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Archive for November, 2014

“That the future may learn from the past.”

It’s on the bottom of the letterhead used by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. I happen to believe that statement, but unfortunately, there seem to be a whole passel of people who do not. We haven’t learned that liberty and justice for all means what it says. It shouldn’t matter what your race, color, sexual, or religious beliefs happen to be, you have a right to justice. We have elected – yep, we elected ‘em – elected officials who are supposed to ensure that justice is yours. These elected officials are our delegates to ensure (a) that justice is served and (b) that equality is meant as everyone; that we are all equal under the law.

Let me remind you of something: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln’s words ring just as true today as they did a few months over 150 years ago. Us the living were, according to Lincoln, to move bravely into the future in order to preserve the nation; that we should learn from the past as we attempt to build a better future for all people. In that lesson I fear that we have failed; we have failed those who so valiantly fought to unite a young nation; who died at places like Gettysburg,, Shiloh, Antietam, and so many other towns, villages, streams, and rivers right here on our own soil. We have failed because we have failed to accept the burden of responsibility that has been thrust upon us.

I have tried my damndest to get into the heads of people who refuse to accept the concept of an elected government to serve the needs of its people. I have tried my damndest to get into the heads of those people who have been elected to learn why so many of them feel the need to put themselves ahead of those who elected them; who are supposed to be representing them; who do not really know what is happening in their own districts, much less their state or the union itself. I have failed miserably. What is going through the mind of a person who takes it upon him or herself to pick up a gun, go into a school, and shoot innocent people? Please, don’t give them an excuse by saying that they are mentally deficient. If that’s the case, why wasn’t the deficiency caught earlier? I don’t understand people who will riot for the sake of rioting; who will travel hundreds of miles just to burn buildings and loot stores. “Oh, well that’s just the mentality of those people.” What a crock of bullshit. It would appear that there are people in America who don’t wish to see our nation advance; who don’t want us to even have a future. I’m not talking about immigrants, legal or illegal. I’m talking about people who, by their very place of birth, should be doing their damndest to advance themselves and advance the future of our country; this place we call America.

Do we have problems? You bet your ass we do. We have problems of poverty, unemployment, and yes, even inequality. The ways in which to address these problems, however, is not to scream and shout, burn buildings, and attack those who serve our justice system. That only serves to exacerbate the problems we face. It is at such times that we expose our own ignorance. America is far from a perfect place; our republican form of government is far from a utopian ideal. In fact, it was 1947, when Sir Winston Churchill told the House of Commons, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Is there another country in the world where I would be allowed to say some of the things that I have said on this blog? The true answer is, “No, I would not.” You and I have freedoms so far beyond what people in many other countries have, that we cannot even understand how great we have it. As I said earlier, yes, we have many problems to be solved. We cannot solve them if we go to the ballot box and elect the same type of person we have been electing for the past few decades.  Leaders need to step up to the plate and prove their leadership. They will be put under a microscope and condemned for having been a bully in kindergarten or for having had pre-marital sex, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. America is searching for genuine leadership to bring us out of our morass and moving us forward to create “a more perfect union.”

I’m over 80 years of age. I wish I was younger. I don’t consider myself one of those leaders by any stretch of the imagination, but I do picture myself as part of the rabble that will fight to make our nation better for all people.

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“Black Friday.”

Dum-Ti-Dum-Dum…Dah!

It sounds like something invented by God to scare little kids into being good…or else, they will be sent to the Black Friday. I know; I know; it’s supposed to be the day when retailers turn their red balance sheets into the black, but it just sounds so…so….icky!

I did a Black Friday schtick just once in my life; got rammed in the back by some guy who looked to be the size of Vince Wilfork or some other 380 pound NFL tackle as we were getting off the elevator in a Boston department store; stabbed in the toe by a four foot nothing little old lady’s umbrella – so that’s what’s wrong with my foot – and lost my wife in Jordan Marsh – the predecessor of Macy’s. I wound up on a friggin’ up escalator and by the time I got off, I looked down and saw my wife at the candy counter – never a good thing – looking around desperately to see where the hell I was. By now it was about ten o’clock in the morning and my sole desire was to have a double scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I stopped smoking on September 17th, 1998 and stopped drinking shortly before that, so you can see just how ingrained this memory has been implanted on my brain! Even my late wife, gone now for half a decade, admitted that she would never, under any circumstances, go through that experience again. Oh, did I mention the black eye I sustained while reaching for an electric hand mixer. While I did, miraculously, get the mixer, I also received an errant (Ha!) elbow that gradually went from red to purple to yellow over a period of several days.

