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The most powerful thing you can do to change the world is to change your own beliefs. If you approach life with a sense of possibility and the expectation of positive results, you’re more likely to have a life in which possibilities are realized and results are positive. Lisa Funderburg

 

Do you think that’s accurate?  Or is it just a bunch of bullshit tripe expounded by one of those goody-two-shoes who is shocked beyond belief when something happens that disabuses him or her with just how bad the world can be? To be downright dirty about it, how many of those parents who dropped their kids off at Sandy Hook Elementary School believed in one thing in the morning and by nightfall had changed their beliefs?

 

Believe all you want in whatever you want. It really doesn’t matter. You and I go along, believing that there is good in all people or that all people are assholes and guess what? We all die…assholes, idiots, and those with positive beliefs and attitudes. Do those with good belief systems and a positive outlook die happier than those who have stared at life through shit-stained glasses? Which is better, to screw some little old retiree out of her life savings or work with her to ensure that her life savings will still be there when she draws her last breath? You may think that the answer to that question is a simple one. Consider this: What if the one who screwed the little old lady out of her savings did so to aid a dying old man who had no money? In either case, the ‘screwer’ is a bastard, son-of-a-bitch, motherfucker, or whatever other rancid title you wish to attach. Tough, tamales, the old man didn’t have the money, but stealing it to help him is wrong or right. What if the money stolen helps him to get better and he discovers a cure for cancer?

 

We all encounter these ethical dilemmas on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. We may not even recognize them as being as involved or complicated. We’re using a pen in the office and without thinking stick in our shirt pocket or purse, maybe writing out a shopping list so we can stop at the grocery store on the way home. Hey, it’s not your pen and what were you doing making out a shopping list on company time? “That’s not the same thing,” you say. Isn’t it? It may not be of the magnitude of our first example, but it’s still stealing something tangible as well as stealing time from the company.

 

Examples could go on ad nauseum, but I for one believe that what Lisa Funderburg has said is just as true as true can be. Yes, I’m going to die; yes, I’ve written several essays about death and dying. However, if I spend every minute thinking about that one thing, I’m convinced it will happen much sooner rather than much later. As a consequence, more and more I look for the positives in my life and the more I look, the more I find. I believe that going to the gym and working myself to the limits of my endurance makes me feel better for the rest of the day and, therefore, that’s what I do. I believed that my writing had gotten stale and I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I once did, so I took a vacation from it. And it helped.

 

It may have been Thomas Jefferson who said, “I find that the harder I work, the luckier I get,” but I don’t know if it was old Tom [so no nasty notes]. I found the same thing to be true when I was working. If I did a half-assed job, I got half-assed results. Do that often enough and you either find yourself without a job or you find yourself being rejected by your colleagues. Neither is a pleasant alternative.

 

It’s not easy to change your belief systems. If those glasses you wear have always had that nasty stain, it’s tough to change them to looking rose-colored. It’s difficult to think positive when your whole life has been lived negatively. Since I don’t know you, well okay, I know a few of you, but since I don’t know most of you, I’m not going to tell you how to change. I can tell you a few things I do, but whether it will help you or whether or not you even want to try, is entirely up to you.

  • Whether in a building or outside, if someone looks at me as we pass, I smile and say good morning or afternoon to them. My experience is that if they’re scowling, they smile and return the greeting; if they’re already smiling, it gets wider and the greeting is returned.
  • Every once in a while, I like to surprise Juli by doing something crazy. Last week we took a helicopter ride. I didn’t tell her about it until the ride was booked and I told her I was going for a ride the following day. I knew she’d decline…which she did…until we were back in the house for about ten minutes. Then she said, “I want to go.” She did; we did, and it was fantastic.
  • I have one of those pay phones where I don’t have a plan; I call anywhere and add minutes as I wish. Some folks call them a “burner,” but what the hell…who cares? I enjoy picking up my little phone and calling old classmates, right out of the blue. It’s all fine and good as long as you know the classmate is alive and happy. Made that mistake once, and when I was told, “Oh, she’s been dead for years,” I changed my system to ensure that I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
  • Whenever I look at the flowers – the tons of flowers – that Juli has planted, it makes me feel good. With the winter we experienced this year, one of the things that kept me thinking in a positive manner was knowing that once the snow had gone, those bulbs would send forth their flowers and color would reign once more in our front and back yards.

