in the fourth quarter, they turned the ball over to Penn State...who then promptly marched down the field and prepared to score.  It was 14-7 and Penn State could become the national Champions, until.....the Goal Line Stand. Barry Krauss and the Tide defense held the Nittany Lions on that fourth down...and eventually were crowned National Champions.  It was one of the classic, "Games for the Ages."

This is a rivalry built, though, on mutual respect.  This year, prior to Alabama arriving in Tuscaloosa, Joe Paterno reminded the Lion fans that, "We went down their last year, took a pretty good lickin', their fans were very nice to us, so let's be good sportsmen this year.  That doesn't mean we're not going to kick their you-know-whats...."  A class act that is shown in the program.  The fans were great.  We watched the entire game, then listened to the Blue Band perform before heading out.  As we waited by the gates for our entire group, the band exited the stadium and, as they passed, gave us high-fives, thanked us for coming, and wished us safe travels on the way home.  They also wished us good luck the rest of the season.  Classy kids.  Classy school.  This, in contrast to the Alabama-Auburn rivalry or the Penn State-Ohio State rivalry where the fans really want to get physical with the opposing fans.  We enjoyed this and, more than anything, want to send a note of thanks to the Penn State faithful.  This is a rivalry the way it is supposed to be when two of the oldest, classiest programs in college sports meet.  I hope we can do it again.....soon.  Thanks for having us...and if you get this way any time soon, y'all stop in and say hello.

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

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten Years Later, A Note of Thanks to the Terrorists

First, let me say that this is, indeed, a teaser title for this post.  Obviously, those that know me understand that I could never, nor would ever, be thankful for what transpired on 9/11/01 as it pertains to the lives lost in New York, Pennsylvania, or at the Pentagon.  No one other than cruel, sadistic, heartless, deranged killers could be 'thankful' in any way for the deaths that occurred that day.  The terrorists exist solely to instill fear and none of us that are rational, caring, compassionate individuals can relate.  Still, when we remember back to that day ten years ago, I think you'll understand what I mean by ultimately being thankful.  It would be easy to imagine a world that was shaped without these causative acts, however that is an impossibility.  It happened...and we cannot go back.  Finding something...anything...positive about that day can only help us to move forward....and appreciate each and every day.

My generation, specifically my age group of at, or near, 50 years old cannot remember President Kennedy.  We were babies when he was assassinated.  Through the years we remember our parents always using the same phrase - "No one will ever forget where they were that day when they heard the news."  While we thought it would be easy to understand this concept, I don't think we fully grasped it.  The closest thing our generation had that evoked a response that was similar was when the space shuttle "Challenger" exploded killing all the crew members.  That, too, though was different.  We've come to realize that President Kennedy getting shot and killed brought a sense of loss, grief, and sorrow.  We lost our way as a country when our leader was killed.  Camelot died that day.  When the Challenger exploded, we felt sorrow again, yet this was an unexpected mechanical failure, not an assassin(s) desperately trying to kill a leader.  Our generation might remember where we were, but the emotions we felt were not what we'd come to know after 9/11.  That is a day we will never forget - none of us.  Not only will we always remember where we were, we will always remember our emotions.

That day, for me, started as did many others in the life of a salesman - waiting to meet a co-worker to see a customer.  While sitting in my car, I was speaking with yet another co-worker who was still at home preparing to leave.  As we talked, she mentioned that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.  With no other information, my mind conjured up an image of a small Piper or Cessna plane that had inadvertently flown into the building due to pilot error or misfortune.  As we continued the conversation, she told me another plane had just hit the other tower.  Her gasp, as she watched it happen live, was audible and eerie.  It was then that I understood these were passenger jets.  I turned on my car radio and the news was everywhere.  They simulcast the Today Show and I heard the voices describing what I could not see.  Something was very wrong.  Immediately, I cancelled my appointment and began the hour-long trip home.  By the time I got there, the plane had gone down in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon details were sketchy.  Does any (or all) of this sound familiar.  This was our "moment in time," that we would never forget.  These emotions, as details emerged, were different than anything any of us had ever felt.  I took up residence in front of my television for minutes that turned into hours, then days.  What we witnessed was beyond belief and is seared into our collective memories.  We saw the second plane, multiple times, flying straight into the tower.  We remember the buildings collapsing.  We will never forget the images, sadly, of those trapped above the gaping, burning holes in those towers that later jumped to their deaths.  We lost our innocence that day.  We lost our inability to understand what we had seen on television in those far-away countries in the Middle East.  We saw, that day, images that appeared as if we, too, lived in a third-world country.  And we were angry, scared, confused, shocked, and sad...all at once.  Then, after we regained our composure, we acted.

It wasn't just then that I became thankful.  That took years and a deep understanding for me to realize how I felt.  I remember the first few days after this happened that I saw more American flags flying from front porches than I had ever seen before.  There were flags everywhere.  Our patriotism was infectious.  Do you remember how we spoke to each other?  We shared...and struck up conversations everywhere with people we had never met.  We felt alive as a country and a people...and that made us stronger.  It made us realize that we will never be terrorized, nor would we be alone.  Our American pride could be seen from coast to coast.  I don't ever remember a time like that in my life...and I wanted to thank the terrorists because not only had their goal not been met, it was actually working quite the opposite.  We were, suddenly, truly the "United" States...and it never felt better.  I am thankful, too, because I honestly never had a full appreciation for our firefighters.  To this day I cannot fathom how they muster the courage to look at a burning, collapsing building and say, "Time for me to go in there."  They went in and up, as others were coming down and out.  343 brave lost souls and I am thankful that, in giving their lives to their fellow man, they taught me, personally, that some people will make the ultimate sacrifice for mere strangers just because it is the right thing to do.  It is extremely noble and I would never have had that appreciation were it not for some sadistic, heartless individuals that only exist to kill other human beings in the name of their God.  How disturbingly sad.