Today, Black Friday means something completely different to me. It’s a day to sleep in following a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant. No, not necessarily a turkey dinner, although that was my choice this year. You see, this restaurant limits its menu on Thanksgiving. Last year, my choice was prime rib; the year before that, it was the lamb. Juli sticks with their ham steaks; yes, I did say steaks – three or four. While the food is excellent, one always takes home more than one eats. Enough about the great food, however; Friday morning is relegated to watching newscasts of shoppers trampling one another to get their hands on door busters while getting their feet entangled with other shoppers and falling flat on their collective faces…it’s hysterical. I’m certain that many of these people hold important positions in business, industry, and education, but on this one day, they are turned into wild animals, released from the wild and allowed to attack store fronts, piles of merchandise, and bewildered clerks. My personal philosophy is, “F@#$ck Black Friday” and everything about it.

My Black Friday is black raspberry jam on raisin toast, a glass of Nantucket Nectar’s orange mango, a cup of hot chocolate topped with real whipped cream, while sitting by the fire, watching the television show the idiots, of which I was one – once in my entire life. And as these happy shoppers are unloading gifts for themselves and others, just now beginning to wonder why they spent so much more than they intended, I will be laying back in my recliner, possibly munching on a mid-morning snack on pecan pie, warmed in the microwave and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yes, the cardio workout will be a bit longer tomorrow but what the hell; I still have all of my toes; my vertebrae have not been cracked; and, both eyes are clear and open.

Small Business Saturday is tomorrow; guess what? I don’t really care. Small businesses can’t afford to offer 50 inch televisions at $199.95 [plus tax]. I prefer to shop small businesses year round anyway. Sure, my prescriptions come from Walmart, and we even buy a few grocery items there, but if a local business has something I want and it’s just a few pennies more, I’d rather support the little guy than contribute to the big guy’s millions. Remember, even the big guys were just little guys who swallowed the “greed pill.” While that may not be altogether the case, Sam Walton did begin with a single store, and Ray Kroc didn’t start MacDonald’s until he was 52. Everybody has to begin somewhere.

This year, all of my gift shopping has been or will be done online. I can sit in my grungy sweat pants, old t-shirt and sweatshirt; I won’t worry about not having shaved or putting on shoes and socks. I can be the slob that I am and sit at my computer with my list and my budget. If the budget runs out before my list is completed, well, too bad Uncle Harry or Aunty Julia, you get the coal lump this year; that’s just the way it goes.

 

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I am so goddamned sick and tired of hearing how Michael Brown was just a great big jolly kid who didn’t deserve to die that I want to puke.

The way this kid is being portrayed by members of the community, most of whom are probably like me and didn’t know him, is that he was just so wonderful, laughing, the life of the party, etc., and he was shot by that white son-of-a-bitch who was out to get him. That’s what I’m hearing; that’s how I’m interpreting what I’m hearing. Now that white son-of-a-bitch is going to go free, just like that white son-of-a-bitch in Florida who killed Trevon Martin. All the white sons-of-bitches are going to go free because it’s open season on Black people.

What a crock of shit! Michael Brown robbed a store minutes before he was shot to death. He threatened and pushed a clerk or someone, perhaps the man who owned the store and who was so small he wouldn’t stand a chance against someone of Michael Brown’s size and obvious disposition. Give me a break, folks. Michael Brown was killed because he was a punk who thought he was bigger, badder, and the meanest son-of-a-bitch on the street. Evidence says he got two punches into the face of Darren Wilson before Wilson started to shoot.  In my mind, from all that I’ve heard, Michael Brown got exactly what he deserved.

That being said, I don’t believe that Trevon Martin got what he got. I do believe that George Zimmerman should be sitting in jail for murdering that particular 17-year old. I toss that in here just to placate those who have reached the point where they would like to shoot me.

Fact: If you are told to stop by a police officer, stop!

Fact: If you are told to put your hands up by a police officer, get your damned hands in the air!