There’s not really a hell of a lot more to say on the subject. Read the quote again; she’s right; positive beliefs can lead to positive results. Good luck and go get ‘em tiger!

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest accomplishment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.      Leo Buscaglia

I have a high school classmate who swears to this day that he threw our principal down a flight of stairs. I’m not saying that it’s impossible; however, I don’t believe he would have graduated with us had he done this deed of which he is so proud. Did our principal deserve to be thrown down a flight of stairs? To the best of my memory, which is, admittedly, not the best source, no, he did not deserve that fate. He was a fair and reasonably just man. On the day a group of us decided to blow off school…and got caught, he didn’t yell or scream; he didn’t give us detentions for the remainder of the year. He told us, as I recall, that such actions could be placed on our permanent records and jeopardize our futures. How, I don’t know, but that is what he said. Overall, he was just another administrator doing whatever it is that administrators do.

There were some teachers who were most deserving of, if not trips down the stairs, perhaps some other form of punishment such as they were wont to mete out whenever the appropriate occasion arose. Their weapons were words…as cruel and damaging as any knife or gun. Often times, they were as harsh and deleterious as the biggest bomb or a fighter’s fist. Fortunately, I was the victim of one of these teachers only once, but once was quite enough. “You should get a full-time job in that grocery store because you’ll never be good for anything else.” It was a counterproductive, pernicious comment and worse because it was said in front of a fellow student and yes, it had been prefaced with “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so (standing beside me).” I don’t believe that I have ever despised anyone more than I did that teacher at that particular moment. The day did come when revenge was taken. It was the day I went back to my old high school as a permanent substitute teacher. As I walked into the teacher’s room, the old harridan confronted me with “What are you doing in here?” What a delight to tell her that I had given up the grocery job for college; had a couple of months before I would head back for my final term, decided to exercise one of my double minors, and that she could now regard me as a colleague. I was having so much fun that I was rather sorry when she stormed out of the lounge. Life can sometimes just be a bitch, can’t it?

I suppose that had I been going to school in this day and age, they merely would have tagged me as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or some other fancy psychological moniker; given me Ritalin, Prozac or some other crazy drug to calm me, and I could live my life in a drug induced la-la land. Thank God, I didn’t have to go through that bullshit. It was bad enough when my youngest was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. However, she also overcame the diagnosis and graduated from college cum laude.

Nor are we alone in having escaped the words of teachers with acid tongues. At one time, a teacher told the parents of Gary Cohn – the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs – that with luck their son might grow up to be a truck driver. Cohn was diagnosed with dyslexia, but before that happened, he had been bounced around to four different schools…and he was still in the sixth grade. He overheard the comment made to his parents. He was not going to allow it to deter him, and obviously it did not.

Cohn’s not alone. Shortly after my youngest was diagnosed, I had the opportunity to meet Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s. Paul was at Babson to be inducted into the college’s Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs. He was walking around campus with his faculty escort when I bumped into them. We began talking about his problems with high school and college. He graduated last from his 1,200-student high school. He had a tough time at college. However, he had a brilliant mind and found a niche at college where students had very limited access to copying machines. He leased one, set up an office near campus, and charged for duplication. Whamo! Kinko’s was born…named after Paul who bore the nickname because of his kinky red hair. We had a wonderful conversation, and I have never forgotten one thing that he said: “Everyone learns at a different pace.” As a teacher at the high school, college, and continuing education levels, I can certainly attest to the truth of that statement.

The point is that if someone tells you that your child has a learning disability, don’t think he or she is alone. Don’t believe that she or he can’t accomplish great things. Indeed, some of the world’s most famous people have been diagnosed with a learning disability of one kind or another. These include Richard Branson, founder of more than 150 companies bearing the Virgin name, Michael Phelps, world class swimmer, Charles Schwab, founder, chair, and COO of the largest brokerage firm in the United States, Erin Brockovich, Danny Glover, and Whoopi Goldberg. If that’s not an impressive list, I don’t know what the hell is. It’s been a long time since I was told to get a full-time job in a grocery store. Did I make a million bucks? No, when you work in higher education, your rewards are of a different kind, a satisfaction in seeing students with whom you worked go on to do some pretty damned good things. So once more I will say, don’t worry if your child gets a label. Remember, everyone learns at a different pace.

