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Archive for December, 2013

“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate.  It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”            Leo C. Rosten 

 If you’re Jewish, you obviously know Leo Rosten. I’m not and I didn’t, but his quotation certainly gave me a great deal to ponder. People who work – always open to question – or prowl the West Wing or the halls of Congress should take a few moments to read – another unwarranted assumption — some of the things Rosten has to say.

Examine the quotation above for just a moment. If the purpose of life is, as Rosten says, “…to be usefully,” why do we, you and I, run across so many useless people day in, day out. We go to work – well, you do; I don’t have to do that stuff anymore. I’ve done my time in hell – and each day, you see someone and you are absolutely convinced that their sole purpose in life is to walk around and chat with others. You’ve never seen them doing anything that you would call work. Rosten, with his Yiddish humor, might call them a ‘nebbish.’  That’s the person who, when they walk into a room, people look at one another and ask, “Who just left?” Rosten also claims that the purpose of life is to “responsible and honorable.” Oh, Leo, I’m so happy you’re dead. This purpose of which you speak has changed drastically in the nearly twenty years since you passed. Today, the purpose appears to be ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dishonorable’ and one has to look no further than your fellow Yiddishe Kopf, Bernie Madoff, to see how badly things have become. On the other hand, Leo, you
do have someone like Michael Bloomberg, the outgoing Mayor of New York, who has spent over six hundred million dollars of his own money to help the city with some of its problems…now that I would call compassionate.

People, Leo, don’t appear to be will to stand up for anything; they don’t want to matter; they just want to bitch. It’s rather like if they don’t have something bad to say about whatever, they stay quiet. However, give them something to bitch about and they’ll be right down front, screaming with the rest of the crazies. They won’t have a solution; they won’t stand up and be counted in the plus column, but boy, can they piss and moan. I sometimes wonder if too many Americans today want to have a negative impact rather than a positive one on our country. A whole pile of folks seem to take great delight in making our own President the butt of comic fodder. “Reagan fell asleep in meetings.” Oh, really, did you ever look at his accomplishments and weigh those against being so damned tired from working that he had a right to nod off periodically? Look at every President we’ve ever had and with very few exceptions, their contributions far outweigh their lapses. Of course, we can’t all be the leader of the free world, but we can try to make something positive happen each day; make “some difference [to prove] that you [we] had lived at all. I like your quote, Leo, and I guess that as long as one is not completely useless or irresponsible or dishonorable and lacking in compassion, they’re off to a pretty good start. In addition, I know that the one thing I can do each day to make a difference is to make one person smile, or laugh out loud; even trying to get them to think is making some kind of a difference. At my age, there aren’t too many other things I can do, but I try. Thanks, Leo, for reinforcing and even reminding me to live a life with purpose.

I would like to have known Leo Calvin Rosten. Obviously, he was a brilliant and funny man. The brilliance may be found in many of his writings, and I guess that’s also where we can find much of his humor. For example, “Truth is stranger than fiction; fiction has to make sense.” One has but to read the biography of a famous life to see just how strange truth can be. This lesson can also be learned by sitting outside a Walmart for half an hour and watch the outfits that enter and depart…now that’s strange! And to end this brief essay with another Rosten quote, “Proverbs often contradict one another, as any reader soon discovers. The sagacity that advises us to look before we leap promptly warns us that if we hesitate we are lost; that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but out of sight, out of mind.”

Yes, it would have been pleasant to have known Leo Rosten.

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On 2013

Two thousand, fourteen…Have to admit that I never thought I’d live to see it. This is, I guess, a time when one is supposed to look back at 2013 with fair or foul memory and say what a wonderful or what a horrible year it was; truth be told, it was neither really nor really terrible.

Managed to add a few more essays to the blog; some were reasonable; some sucked! I can say that but would probably get highly irritated if others did. There are always topics about which to write; however, so many have already been covered by people far wiser than I, so who am I kidding that I would even begin to think I know what the hell I’m talking about.