Fact: If you are told by a police officer to get down on the ground, hit the deck with your arms and legs spread!

These are the facts. I’ve been there; I know this. If a cop tells you, “Stop or I’ll shoot,” you better freeze in your tracks and hope your bladder and bowels don’t let go. I’ve been there; I know this. If you are acting suspiciously – and we were – and a cop comes toward you with a gun, you are well advised to do what “the man” says, regardless of the color of your skin or the size of your body! My personal experience happened in South Boston many years ago. It was a mistake, but it was a very frightening experience.

Had that cop shot and killed any of us, I find it difficult to believe that a large group would gather and burn down businesses in Southie. Being Irish wouldn’t have helped me or my friends in that Irish neighborhood. In Ferguson; in Detroit; in many other cities around the nation, if a Black person is shot, that seems to be time to riot, burn businesses – many owned or franchised to  Black entrepreneurs – and otherwise cause trouble…because “the man” hates Black people.

I read an editorial in the Boston Globe this morning. In it the writer notes, “Being black in America means trying to heal wounds that feel like they’ve been left raw since long before you were born.” I’m sorry but for me, many of these wounds have been self-inflicted. Most of us, Black or white, can only speak anecdotally about our experiences with people of the opposite color. Most of my experiences have been good; some have been extremely unpleasant. When I walked into a Black bar in the Mission Hill section of Boston, I was the first white face in there. Until the members of the Boston Patriots football team walked in behind me, I was terrified. Why, because a group of Black men were already on their feet and coming toward me and from the expressions on their faces, they did not have handshakes on their collective minds. Had we not been previously invited by the bar’s owner, things could have gotten ugly. The writer goes on to say, “Over and over he (St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch) repeated two themes: That the loss of Brown’s life was tragic; that Wilson was justified. This reinforces a message that gets whispered and shouted from black parents to their children and all along the family tree: Your life is not your own, your body is all you have, and even that guarantee can be voided in this country. Wait a minute; that’s not a Black thing; that’s true of every single one of us. Our lives are not our own. Our lives are governed by the environment in which we live. Our body is all any of us have, and it can be snatched from us with the snap of one’s fingers. Don’t you dare go attaching color to something that is universal. Yes, if you choose to live in a violent neighborhood, your chances of survival go down, but please don’t tell me that you are required to live in that neighborhood. There are  many people who manage to get out of those neighborhoods by hard work and an understanding of why they should move.

I am sick to death of this “Woe is me” attitude that I’m hearing from people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the protesters in Ferguson. Stop blaming all of your problems on the white man. Burning out businesses and turning over and burning cars is not the answer. Organize; run your own candidates for public office; work to get out the vote and vote yourself. Stop bitching and start building opportunities.

 

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When I was in college – yes, they had colleges back then, and no, we did not write with pieces of charcoal on the heads of shovels – I joined a fraternity. The term that was used at the time was “pledged.” One pledged a fraternity and if the brothers thought that you were acceptable, ie, take a good paddling on your ass and perform other, less vicious and idiotic tasks, e.g., going to the ladies room at South Station in Boston and present a detailed sketch of how the inside of that toilet appeared, then you were voted into the fraternity. The catch was that each of the brothers was given two colored balls with which to vote, a black ball and a white one. If you received all white balls, you were in; one black ball and you were out, fini, kaput, so long, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out! Somehow, this vote of no confidence was supposed to ensure that all brothers were fine, upstanding young men of similar strong character. We even had a fraternity house. It was a rather large Victorian, located off campus. Rather than staying in on-campus housing, a brother could stay at the fraternity house at a somewhat reduced rate. The expectation was that all residents would chip in for food and other household necessities. Since I was a commuter student, I’m not certain how that really worked out.

In my junior year, a freshman pledged ‘my’ fraternity. He had been asked to pledge by one of the upper class brothers from the same hometown. I knew the young man by name and community only. I knew that he had impregnated a high school classmate and that his parents had paid for the young woman to travel to another state to go through the nine month gestation period – abortions really weren’t approved of in those days, particularly if you were a member of the Roman Catholic church. How I knew all of this is quite immaterial, but you should be aware that this young man was considered to be something of a rich asshole who liked to play, “hide the pecker,” and he didn’t care which young lady was available. Did I mention that his parents were rich? Very rich? Very, very rich?