“There is nothing more fearful for the average person in our society than to stand before a group of people and speak.” Charles Swindoll said that. He also said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

 

Now, that is a mouthful…but no, this little piece isn’t about Chuck Swindoll who, by the way and just for clarification, is an evangelical Christian pastor in Texas. He was also born the same year I was, although he is a month younger [and several decades smarter] but I’ll say it again, this isn’t about him.

 

Nope, this is about a hypothetical you. This is about the you who has accepted an invitation to speak at a conference of approximately – give or take – 500 of your peers…and you still haven’t a clue as to why you ever said, “yes” in the first place. It’s not that you don’t know what the hell you’re going to say; you know that perfectly well. It’s not that you’re fearful of the question and answer session that will follow because you’re a pretty smart person. No, this is all about your glossophobia, something you and about 75 percent of the population share. It’s a fear of public speaking. Whether you are standing on a stage, above the crowd, or speaking to 25 or 30 people in a small room, public speaking terrifies you. Statistically, more people would prefer death to public speaking. That, along with Chuck Swindoll’s opening quote, should just about convince you that you need a long vacation in the jungles of the Amazon, with nothing but cannibals, poisonous snakes, and wild animals!

 

Fear not, Bunky, because I’m here to help you overcome your fears and knock the socks off your audience. By the time you finish, they’ll be on their feet, clapping their hands, and screaming, “Bravo, bravisimo, more, more, more!”

 

The first thing you have to do is prepare. Sure, you know your subject matter; you know what you want to tell this audience, but if you go in without preparing, two things will happen: (1) you will forget completely why you are there; and, (2) you’ll be an embarrassment to yourself and your colleagues. In other words, prepare, rehearse, go over again and again the points you want to make. You may wish to tape yourself. Remember, it’s not only the content of your remarks; it’s also how you sound to your audience. Is your voice your weapon, or is it a shield against those to whom you are speaking. It may sound trite, but I do not believe you can over-prepare when giving a speech.

 

The second thing you must do is to change your attitude…see Reverend Swindoll’s second quote. The 10 percent is that you said, “yes;” the 90 percent is how you react to it. You also have a couple of choices here: (1) you can dynamo you know you are; or, (2) you can make a horse’s ass of yourself. Personally, I prefer the first choice. The first time I spoke in public, someone had told me, “Picture your audience naked.” I tried that but there was this gorgeous blond sitting at one of the tables directly in my view, and every time I looked at her, my mind went elsewhere. It was damn near a disaster. No, the secret here is to pick out three people…one on your left in the front; one in the middle near the back; and one on the right, somewhere near the middle. When you speak, speak to those three people. Everyone in the area where you look will believe you’re speaking directly to them. For you, however, you’re only addressing three people. The others are what I call, “filler folks.”

 

Remember that your audience is there to hear you because they know you have something to say that will be to their benefit. Introductory remarks, jokes, etcetera aren’t necessary. People want to hear what you have to say so get to it. Remember why your audience has assembled. They don’t want to hear why your subject matter is of interest to you; they want to know why it will be of interest to them.

 

Be as brief as possible. Be as decisive as possible. And never say, “I think.” If you have say something along those lines, “I’ve learned that” or “I’ve learned from experience that…” Never forget that you’re there because people consider you to be an authority on your subject matter. Sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it…you being an authority? Damn right, it does because it’s the truth.

 

Whatever is in your pockets before you speak shouldn’t be there. Empty your pockets so you won’t be tempted to put a hand in to play with coins or whatever else might be in there. Small things that you don’t even think about can be distractions for an audience. When I began teaching high school, I had a nervous habit of rolling a pencil between my palms while I was speaking. Finally, a student raised her hand and asked that I stop. “It makes a clacking sound when it hits your rings,” she said. I looked at my hands. On one side was my wedding ring; on the other my class ring from college. She was right; it was a distraction, but I didn’t even know it…no more pencil.