It’s been a year when more school kids have been shot and killed, I’m so tired of writing about that. I’m not certain there were that many crazy kids when I was growing up. Maybe it was the fact that there weren’t so many guns around. Dad had the .22 pistol and the over and under shotgun, but as accessible as both were, as mad as I may have gotten at someone, shooting them never seemed to be an answer… fists maybe, but surely not guns; they killed people and once you’re dead, you’re dead. We knew that; I’m not altogether certain that some of these idiots realize that being dead means no more television or X-box baseball or whatever. Ah, well, that subject’s been covered enough. We’ll probably have to cover it again next year. How sad is that…”we’ll have to cover it again next year.” I can’t blame the NRA or Congress or really anyone at all. There are people who are just wired differently and do crazy things. It’s so easy to cast blame once a tragic event has taken place.

It certainly wasn’t a very good year for the politicians and I, for one, hope that they can do better in 2014. From what I’ve read, it seems they’re starting off on the right foot. I don’t really know where that word, “compromise,” has been for the past few years, but it certainly wasn’t in Washington, D.C. It seems to me that there is such a thing as being too liberal or too conservative. The Republican Party has found itself infiltrated by a group that is ultra conservative and even has the audacity to name itself after a group of patriots from Massachusetts…that really ticks me off. Those sons of liberty who almost made Boston Harbor drinkable must be spinning in their graves. The Democrats are at the other end of the spectrum; particularly with some of their old timers for whom it’s time to retire…I’m a term limits man, myself, and if you can’t get ‘the job done’ within a given time frame, you become merely a hanger-on who talks a good talk, but has passed the days of walking the walk.

It would be nice if in 2014, the word, “transparency” began to mean what it was intended to mean. It seems to me that transparency and prevarication were too closely allied this past year. Maybe it’s always been that way and I’ve just been up on the mountainside contemplating my navel or something, but I’ve seen nothing transparent about the manner in which the American public is treated by those who are supposed to be running the ship. The prime example to me is this Affordable Health Care law. It might have been passed by Congress – boy, were their heads in the sand – but (a) once it’s the law, you don’t try to repeal 40 times what you passed in the first place; (b) you don’t attempt to put the bill into effect until you’re sure the damn thing’s going to work; (c) you don’t keep lying about how great it will be once it’s in place just to cover the fact that it’s not even ready to go into place…there’s a mouthful for ya! And (d) if you really want to be transparent, you come out and say that the thing is not ready to go and may not be ready until you’re just about set to leave office, but by God when it comes out it will be right and it will benefit everyone. {and oh, shoot, but I hope I’m right on that one.]

I hope that 2014 brings a greater acceptance of the fact that two people of the same sex can love one another just as much as two people of the opposite sex.  Sexuality of different types is as old as man. I’m with Phil Robertson when he says that he prefers a woman’s vagina; so do I, but that really isn’t what homosexuality is all about. Damn near any man who’s been married for 25 years or more will tell you that sex is not what makes a marriage. A good marriage is based on mutual respect and understanding, and knowing that life wouldn’t really be worth living if it wasn’t for her. Joan and I had three kids, but those weren’t the only times for sex. Are you aware that men [and dolphins] are the only two animals that have sex for any reason other than creating life? Aw, now I’m climbing on a soap box and I don’t want to do that.

The year 2013 was the first time in twenty years that Boston had a mayoral election. While I’m not within the reach of Mayor Tom Menino, I have to admit that I’m not certain what Boston will be like without him sitting in the big dog’s chair. He’s parlayed a pleasant handshake, a big smile, and a behind-the-scenes vindictiveness into making Boston a magnificent city. Our new mayor, Marty Walsh, is going to have a huge pair of shoes into which he must step if the city is to hold onto its greatness. I will miss following Mayor Menino’s career; it was never dull or boring. Had the chance to say, “Hello” to him one day in BJ’s. Couldn’t understand a word of what he said, but perhaps that was part of his greatness. God Bless, Mayor. You are an encyclopedia of knowing how to run a city. Those students lucky enough to have you in a seminar will be fortunate to learn from you.

As each year passes, you have to look back to see who is no longer with us. That’s tough to do. My high school classmates seem to be hanging on, but not so true of the people with whom I attended college. I don’t know about you but I’d just as soon take things as they come and make each day the very best I can. I happen to be a great admirer of Margaret Mead and many of her quotes. Here’s one on old age: “It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.” So no matter what your age, make certain that today is fantastic; the year tremendous; and that 2014 is even better. You owe that to yourself.