During the pledge period, I went to the brother who had been designated, “pledge master,’ that is, he was in charge of the pledge class and responsible for assigning the idiotic tasks and ensuring that the pledges were doing what the pledges were supposed to do. I told my “brother” of my concerns about this rich asshole and requested that he be washed out immediately. I was informed that if I wished him out, I could do so by blackballing him at the end of the pledge period, not before…veddy interesting! When the time came for the vote, I dutifully cast my black ball. Somehow, it never made it to the final count. My vote was not in the voting box when the balls were counted. Despite my protest, the rich asshole became a member of the fraternity and I left the organization. It was not that many years later that the fraternity lost its national affiliation, was forced to sell its house, and to the best of my knowledge, was eventually disbanded.

I’m not in the least surprised by what is supposedly going on at the University of Virginia or at any other college or university in the country that allows fraternal organizations on campus. Can they be good spirit boosters and create lasting bonds? Sure, of course they can. Is it possible for them to become the animal house of movie fame? You bet your ass it is and there will always be an element within the frat who believes that is exactly what they are supposed to be.

Understand something very clearly; every four or five years, the leadership of any campus organization undergoes a complete transformation. If leadership succession is not considered a major part of the organization, it can go from top dog on campus to the bottom of the heap in that short a period of time. And once the “good old boys” take over and every night is keg night, the organization will go straight to hell in no time flat. With the mentality that goes along with eat, drink, and make merry, come other attitudes which are far more criminal in nature, and which involve, eventually, taking advantage of young women by getting them drunk and doing things that neither party would ever consider when sober.

“You’re speaking from only one experience,” you may say. The answer to that is, “No. I spent forty years in higher education; on two campuses where fraternities were in place.” My experience goes far beyond my single personal episode when I was an undergraduate. I have seen young men and women drunk out of their minds at ten o’clock in the morning. I have seen couples screwing in stair wells and behind a tree – not in the trees – knowing full well that one of them had to be drunk…and you can well imagine which party it was.

This raises the question; are college campuses safe places to be? For the most part, I would have to say that yes, they are. They are safe enough for anyone who knows the reason they are there. They are safe for anyone who knows their limits when it comes to alcohol consumption. They are safe enough if you understand that you’re not in college or attending a university where getting drunk every night is tolerated. Every year, some magazine or more than one will come out with their rankings for “party schools,” and every year, school administrators who find their institution on that list attempt to clamp down…or not. Did my kids belong to a fraternity or sorority when they went to college? My oldest daughter belonged to one of the two sororities on campus. They were so busy competing with each other for good kinds of recognition, they rarely found themselves on a Dean’s carpet. Did she drink along with others? I’m certain that she did…but I was never told by anyone, “Hey, your kid’s a drunk,” and a great many people knew who she was and to whom she was related. My son belonged to a different type of fraternal organization; it was a team; a swim team to be exact. Between practice, a tough academic schedule, and meets, he still found the time to booze it up occasionally…and he’d be the first one to tell you that. However, to this day – and he’s damn near 50 – he’ll tell you that he never once intentionally plied a female visitor with booze for dishonorable intentions. As far as the youngest was concerned, she was too busy overloading her academic schedule and, like her brother, swimming on her team, that I have to admit, I’m not certain when she had time to drink…add to that, that she’s not much of a drinker today, and you sort of get the point.

Are all fraternities’ places of debauchery and indecency? Of course not, I’d be willing to bet that those where wild things take place on a reasonably regular basis are a very small group. As I have said, that can change in one four-year cycle. Fraternities, however, are supposed to have advisors. With a weak advisor or a weak Greek system – the administrators who are, theoretically, in overall charge – things can change rapidly. Just because there has been no trouble in the past doesn’t mean that just below the surface, trouble isn’t brewing.

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Acceptance is a good thing

It’s a fact of life; they are among us!

You don’t care for them, that’s your problem!

They’re queers, faggots, queens, dykes, and a thousand other slurs that have been hurled at people whose sexual preferences are different from our own. It’s about time, we stopped thinking that they have horns and are evil, the spawn of the devil. Hey, don’t kid yourself; there are people out there who think exactly that. It’s the ignorance of the world, and it really is about time that the world wised up.