 

Don’t present like you’re Moses coming down from the mount. It’s fine to project self-confidence, but don’t be an arrogant ass about it. Remember that your audience is there to be helped, not to be told that they’re stupid and you’re brilliant. What’s your goal again…yep, to help them…and to, when they walk out, say to themselves, “wow, that really helped!”

 

Will there be a question and answer session? If so, try to anticipate what those questions might be, and have your answers as ready as your remarks. If you believe there will be a number of questions, ensure that microphones are set up either in the aisles or that portable mikes are being carried around to the questioners. Nothing is as aggravating as a question that is heard only by you and the questioner.

 

Finally, get on and get off. Even if you haven’t used the time allotted to you, don’t hold an audience just for the sake of the clock. Better to leave the audience wanting more than wondering why the hell you overstayed your welcome. Public speaking can be fun as long as you have a positive attitude, know your subject matter, and you get off the stage while they still love you!

Just watching

“What are you doing?”

“Watching.”

“What are you watching?”

“Down there.”

“I didn’t ask where you were watching. I asked what you are watching.”

“God said it was okay.”

“I didn’t ask what our Heavenly Father said you could or could not do. I have specific instructions and I asked you what you are doing.”

“Yep, and I told you I was watching down there and that God said it was okay…okay?”

“First, the Heavenly Father has more important things to do than to approve of you ‘watching-down-there;’  second, I have been charged by the Heavenly Father with approving all requests of arrivals who have not even been with us for 24 hours your time…whatever that means…time is of no concern to those of us who reside here; therefore, I do not believe you even approached the Heavenly Father. Besides, He’s not here right now, and that means you have just earned ten demerits. You know what happens when you reach a million demerits, don’t you?”

“Yep…straight to Hell; don’t pass Go; don’t collect the two hundred dollars!”

“Another ten demerits for mentioning the place that shall not be mentioned. Hmm…I sound like a character out of Harry Potter. Now, precisely what are you watching down there?”

“See that black thing down there?”

“Yes, I believe they – your kind when you were down there as one of them – they call it a hearse.”

“Yeah, well, that particular hearse is carrying what’s left of me…”

“…Excuse me, there is nothing left of you except what is here…with us…in the Heavenly Realm…”

“Okay, okay, bu…”

“No buts, no, ifs, no ands…you didn’t let me finish. Whatever is in that hearse is not you. It is a shell, a pod, a container, a husk, a veritable vessel that contained the essence which is now here, but may very likely be elsewhere soon. Remember, a million is only a number, and it can be attained rather easily.”

“You’ve made your point…and might I say that you’ve made it very….”

“Shut the fuck up and tell me about the hearse!”

“Oops, demerit time!”

“Well.”

“Okay. Ya see, I want my body cremated. That hearse is supposed to be taking my ‘vessel’ – sort of like that word – to the crematorium. Now, several years ago – that’s a measure of time on earth by the way – …”

“…I know what a year is, novice…go on…”

“Well, there was a bit of a problem a while back with some funeral homes that took bodies to be turned into ashes, but the owner wasn’t actually doing it. I want to make certain these guys; pardon me, those guys driving the hearse and the other guy, they make certain that it’s me who gets turned into ash.”

“Why do you care? You’re here; there’s nothing you can do about it, whether they turn you into a crispy critter or not, so what does it matter?”

“You mean that if they don’t make certain my ashes are the ones scattered over the side of a boat, I can’t …I mean, my spirit can’t go down and haunt the hell out of them.”

“Ten more demerits and no, you can’t go…as you say, ‘haunt the hell out of them.’”

“How come you don’t get demerits?”

“My dear child, I have been to hell and back many times. Now, go on.”

“Well, how would you feel, if you were me, and they gave your family a box of ash from an old dog or something and then they tossed the – pardon me – they scattered the ashes in the sea and some fish came along and ate the ash and got poisoned and then got caught by a member of your family, and then they got poisoned, and they died, and then they got taken to the same crematorium, and then their ashes weren’t their ashes and the whole thing just became a vicious cycle that kept happening over and over and over and over…”

“…I’m leaving. Why don’t you just continue to watch?”