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We live in techno-world. Is there anyone who has been living under a rock who is unaware of this? Those who believe that their lives are private are also those who use their head as a cork for their collective butts. Much of this we have brought upon ourselves through the use of social media. I have one friend who posts everything on her Facebook page except the number of times she pees during each day. From her Facebook page, I not only know where she lives; where she works; where her husband is employed; the layout of their house; where and when they go on vacation and; the number and ages of her children and where they go to school.  I haven’t even tried to get her Social Security number but it wouldn’t shock me if it’s out there somewhere…and available.

So many people were pissed when Edward Snowden began to unveil what has been going on in many parts of the world, including the United States, for decades. In his Christmas Day message, Snowden noted, “A child born today will never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.” I have news for you, Mr. Snowden, we haven’t had a moment to ourselves in years, particularly if we haven’t deserved to have that privacy…for whatever reason. As America’s population of immigrants has grown, many have become bitter after learning that the “American Dream” is, for the most part just that…a dream. Very few have returned to their native country. Instead, they have developed a bitterness and hatred for the country that has taken them in. Does that sound strange? It shouldn’t. All one has to do is look at the number of homegrown terrorists we have created and what they have done or have tried to do to disrupt he way in which things have been done in our country for years.

I happen to be Massachusetts born and bred, and when I die, I’ll be Massachusetts dead. What the Tsarnaev brothers did last April at the Boston Marathon finish was a perfect example of why I have no problem with the NSA as long as we the people are informed. If greater surveillance means the loss of a little freedom, I have no problem with that. If you want to monitor my calls to Pakistan to talk to a Babson alumnus, feel free. Ahmad is just another guy trying to make a living in his home country…and it hasn’t been easy for him or his family.

Back in the eighties, I was teaching a class in creative problem solving to police officers. It was part of a residential three-week command training course for newly minted first-line supervisors. One of the ways of loosening their minds a bit was to pose situations. Here’s one I always enjoyed using: “The year is 2330; how has policing changed?” The first answer generally was that there would be one unified national police force. However, invariably, someone would say, “Every citizen, when born, would be implanted with a chip that would tell us who they are and where they are at all times.” Whoa, if you think what Snowden has leaked is Orwellian, how ‘bout that chip idea? Remember, these are police officers who are saying this, and most of them are arch conservative in their thoughts. I have mentioned the chip idea to others, and while they find it repulsive, they also admit that “some of them” should have the chip. Your guess is as good as mine as to who “them” are.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother are perfect examples of ‘them,’ but how do we know? How did we know about the Times Square bombing that failed? How have we learned of other terrorists in the United States? How many other plots to bomb subways, national monuments, trains, or buildings have been stopped, and stopped quietly because of what the NSA has done? The answer is that we don’t have any bloody ideas…and we never will. Having a private life is wonderful. I like my privacy as much as anyone; in some cases, probably more. However, if listening to my call to Pakistan – I really don’t make that many – tells Homeland Security to run a check on me, have at it guys, because I don’t have one damned thing to hide. If I did, would I be putting this on paper.

Just as my friend with her Facebook page is so open, so, too, do I have friends who guard their privacy to the other extreme; they wouldn’t have a Facebook or LinkedIn or any other public page to save their lives. That is their prerogative. If they live that kind of life, they will never have to worry about the NSA or any other agency checking on them…that we know of! Electronic intelligence or ‘elint’ has been around since the late fifties. Technological advances have been such that if a government agency, hell, if a dishonest technogeek wants to get personal information from you, they can. I believe it was Will Rogers who said, “Live your life in such a way that you wouldn’t be afraid to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

I would venture to say that those who complain the loudest about having a lack of privacy are exactly those who are doing something their afraid will be discovered. Frankly, I rather doubt that these so-called “spy agencies” are concerned that you’re a closet alcoholic; that you’re a sex addict or that you’re a guy who likes to dress up in women’s clothes, or whatever else you can dream up. There are a lot of weird people out there…”even as thee and me”…as the saying goes.