Here is just the latest example in the “this-really-pisses-me-off” report that I compile off and on. “If you’re homeless in Kansas City, Missouri, you’re always welcome at the City Union Mission shelter — unless you’re gay. City Union’s executive director says that because they are a “Christian, faith-based organization,” they don’t allow same-sex couples or families to stay together, and they require transgender people to dress according to the sex they were assigned at birth, regardless of how they identify today. The shelter claims to be adhering to “biblical standards,” but Jesus’ words about welcoming the stranger didn’t include any asterisks excluding LGBT people. That’s probably why other Christian organizations in Kansas City, like the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, welcome same-sex families.

I’ve been to high school and college with people whose sexual preference was far removed from my own. No one ever tried to convert me. No one ever attempted to seduce me…at least, not that I know of, and I’m pretty certain on that one. I’ve worked with men and women who are gays, lesbians, transgender, and bisexual.  A faculty member confided in me once and told me that he was going to have a sex change operation. Until he came back as a woman, I was one of the only or very few people who knew what he was doing while he’d been away. She was still the same person in my mind. I had a bit of trouble remembering not to call her by her male name, but I got over it. I know several people at my gym who are gay. They’re good people.

Places like the City Union Mission, and people like Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson – the young men who killed Matthew Shepard, are places and people of ignorance and intolerance. People hold up the Holy Bible and say that, “It says in the Bible…” and they twist that fine piece of fiction to suit their needs. Yes, I’m a heretic for saying it’s a fine piece of fiction. The Holy Bible was written by men. They are setting forth what they believe is the truth about the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ.  We do not know the extent of the truth in the Holy Bible other than to take on faith its accuracy. Have I read the Holy Bible from cover to cover? No, I have not. Do I believe much of it to be true? My faith in God tells me that parts of it come close to telling exactly what happened during those times. My faith in man tells me that the Holy Bible is a sanitized version of what actually went on during the time of Christ. It’s been said that the winners write history while the losers weep. That being the case, I leave you to judge in your own way as I judge in mine.

Fred Phelps is dead; however, the Westboro Baptist Church carries on with their hatred of gays. It’s because most of us are tolerant of the beliefs of others that the church can carry on. In Rockford, Illinois, the American Nazi Party was founded, but we allowed it to carry on because we are tolerant. I find it so very sad so many of us are lagging in our acceptance of people who don’t behave the way “we” do. I suppose, that, like so many other idiotic things that have been thought over the centuries, this, too, will pass. The day will come when there will be acceptance of all people, no matter their beliefs. I’ll be long gone by the time that day rolls around but maybe, just maybe, I can look down from a window of one of my Father’s  many mansions – “Were it not so, would I have told you” – and I’ll smile.

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I know a little bit

“I know a little bit about a lot of things…but I don’t know enough about you.” It’s one of those golden oldies that pops into my head now and again…the way a lot of the old songs do. I’ve stopped listening to the radio in the car; haven’t done it for several years now. It was on the advice of a psychiatrist that I stopped listening. I’d been diagnosed with depression, and it was suggested that I spend a bit of time with a ‘shrink’…an impolite term, I admit but a hell of a lot shorter than the technical term. She suggested that rather listening to music in the morning, I  consciously practice some deep breathing in the car, listening to the depth of the breaths…in…out; in…out. You get the picture. That’s what I did, and I found that the breathing brought a certain amount of peace to whatever drive I was making. Remarkable what those people learn from textbooks, isn’t it? Boil it down and it’s common sense; if your ears aren’t being assaulted – and with the music of today, that’s exactly what it is – you can actually enjoy driving [unless it’s during the morning commute in Boston, Baltimore or Hartford]. Hell, I don’t even know if the radio works anymore; after all, the car is fifteen years old!

There are times, however, when I find myself humming tunes from way back when…songs, I remember from my high school and college days; songs from shows that Joan and I attended during our early years of marriage; even songs from some of the old movies. I suppose it beats the hell out of trying to practice a quick draw while seated and driving…that would be from some old movies also, but that takes much more concentration than listening to music in your head.