My thanks is in no way because I am glad that day happened.  It is only because I got to see our people and our country, in what very easily could have been our darkest hour, make it a shining example of what this country really is.  It send a resounding message around the world that, though you might continue these disgusting efforts against us, we will not bow to terror.  We are Americans and we will stand, arm in arm, to protect our fellow citizens.  In short, their efforts in attacking us made me more proud to be an American than I have ever felt, before or since.  I hope our remembrance this week helps rekindle that, if even a bit.

9/11/01 is a day we vowed to never forget.  We all know it is a part of our history now, as is the way we reacted.  My sincere hope, as we remember this anniversary, is that we begin to speak to each other as gently and kindly as we did then.  I hope we fly our flags again rather than get caught up in our day-to-day apathy.  We need to share a moment of silent remembrance for the families of those brave men and women that were lost that day, whether in planes or on the ground.  We need to understand there are still more people that are dying because they wanted future generations to remember.  The people that were at Ground Zero are ill or have already begun to die, though they have given continually since that fateful day ten years ago.  I'm sad when I remember those images, grateful that we did not lose more lives, and thankful that the terrorists taught us all how to live, love, and appreciate the fact that we live in America and are part of the greatest society in the world.  Think of it this way - the world will, sooner rather than later, forget Osama bin Laden.  They will not, however forget what happened to those towers or how we, as an incredibly resilient people, survived and thrived because of our strength.

9/11/01 - We will NEVER forget.........Let's roll.

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

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Family? Not Easy To Define At Times.....

I hope the title of this post makes you think, as I did, about what can be defined as family.  I know how Webster defines it - we all do.  Mom, Dad, 2.5 kids, 1.67 pets, right?  Well, yes...and no.  I've had to think about it a lot lately, especially in light of last week's events.    You see, a good friend lost their child in a car accident.  The good friend is actually someone I work with...and for.  I thought about how I felt when we got the news.  I thought, too, how we felt when we discussed it among our team at work.  Our hearts ached and no one could imagine what this was like.  We felt...and feel...helpless.  There is absolutely nothing you can do at a time like that and we all know it.  I realize this is not a unique situation.  We've all been there, at one time or another, when these types of situations arise.  It never gets any easier.  At a time like this, though, it was easy to become a bit reflective and think more deeply about how we felt about the individuals that we work with.  Several of us have said, over the years, that this is 'family'.  The group I work with is relatively small and we've even vacationed once with our families on an awards trip.  We speak often on the phone, yet see each other only two to three times a year.  Should that matter?  I have relatives that I see even less, actually, and I am closer to some of them than the others.  This is why I had to ask - what constitutes a 'family?  Is it only mom, dad, and the other 1.5 siblings, or does it go deeper than that?  Is it more a feeling than being biologically-related?  Asking this question takes me back to my Psychology 101 course and the question posed there, "Which is more important - Nature or Nurture?"

I think about how I would do anything for the people I work with - they're family.  Then, when pondering the question further, I ask about the close friends we all have.  You know, the "2:00 a.m." friends.  The ones that, when it's 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, can be called if you have an emergency and they will drag themselves out of bed to help not only you, but your relatives.  They ask no questions.  These people, in my opinion, are family.  These are the people that, when you are going through a family crisis, will step up and help without being asked.  They just do it.  They offer.  They are there with the proverbial shoulder, as well as a listening ear.  They're family.  When you are faced with a dire, "I need $2,000.00 right now with no questions asked," they ask where to deposit the check.  When you need to have someone picked up or something delivered, they are there, asking nothing in return, to help.

Why do I even write about this?  Why is this important enough to make me spend time on a subject that isn't as controversial as a head scarf and Muslims at an amusement park?  Because they need to know.  They need to know they are appreciated and their friendship is not taken for granted.  They need to know they are, without the benefit of sharing genes, family.  In a time when the next generation thinks they know the importance of friends and family, I cannot help but think it is only superficial.  We were, and always will be, there for each other.  Yes, I've been forced to think more about this during the week...and I am grateful.  I realize that, though I am a big advocate of (and have said it here) "living like you're dying," and "making each day count," part of that is letting the people you care about know that you do.  Let them know they are more important than the family members that could care less whether they ever see you again or not.  In a time when some parents pit their own children against the other parent, these are the people that need to know they matter to you.  In a time when kids can treat adults and their elders so coldly and callously, we need to be a better example.  We need to show them that you need to show appreciation for the people in your life that matter.  These friends, co-workers, blood relatives are family.  Consequently, when needed, we will provide that shining example by doing what we've always done - we will continue to be the best 'family' we can be.  I hope everyone has a safe, happy Labor Day holiday. Just for the heck of it, pick up the phone and make two calls this weekend.  Just let those family members that aren't related know they're appreciated.  Thanks - you'll feel better for doing it, I hope.

Until next time......