Snowden is right. What was done was to a large extent wrong. Spying on the heads of state of our ‘friends’ was unconscionable. However, I don’t disagree with keeping an eye on some people within our own nation. If people in our own country decide that they want to disrupt something by bombing it, why should we discourage those who might just lean about it ahead of time by doing a bit of snooping? But, Snowden is also wrong…and he knew it. Otherwise, why would he fly out of the country to reveal what he had to say? As a former analyst, I consider his actions treasonous. As a private citizen who has been out of that business for nearly fifty years, I think he’s a naïve citizen who should have known better than to think privacy still exists today. Hell, look at all of the street cameras in Great Britain, in America, in God-only-knows-where-else. Look at the pinhole cameras that are available for use everywhere.

I just love these ads whereby a security company can allow you to keep an eye on your house from your telephone. You can set the temperature, tell the roast when to turn on, watch the kids come home safely from school, tell the dog to get off the couch, and even watch the burglar steal your television set. And you believe that no one else in this whole wide world can’t tap into that if they so desire? Oh, please.

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The fact that there is a great deal of pissing and moaning over the remarks made by Phil Robertson in GQ Magazine is not necessarily a bad thing. In his comments to People Magazine, he is quoted as saying, “I will not give or back off from my path.” That sounds like a man with the courage of his convictions, and no matter what the Arts & Entertainment network might feel, courage and conviction are two things that this country has been sadly lacking for the past decade or so.

 

Robertson believes what he believes. The backlash toward A&E would appear to indicate that there are a helluva lot of people who might darn well feel the same way or, at the very least, believe that the man has the right to free speech under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Obviously, yelling, “Fire” in a theatre is not free speech because it infringes on the rights of those in the theatre. If this ‘free speech’ liable or slanders another party, that is an infringement on their rights. In these and other cases, freedom steps aside and prosecution steps in to take control.

 

Whose rights did Robertson trample? I’m not so certain that he did anything except to express his own personal beliefs. This is how he views the world and he’s willing to stand by his views. There are so few people today who, if put into a situation such as he was, would answer so honestly and candidly. Take any member of the Congress of the United States. If anyone of them were to be asked, “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin that will preclude those practicing it from getting in to Heaven,” they would hem and haw and you know you would never get a straight answer. If President Obama was asked, “Do you believe that the Affordable Care Act is the proper document for all Americans?” do you honestly believe you would get anything but gobbledygook? Of course not.

 

President Harry Truman was a straight talking person, often called a son-of-a-bitch because of his no nonsense honesty. The same could be said of General George Patton, as well as Osama bin Laden. “What, are you nuts?” you ask. No, bin Laden spent his life trying to destroy America; he made no bones about this; he was focused, and when he spoke out, his words were to the effect that he wanted to destroy America. He didn’t equivocate; he did not give long and convoluted speeches. He knew where he stood and he made damn certain that we knew where he stood. We finally realized that his continued efforts were not in the best interest of America and therefore, he was dispatched. Some say he was martyred. I prefer to think of it as eliminating a potential danger to the citizens of the United States. The unfortunate thing is that too many of his disciples are not committed in the same manner that Obama was. Too many of them are not jihadists but just out and out murders wearing the disguise of jihad.

 

Truthfully, I don’t watch Duck Dynasty. It’s just not a program in which I have an interest…until now. I may have to start watching it to get a genuine conservative view. Robertson’s comments to Bible study group recently were fascinating: “…over the last 2000 years, “the sins are the same” and “humans haven’t changed. We get high, we get drunk, we get laid, we steal and kill,” he stated. “Has this changed at all from the time God burnt up whole cities because their every thought was evil?” The man makes a damned good point. If there is one person out there who has not broken at least one of the Ten Commandments at some time in his or her life, I want to meet them. People lie, cheat, and steal. Others take the name of the Lord in vain; still others covet their neighbor’s wife, and sometimes commit adultery. Ask a 13 or 14 year old what he thinks of his parents and he or she will tell you their ‘dorks’ or something worse; seems to me that a commandment just went out the window on that one.