Let me give you, oh, I don’t know, maybe just a few examples of knowing a little bit. We were in the grocery store this morning, doing a bit of rainy day shopping. At the ‘special’ meat counter – where you can pick out; ah, fuck it; it’s where they have the better cuts of meat, ok? Anyway, there were a couple of people ahead of us and they were treating the guy behind the counter with a certain degree of…well, I call it “meanness;” Juli called it a “me first” attitude. I suppose some others might say they were being all business in what they wanted, but that really wasn’t it. They were demanding in a way that just wasn’t very nice. I thought back to the days when I worked in a grocery store. I don’t remember people like that. Maybe I’ve forgotten them, but these people are sufficiently memorable that their arrogance would stick in my mind. At times, I worked behind the meat counter; I remember people saying, “Please” and “thank you.” Not one of the people ahead of us this morning used either word. So, what’s happened? Have we become a nation of “less-polite-people?” Are we so self-absorbed that we don’t consider that others might enjoy a please or a thank you? Therefore, I would say that I know a little bit about courtesy to those who are doing something for us, but I sure as hell don’t know why we aren’t more appreciative.

I know a little bit about gardening…which is a heck of a long way from what I knew before Juli arrived on the scene. Dad had small gardens wherever we lived, but we weren’t allowed to ‘help’ tend them. Since we didn’t know a weed from a plant, Dad was probably correct in keeping us away; he could have taught us the difference, but I’m not certain just how trustworthy we were…kids, ya know! After spending time watching, listening, and asking questions of Juli, I was able to tell a woman at the gym one day that her lilies were being eaten by a bug that first appeared as a black spot on the underside of the lily leaves [doesn’t that have a nice ring to it…”lily leaves,” and that she could just whisk them off with a fingernail into a cup half filled with water.  I’ve also learned a few other things about gardening, but if you asked me to plant, grow, and control all pests before harvest; I’d just look at you with the stupid grin of someone who can talk a good game but who can’t play worth a damn!

Yes, I know a little bit about a lot of things. I’d like to believe that I know a lot about love, but I really think I’d be kidding myself. I thought I was in love in high school but in hindsight they were just childish crushes or the libido exercising its right of passage. There were also a couple of ‘flings’ while I was in college, but by then, I was fully aware that they were far from love. I also remember walking into the teachers’ room at Rockland High School on the first day that I was substituting. There was a young teacher at the back of the room, talking with another female teacher. They were both smoking; I was a smoker back then. One look; that was all it took; just a quick glance and as has been said, “The thunderbolt hit,” and it hit hard. I had no idea who this woman was; I remember thinking that I hoped to hell she wasn’t married because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her…that was that. She wasn’t married or engaged. Talk about pursuit! That was November; she said, “Yes,” in March, and on July 4th we married. Fifty plus years later, we said, “Goodbye.” It wasn’t a pleasant goodbye; it was goodbye because cancer had won its war…again.  “I’ll never love again,” I said to myself. “No one can ever replace her,” I thought. “I’ll be alone until we meet again,” was my philosophy.

During Joan’s health crisis, I received an e-mail from a lady in California. It wasn’t meant for me – or maybe it was – so I responded that she had the wrong person. She thanked me, and we started a conversation about New England and California. I’d been there; she’d never been here. We became friends in the best sense of that word. Two years later, she asked if she might visit. She arrived and it soon became apparent that the friendship was stronger and more attracting than either of us had originally thought. Love became a word I thought I’d never use or hear again, but yeah, it happened. Did she ‘replace’ Joan? No, that could never happen. She lost someone to the same disease that killed my wife? We were simpatico in so many ways that it was wonderful. After she retired, I asked her to move from California. She did, and we’ve found a new love. Therefore, I think I can say that I know a lot about love. I’ve been blessed because Joan and Juli are my loves. Each has sameness and each has many differences, but they are loves, very, very genuine loves. I’m a lucky man. I may know a little bit about a lot of things, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been taught a lot of things about love.

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We have a new kind of slave in America today. In reality, they are still beaten and bear the scars of their enslavement. They are paid slave wages in exchange for what we are calling an education…which they don’t really get because their masters have them on a particularly short leash, and when the ‘massa’ calls, they damn well better jump. Who are these modern-day slaves, you ask? They are Black collegiate athletes who are preyed upon by the likes of too many Division One recruiters, coaches and athletic directors.