“Okay…bye.”

I don’t want to sound too cynical, but it seems to me – from my vantage point behind a very thick post – that things aren’t going all that well in America these days. We have folks tryin’ to leave the good old U.S. of A. to go fight for the Muslims in other parts of the world. Seems to me if they want to go, that’s fine; get rid of ‘em; get ‘em out and don’t let ‘em get back in. Course that could be a problem since our border to the south seems to be as solid as a sieve.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that the US Border Patrol does one hell of a job considering they have 2,200 miles of border to cover and no one has had the brains to put a minefield three miles inside the US border and close down some of the towns where the only money to be made is by the illegal trafficking of narcotics or human beings. In that regard, we’re probably too nice a bunch of people, but if we were to shoot a few of those folks trying to cross, especially the ones with the big bundles strapped to their backs, we might make an impression. People tell me that the cartels would retaliate and kill Americans. Well, that would pose a problem, but frankly, I think the illegal drug trade is a hell of a lot more dangerous than the bullshit ‘negotiations’ with Iran to prevent them from having “the bomb.”

Ya see, I don’t think that Secretary of State Kerry accomplished a damn think over there in Switzy-land. His Secret Service guys probably had a great time; most of ‘em got loaded and laid damn near every night. Remember, however, that he was negotiating with people from a country which is about 90 percent Shia. Since the Shia and the Sunni sects of Islam which, at one time, managed to get along, intermarry, and basically respected the others’ beliefs, are now bitter enemies, the negotiations will mean nothing if another war breaks out in the Middle East. Combine that with how these negotiations pissed off our allies in Israel and you will come to the conclusion that Kerry would have been better off negotiating with the Mexican government regarding illegal drug and human trafficking.

The Middle East is a powder keg…always has been; always will be. The Muslims aren’t crazy about the Christians; most of them hate the Jews for ‘stealing’ their land and making a highly successful and modern country out of it, which is something the Muslims couldn’t do for thousands of years; and the sects within Muslinism are now infighting to the point where that entire part of the world can expect to blow up within the next quarter of a century. How do you negotiate with people who put their family first; tribe second; and country a distant third?

They tell me – the ever-popular ‘they’ – that President Obama wants a Middle East peace to be his legacy. It would be nice. I like people who dream big and set high standards. However, there is such a thing as setting goals which are unrealistic…a lasting Middle East peace is just such a goal. Just when you believe you have one group settled down, another will rise up and screw things up once more. Palestine wants an independent state; ISIS wants its own independent country; Iran wants the bomb because Israel has the bomb; and, Syria wants God-only-knows-what but is willing to gas their people to get it; if only we knew what “it” is, we’d be all set.

I’m old and getting older. In my lifetime I have seen the face of Europe and the Middle East change so much that I don’t even bother to look at those world globes in stores anymore. I’m a bit surprised that Rand McNally even makes globes today. Hell, they’re out of date before they come out of the factory. It’s like the NFL…which player from which team will be indicted for which crime this week…”Ill trade ya two domestic violence convictions for one armed robbery.” And the front office of the NFL is like the United Nations, not knowing exactly what to do and trying to tap dance around taking any real punitive actions to halt misbehavior from its athletes in much the same way as the UN waits to see what the United State, Russia,  or China will do before they consider making any kind of move. It’s pathetic!