In church, we’re told to obey the commandments of God. We’re told to lead good lives; to love thy neighbor as thyself. All of the things we’re told will get us into heaven. How do we know that? How do the priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams know this? Have they been there? Have they talked to God? I don’t mean to be heretical here, but please, don’t be so hypocritical as to pretend to know the entrance into Heaven. Sure, I could be wrong…but what if I’m not. What if there is no right or wrong way to enter into Heaven? What if the sinner who did one good thing in his or her life is just as welcome as the person who lived just a mundane life of doing no good or no bad?

I believe Phil Robertson has opened a few eyes. I believe his honesty, while perhaps shocking, is also refreshing. He has said exactly what he believes, broken now laws by doing so, offended the hell out of a large group of people, but he sure didn’t beat around the bush!

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More smoke and mirrors

Phil Robertson is perfectly within his rights to express his opinion regarding any subject about which he is informed and eloquent. Hey, wait a minute; he’s entitled to express his opinion about anything. If he happens to be speaking to someone from a magazine who wishes to interview him, that’s great. It is entirely up to the editors of the magazine if they wish to reprint what the man said. If someone who happens to be gay wishes to respond to Robertson’s remarks, they are perfectly free to do so, but I thought that no one from the gay community would respond. What’s the point? What could a member of the gay community possibly say that might alter how Robertson feels?  That’s right; not one word.

The difference between what I think and what actually happens in this world, however, are often some distance apart as shown by GLAAD representative Wilson Cruz’s response to Robertson: “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans –- and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

We could carry this discussion out to the point of ridiculousness…here we go. If Robertson wears LL Bean boots to go duck hunting, should LL Bean stores now refuse to sell their product to him because of the remarks that he made? Should he be disallowed from going to the church he attends because of his remarks? If his Ford 150 or whatever brand of truck he drives, break down, should Ford dealers refuse to sell him another. If he uses Miracle Grow on his lawn, should the company refuse to sell it to him because of his “personal” beliefs?

Personal beliefs are the key in this entire controversy. If I go the local paper and claim that all Roman Catholics [just picking one; don’t get pissed] are a bunch of hypocrites and liars, and if the paper thinks this is a newsworthy comment and print it, so what? No, I’m not a television star, if that’s what you wish to call the people on Duck Dynasty. However, it would piss off a few people. Several years ago, I wrote an editorial opinion piece for the local paper. It concerned an incident between a student and a teacher at the local high school. My point in the op-ed was this: No one knows exactly what happened except the student and the teacher. Everyone else is merely expressing their opinion. You want to talk about the bologna going into the Westinghouse, holy smokes. The father confronted me at the gym and wanted to ‘step outside;’ the brother came to my door with a three-page hand-written diatribe demanding that I issue an apology through the newspaper; the superintendent of schools called me and asked that I do the same thing; people who I thought were friends stopped speaking to me, and; all-in-all, I became the town pariah for several weeks. Funny how no one apologized when the truth came out, but people did begin speaking to me again; the father even called out, “Hi, Dick,” at the gym one day…in a very friendly manner.

Phil Robertson is an old man who’s known his share of problems. He was a substance abuser and probably did a number of things for which he is now
ashamed. He is a born-again Christian and tries to follow the teachings of the Holy Bible. All I can say is, “Good luck with that because there are times in everyone’s life when ‘the truth is harder than a lie’ and we weaken, but I wish you well.” Me, I don’t lie well at all, and people can always tell when I’m blowing smoke up their skirt!

Phil Robertson isn’t the first celebrity to make anti-gay slurs and he certainly won’t be the last. It’s unfortunate that people like Mel Gibson, Donald Trump, Donna Summer, and a number of lesser lights trying to make a name for themselves – they did but not in the way they expected – who feel they must express their anti-gay opinions…so what? The Holy Bible says a lot of things. For example, it says that it’s okay to stone someone to death; to whip your slaves; to murder; to drink to excess. Too many people take the Holy Bible as a black and white document. It is not; it is as open to interpretation as the Talmud, the Quaran, or any other book of religious teachings. It’s how people choose to interpret what the books say that is the question.