In a recent study by The Center for the Study of Race and Equality in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, it was stated that, “The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) noted in a recent television commercial that Black male student-athletes are ten percent more likely to graduate than are their same-race male peers who are not members of intercollegiate sports teams.” However, “This is not true across the six major NCAA Division I conferences whose member institutions routinely win football and basketball championships, play in multimillion-dollar bowl games and the annual basketball championship tournament, and produce the largest share of Heisman trophy winners. “

For Black kids, one of the few ways to improve themselves and their families’ economic status is to play sports to the extent that they can receive a scholarship to college and go on to become a professional athlete. The best road for doing that is to play collegiately at the Division one level and to tout their wares on the gridiron, basketball court, or baseball diamond. With luck, much, much luck, they will have an opportunity to become professional athletes…somewhere in the world. While not broken down by race, an article from the Business Insider in 2012, noted that only 11.6 percent of collegiate baseball players went into the major leagues. It’s worse for other collegiate sports. For example, of the nearly 68,000 college football players, only 1.7 percent are drafted; and a mere 1.3 percent of NCAA hockey players make it to the NHL. Of the over seventeen thousand college basketball players, the percentage drafted is 1.2. These figures are pathetic when one considers that playing sports at the D1 level becomes more important than education at the D1 level. Colleges spend millions of dollars recruiting high school men and women to come play for the “good ole U.” The University of Tennessee, for example, spends over two and a quarter million dollars to recruit. Auburn and Notre Dame are also in the two million dollar club. Million dollar recruiting schools include Texas Tech, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Oregon, and several others.

Let us, however, get back to the plight of the Black collegiate athlete.  The University of Pennsylvania study found that, “Across the four cohorts (consecutive years) studied, only 50.2 percent of Black male student-athletes graduated within six years, compared to 66.9 percent of student-athletes overall, 72.8 percent of undergraduate students overall, and 55.5 percent of Black undergraduate men overall. The study found that 96.1 percent of the NCAA Division I schools graduated Black male student-athletes at rates lower than student-athletes overall and that a whopping 97.4 percent of the institutions graduated Black male student-athletes at rates lower than undergraduate students overall.” Let us look at one school as an example: The University of Miami’s undergraduate population of Black students is 3.3 percent, yet its football and basketball teams are 75.7 percent. The graduation rate for Black male athletes is 66 percent as compared to 78 percent – pretty miserable – for all undergraduates. At Boston College, another ACC team, the overall rate of graduation rate for undergrads is 91 percent; for Black male athletes, it’s 68 percent.

No matter what statistics are thrown around, the Black male athlete appears to me to be little more than chattel, just as the Black slaves were way back when. Compare graduation rates; compare the number of collegiate athletes who go on to play professional sports; compare the percentages of overall Black undergraduate population to the percentage that compete in the arena, and one has to ask the question, “Are these kids being treated fairly?” Some might answer by saying that it’s the only way a Black kid could get to college. What does that mean? Does it mean that the secondary schools attended by Black kids don’t prepare them for entry? Others put it more crudely by saying the Black kids’ value sports more than they value education. Well now, who puts those values into their heads; where do they acquire those values? It’s that type of ignorance that has to be addressed.

I enjoy watching college football, and I enjoy college basketball. When I watch some offensive or defensive coach berating these young men on a Saturday afternoon, screaming so hard that the veins in his temple are pulsating, I get pissed. Yell at them for what they did wrong, fine, but don’t go apoplectic on them. Don’t get caught on camera shoving them or slapping them across the helmet while you’re spitting venom into their face masks. Sure it’s your job to point out their mistakes; of course, it requires that you demonstrate just how upset you are, but you’re missing one point…these are supposed to be student athletes. If you want to treat them like shit, pay them; pay them and don’t call them students. You don’t care if they go to class as long as the grades they get allow them to play for you. Let’s take the phoniness out of collegiate sports as far as the Black athlete is concerned. Pay them for playing for four years. After that, pay for them to attend a junior college for two years, and if they are successful, pay for them to go on, but don’t give me this bullshit of calling them a “student/athlete.” Study after study has shown how the Black male athletes are used and tossed aside. It’s time for it to stop. Black parents have to instill in their children a different set of values. Education will get you where you really want to go. Athletics is a gamble with very, very long odds against success.

Anyone who believes that slavery is a thing of the past hasn’t watched D! collegiate football or basketball lately.

 

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