I love my country very much. I’ve served my country through military service, but the people who are governing my country at the national level are scaring the livin’ bejeezus out of me. One Congress passes a health care bill and then spends the next seven years trying to scrap it. The government tolls up huge debt and then bitches about the debt being too high while they continue to stuff pork into every bill they are trying to pass. They send our military into harm’s way for the sake of a few billionaires who want to preserve their interests in other parts of the world while many of our own cities, towns, and villages are going down the toilet because there’s no money for building infrastructure and creating new business. It appears to me that somewhere along the way we lost direction. We’ve forgotten that our job, our first job, is to take care of our own people. It’s time to stop allowing people who hate us to come to our shores merely because they hate where they were even more. America is not a refugee camp for people who want to cause us harm. I’m with the Australians; if you don’t like the way things are done here, get the hell out. You want to dress differently from the way Americans dress, get the hell out and go where your dress is the accepted norm. You want everyone in your community to worship the way you worship, get the hell out and find your common ground in the country from which you came. You want to live by your laws and not ours, get the hell out and go where your laws are the majority. We’re still a young nation, but we’ve done pretty damned well for a group of immigrants who have made something out of nothing. Sure, we’ve screwed up along the way, and yeah, we fucked up in the manner in which we treated Native Americans, but all-in-all, we’ve done reasonably well, so if you don’t like the way we act today, go where you feel more comfortable, but get the hell off our shores now!

What happens next?

There was a time that a troubled youth over the age of 17 had two choices…you either went to jail or you went into the armed services. If the military couldn’t straighten you out, there was something wrong with your head and you deserved to be locked up and have the key dropped in the Marianas Trench. Today, we have a professional military so the option of sending them troubled kids appears to have gone the way of the Do-Do bird so we just give them a slap on the wrist and send them on their merry way.

I don’t know if you saw the most recent example of kids out of control but it happened on a subway in New York. A man was reading his paper. Two kids walked up to him and asked him what he thought about the Michael Brown killing. He must have said something because these two black kids started beating the shit out of him. Then they stuck their faces right up in the camera. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see those two young men put into a prison with a group of skinheads. Had they been white, I would just as soon they be sent to live with a group of brothers. Either way, they would become “bitches” for men much tougher than they ever thought of being, and their thoughts of being able to get away with whatever they wanted would soon be dispelled. Harsh? Unfair? Cruel and unusual punishment? How would you compare that to what they did to a man minding his own business on a subway?

When Boston Police were firing at a man who had just shot a Boston cop in the face this past weekend, people were booing the police. This guy was still shooting at the police and the cops fired back killing the son-of-a-bitch…but the cops were booed. It really makes me wonder what the hell is going on. Had the guy gotten away, would the crowd have cheered? Had he managed to hide in an apartment and eventually killed a mother and her four kids, would the crowd have then roared, “There’s never a cop around when you need one?” What in the hell is wrong with people?

One of my dearest friends was Muriel Snowden a black activist and social worker, who, along with her husband, Otto, founded Freedom House in Boston “as a catalyst for promoting equality and access to quality education for people residing in lower-income communities of color throughout Boston.” We would sit together at meetings and dinners just to laugh at each others’ jokes and kid each other about this, that, or the other thing. I loved Muriel and I think the feeling was mutual. Thank God she has passed on because it would absolutely break her heart to see the way that many of today’s black teens are behaving. I wasn’t a racist then nor am I one today, but why is it that when I turn on the television, the people I see appearing in Boston courts are largely Black? The answer to that question, I guess, is because a large part of Boston is black. If we were living in California, I’m told that we would see white meth-heads appearing on the television screen. If we were in Arizona, New Mexico, or the southern part of Texas, it would be Mexicans, and if we were in San Francisco’s Chinese section…guess what? You get the picture;

There is, however, a problem with the picture we think we see. How many of the police officers of the same ethnic backgrounds are serving in the areas where there is a large percentage of the same ethnic group? In Boston, we’re fortunate. We have a number of officers from a variety of ethnic families, and they are the ones who patrol the neighborhoods where there is a concentration of the same ethnicity. It really shouldn’t have to be that way, but…that’s the way of the world. The unfortunate part is that when the shooting took place, it was a white cop who had pulled over a car driven by a black man, and it was in a “black neighborhood.” The police officer was doing his job. Had he stopped the man in East Boston, South Boston, or another ethnic neighborhood, the shooting still might have taken place, but the booing certainly would not have.

Ferguson, Missouri was a powder keg just waiting to happen. The police force is 97 percent white and the population is 67 percent black. Combine that with St. Louis’ history of being segregationist and discriminatory – the city still ranks as the sixth most segregated in the country – and you have a formula that makes other minority neighborhoods look peaceful and serene.