Phil Robertson was right to express his opinion, and GQ has the right to print it. Robertson also has the right to interpret the Holy Bible as he sees fit to interpret it. However, the minute he tries to convert me to his belief, that’s where his rights end and mine begin…because I don’t happen to agree with him, and I have no intention of allowing him to try to make me his convert. Personally, I believe a number of the gay couples I know will get into Heaven and whole lot faster than many of the straight couples I know.

Around this time of year it might have been best expressed by Tiny Tim…”God Bless Us…Everyone!

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Let’s talk about slavery. I’m not talking about slavery in America pre-1800s. I’m speaking of world slavery; of slavery that’s been around since the beginning of civilization; since man first rose up on two legs, found a weaker individual and turned him or her into their own personal property. Think about it; slavery has been with us for so long that most of us can’t even comprehend a time when there wasn’t a question of slaves, slave ownership, slave rebellion, slave emancipation and then, slavery again in some different form and by some different name.

Isn’t it strange to say that something so uncivilized has been around since the dawn of civilization, and yet if we are to believe the Bible, murder has been around just as long. According to Discovery Education, “…In ancient civilizations, slaves were usually war captives. The victors in battle might enslave the losers rather than killing them. Over time, people have found other reasons to justify slavery. Slaves were usually considered somehow different than their owners. They might belong to a different race, religion, nationality, or ethnic background. By focusing on such differences, slave owners felt they could deny basic human rights to their slaves.” In the Bible we read in Leviticus, “…you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” Therefore, we may assume that civilization has been built by strong backs controlled by stronger wills and minds.

Officially, slavery began in the America in 1619. A Dutch slave ship stopped in Virginia and traded 23 African slaves for food and drink. Many historians prefer to talk about indentured servitude where a craftsman or other person paid their passage to the New World by serving for a certain number of years until their debt had been paid. According to one of my late relatives, George Soule, one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact and a relative, came to this country as an indentured servant. Ironically, William Bradford, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony is also part of the family. How the hell that happened is anyone’s guess, but that’s history for ya.

As an institution, slavery still exists. Although it is underground, few will deny the slave trade that exists in the kidnapping of women to be used as sex slaves. We have to look no further than Cleveland and Ariel Castro to see slavery in the U.S. and don’t bet the farm that there aren’t other people out there who aren’t doing the same thing…they just have yet to be caught.

It’s difficult to believe but slavery existed elsewhere in the world until 1981 when Mauritania became the last country to formally abolish it. However, even in this African country, it did not become a crime until 2007. It may be illegal in Mauritania, but the dictator controlled country still tops the slave list with nearly four percent of its people living in slavery. Despite the fact that slavery is now considered illegal the world over, The Global Slavery Index, published by Australia’s Walk Free Foundation, lists India as still having nearly 14 million people enslaved. They are followed by China with 2.9 million and Pakistan with 2.1 million. Globally, the Index says that 30 million people around the world are live as slaves.

Despite the Civil War, War Between the States, or War for Southern Independence – however you wish to label it – and all of the legislation that has followed to end slavery and allow everyone to have equal rights, slavery still exists in America in 2013. If you don’t believe me, ask the local prostitute whose master we call a pimp. Ask the migrant worker who picks peaches or harvests lettuce or whatever. They all know what slavery is and how bad it can be. They know because it’s better here than where they come from and that’s not saying a hell of a lot. Ask the victim of domestic violence who is terrified of leaving but remains as a slave because she doesn’t know how to get out of an abusive relationship. Ask the Division I college athlete who is a hell of an athlete but whose parents could never afford to send him or her to college. What, you don’t call that slavery? What the hell else would you call it? I recall one scholarship athlete at Penn State whose coach used to wave her scholarship papers in the air before this kid’s swimming event; in other words, “Win or else!” If the “or else” happened; if that kid’s scholarship had been pulled, no way could the family have afforded to keep her in school. Ask the immigrant who is working for less than minimum wage in a drudge job that “Americans” wouldn’t do for love or money. No, slavery is not dead. It lives on throughout the world, even in the land of the free and the home of the brave, as tragic as it is.