Where, then, is the problem? A good part of it seems to be that there is a dearth of police officers that represent minority groups. Who wants to be a cop these days? The job is frightening and often underpaid. It’s not a particularly new problem; it’s been going on for years until now it has almost reached what we might call “critical mass.”

After WWII, the military discharged huge numbers of its own police from all branches of the service. Many of them became police men and women. But that was a long, long time ago. They have all retired and most are in the ground. When Korea rolled around, something similar happened, but the numbers weren’t quite as great. The numbers from Vietnam were even lower, and while Iraq and Afghanistan have supplied more officers, there is still a lack of qualified people to fill the quotas of too many cities and towns in the United States.

I don’t believe that anyone takes this problem seriously except the police hierarchies in some of the major cities. My question is what comes next?

“They” said that Jack Kennedy could never be elected President of the United States because he was a Roman Catholic.

“They” said that Madeleine Albright would never be confirmed as the first woman to hold the position of Secretary of State.

“They” said that a Black man would never be elected to the highest office in the United States Government.

“They” sort of screwed up, didn’t “they?”

The Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, says that he is against discrimination of any kind and yet, he signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which the proponents of the act maintain is exactly the intent of the law.

“They,” in this case the Indiana legislature didn’t screw up; they screwed the Governor…and he’s a member of their own party. While he is now trying to backpedal on what he signed, the conservative Republicans in his state are going, “Yeah, baby, now we can nail those damned ‘queers,’ faggots,’ ‘lesbian bitches,’ etcetera, ad nauseum, and get ‘em to  hell out of our beautiful state.” This, my friends, is an absolutely perfect example of American bigotry. “Who are these bigots?” you ask. Well, let’s start with Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana. According to one source, “Clark has been publicly advocating for the bill as a means for allowing anti-LGBT discrimination since December, long before the legislation was even drafted. This directly contradicts the claims made Monday by House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R) that the legislation never had anything to do with discrimination.”

Are “they” doing the same thing in other states? Well, yes and no. Nineteen other states have similar laws but none go as far as the RFRA in Indiana goes. My question is a simple one when it comes to all of these acts: “What ever happened to the concept of “separation of church and state.” The states won’t interfere with religion and religion won’t interfere with the state. The laws that have now been passed in 20 states – and Arkansas may become number 21 – are nothing more than the last gasp of anti-LGBT politicians who are unwilling to attack real problems and have to satisfy themselves by going after a minority group. Can you say, “Raus Juden..unt off to the camps!” These are the signs of a fading empire.

Will “they” convince the US Congress to take a hard look at the bill that President Clinton signed in 1993 and attempt to rewrite that to include this anti-gay verbiage? There are enough crazy conservatives in both Houses now that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. We are being laughed at world-wide for our stupidity and this whole Religious Freedom Restoration Act is merely adding fuel to the fire of laughter that can be heard in the camps of both our friends and our enemies.

Meanwhile, America has sent its Secretary of State to Switzerland to try to work out a deal with Iran not to proceed with making nuclear weapons. Secretary Kerry is a very intelligent man; however, he could better be using his time training for the Pan Mass Challenge which he has ridden “religiously” (oops, bad word) for a number of years or sitting in his house in Louisburg Square watching the Final Four. Attempting to negotiate anything with a Middle Eastern country – Israel included – is like trying to argue with a five-year-old screaming child…you will not; you cannot win, whether by reason or force, because they are not listening. They will do what they want to do and you cannot stop them. Sanctions mean nothing to them. “They” are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table attempting to keep from bursting out laughing at your ridiculous posturing. Would Iran like to be a player on the world’s economic stage? Sure, but it doesn’t matter; they’ll get there. They’ll play the little game that the Americans’ want them to play while back home they’re moving ahead with everything they want to do. Middle Easterners have very, very long memories. They have been around far longer than America. It may take a little more time – maybe a Century or three or four – but they’ll get what they want. Meanwhile, they’ll just sit back and watch the further decline of America as a world force because we’re too stupid to recognize the games they play. Come on home, Mr. Secretary; you’re wasting your time. Come on home and see what can be done in our own country, because at the rate we’re going and the people we have in positions of political and industrial power, we are in one hell of a lot of trouble.

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