We’ve probably all heard someone say, “Oh, he’s a slave to his job,” or something similar. There are jobs where that’s not so far off. One definition of “slave” is “a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person.” In addition, we’ve all known or had bosses like Simon Legree from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, those who manage by fear and intimidation. We call them bullies, but if they control whether or not we hold a job, receive a salary, continue to be able to feed our family and have a roof over our head, are they really less evil than the old slave masters?

Since time immemorial slavery has existed. Biblical references abound in both the Old and New Testaments. As unfortunate as it may seem, it there is not one country in this world that deserves to call itself ‘civilized’ as long as slavery exists in any form. How far we have come in so many ways; what a pity we’ve advanced in so many other areas of life.

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There are too many people with big egos living in America today…and there are too many charlatans who are more than willing to play to those egos and to take the money of the egotists.

Have you seen the number of ads for this cream or that treatment to make you look younger? Perhaps it’s me but I don’t understand why we all can’t be who we are. Why do we need to spend thousands of dollars – not covered by insurance by the way – to make ourselves look like who we are not? Since these are the types of people who would sue my ass big time if I mentioned their names, I’m not going to give them the opportunity, but you know who they are; you’ve seen the commercials; you’ve seen the before and after photos that, while they may not be retouched, they are certainly posed in a different manner, clothed in a more attractive fashion, and lit in a more complimentary way….ah, the tricks of the trade!

I don’t understand this desire to look like you’re 40 when, in fact, you’re damn near 80. We’re not who we are on the outside. What makes us us, is who we are on the inside. You may be the handsomest guy on the block but it will soon become apparent that you’re a son-of-a-bitch the minute you open your mouth or take some kind of action that shows your true colors. Women who may be gorgeous to the eye may also be beautiful on the inside but there are others who, when the make-up, false eye lashes, hair extensions, and other ‘additions’ are removed, show what makes up the real person.

One night I was sitting at dinner with a member of the Babson College board of trustees. I have no idea how it came about but I began speaking of my mother. In her later years, I told this lady, mother began to lose her hair. My aunt, who was a hairdresser, asked mom if she’d like to have thicker hair. While I never considered my mother to be vain, she was excited at the prospect. Evelyn, my aunt, would give mom some kind of hot oil treatment and sure enough, mother’s hair grew much, much thicker. When she died, it was with a full head of hair. The trustee asked if she could speak with my aunt about restoring her hair. When I asked her why, she grabbed her hair and lifted it straight up for everyone to see. “This show you why?” she asked. I’ve seen billiard balls that had more hair than her head. I mean, it glistened. All I could do, along with the rest of the people at the table, was roar with laughter. Talk about someone who didn’t give a damn what people thought; it was wonderful. This lady was a well-known philanthropist and a member of the boards of several organizations and businesses. She was who she was; she didn’t care what others might think, and, I absolutely loved her for it. Unfortunately, my auntie Ev was gone from this earth so putting hair back on this trustee’s head was moot.

If you really want to know how someone looks, go to a gym at five o’clock in the morning. Men and women stagger in with no make-up, hair that looks like it hasn’t seen a brush since yesterday – a lot of the women wear headbands or bandanas; the men just the cowlicks stick where they are. These people don’t give a damn about what they look like; they care about how they feel. They come to the gym to sweat and stay healthy and they couldn’t care less about what others think.

I look at wrinkles on people as signs that they’ve lived life more fully than those who parade around with “a pound and a half of make-up on their face.” My high school and college classmate, George, has so much hair, he could probably grow it out for ‘Locks of Love.’ Me, I’m a bit different. My wife died of cancer; although she did not go through chemo, her hair fell out. I shave my head as a tribute to her and every time I shave, I think of her and all of the fun times we had together [In case you’re interested, I also talk with her every night]. She didn’t care too much for make-up, and yep, she had the wrinkles to prove it.

As I said earlier, we are who we are; what we look like makes little difference. We’re loaned this shell we call a body for a very short time in the whole scheme of things. As hard as we might try; as many face lifts as we may get; as many crèmes as we may use, we might change what we look like, but we can never change exactly who we are. It’s not what we look like or how we dress that makes us. It’s what’s inside; it’s how we treat others; not how we treat ourselves that shows our true beauty or ugliness.

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