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Archive for the ‘Diversity’ Category

It’s difficult to understand why law enforcement, city, state, and federal, as well as the President of the United States, took so long to state the obvious about San Bernadino. I just don’t comprehend what is so difficult about seeing this couple, dressed as they were, not being immediately identified as ‘terrorists.’ However you wish to slice it, this was a terrorist act. It certainly terrified the crap out of the people who were being shot and those ducking for cover. With the discovery of the ammunition and pipe bombs in the house occupied by that couple and their baby would indicate preparation for a ‘terrorist’ attack. So we’re at war. Is there anyone in the USA who doesn’t understand that? Are there actually people whose heads are stuck so far up…in the sand that they aren’t aware that Americans are considered by some people who actually live and work here, as the enemy. Take a look at Dylan Roof who thought that blacks were taking over America. Can you understand why an ignoramus like that would think such a thing? Who does he see on television when the President speaks? Who does he see when the Director of Homeland Security speaks? Granted, the kid is probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s probably just a wee bit prejudiced against black folks in the first place. Someone said to me the other day, “I saw a family of Muslims in traditional dress coming in the store and I didn’t panic,” as though that was a major friggin’ achievement. It’s clue time…this country is filled with all sorts of people; some came here to escape terrorism and want to live peaceful lives. Others are here but are nothing but crazy fucking assholes who are influenced by other crazy fucking assholes and who will go out and kill anybody they see who is not dressed or look exactly as they do. They do have sufficient smarts to make certain they kill at a gathering…just walking up and down the street is not going to give one maximum exposure nor maximize your kill rate…riiiight!

To top off our understanding that we are at war, we have public panic purveyors like Donald “I-can-fix-everything-but-I-won’t-tell-you-how-because-I don’t-really-know-what-to-do” Trump. I find it truly difficult to understand how this man became a billionaire. The only thing I can think of is that he bullied his way to riches; he was the loudest shouter in the room; his face got so red, his opponents thought he was going to literally explode and shit would be flying everywhere since he was so full of it, so they gave in. It’s all I can think of. He speaks such ridiculous bullshit that no one in their right minds could possibly believe what he says. And yet, what is he doing? He’s appealing to the frightened, the uninformed, people who don’t know, or care to know, understand or care to understand other cultures. These are the folks who believe that blacks eat only fried chicken and watermelon; they may see hummus in the store so that’s what “they’ eat; Asians eat only fish and seaweed or some other shit like that. They don’t know, and one who preys on their fears such as Trump becomes their hero. The media is proving to be just as gullible. Trump speaks; it’s a sound byte they have to get on the air before the competition. Don’t react; don’t cover, and see how long Trump stays in this race. The media are “feeding Seymour” and he continues to grow. If the media ignore him, Trump will be within his rights to demand an equal amount of time as is given to other candidates; that is his right. However, the minute his talk becomes inflammatory, as it has been through most of his campaign, cut off the microphone; he has overstepped his bounds.

On November 8, 2016, America will go to the polls to elect a new President. That is eleven months from this very day. Should this country, in its ultimate stupidity, elect Donald Trump, I will make every effort to move to Nova Scotia and to renounce my American citizenship. I have little doubt that the world will become a nuclear wasteland before his term of office has ended.

Lone wolf terrorists on American streets will become more identifiable and stopped as we move along in our war. At some point, they will be identified before they enter the country. ISIS or some offspring of it will continue to function in the Middle East. It is only when America says, “Enough, solve your own problems,” that we will be able to breathe easily again. If “secure the homeland” is a dirty turn of phrase, forgive me. However, I don’t want to see more gold star flags hanging in more windows than are already there. We can “preserve, protect, and defend” the United States of America by putting our own nation first and let other nations solve their own problems.

The United Nations appears to be a useless group of foreign representatives suckling at the American teat and little else. Let us move their headquarters to someplace like Belgium, Luxemburg, or Lichtenstein, and see how quickly they dissolve or get their collective acts together to solve the world’s problems. America is too rich and too developed a nation to be playing host to a bunch of spies and neer-do-wells. Is this laissez-faire attitude going to work? No, because it will never receive bi-partisan support, nor will Wall Street allow it to happen. It would be nice to give it an honest try; to attempt to make other nations wholly responsible for their actions. We can’t; we’re America. We’re the supposed 800-pound gorilla in the room. That’s why poor families raise cannon fodder and we cry crocodile tears when they’re blown to pieces. If we really cared about our young men and women, we’d be expanding our efforts to keep them out of harm’s way rather than putting them directly in its path.

We have a great many problems in our own country that are in dire need of solutions. We need solutions to our problem of poverty. We need solutions to our problem of racial injustice and profiling. We need a unified, national police force that is fully trained and fairly paid. We need to stop teaching our children to pass some damned standardized test and teach them what it means to be a citizen of this country. We need more, better trained, and again, fairly paid, teachers. We need term limits for members of Congress to weed out the do-nothings, hangers-on, and radical assholes who somehow find their way into Congressional seats every now and then. We don’t need equalization of wealth, because if you’ve got the brains and ideas, God Bless You for making the money you’ve made, but we do need workers who are paid above a poverty level to build what you’ve designed or to sell what you have made. We need equal pay for equal work. We need to stop treating women like second-class citizens by telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Our problems are tremendous; they’re hard to solve and they will continue to get harder until and unless we take some positive steps to address them. However, remember this: Over half of the Pilgrims who made the voyage on the Mayflower died before a year had passed – OVER HALF – yet the rest didn’t just lay down and die. Seventy-five thousand colonists died in the Revolutionary War; that’s 1 in 20 what we now call Americans. Yet, the men who signed the Constitution didn’t give up and say, “Screw this; take it back England.” No, the problems of their day were no more or less complex than the problems we face today. Sure, the world’s a smaller place, and the problems are terrifying. Problems of the magnitude facing the Pilgrims and the colonials and that guy who lives down the street from you today are daunting, but they can be solved. That’s our job – yours and mine – to chip in and ask what we can do to help solve those problems. No, I won’t give you the Jack Kennedy tag line; you can do that for yourself. I will say a couple of things: “If you see something, say something,” and “Don’t listen to fear-mongers and loud mouthed know-nothings like Donald Trump, because he’s not worth your time.”

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There is no way to write this piece without sounding like a racist and a hater. Those who really know me, however, will understand that nothing could be further from the truth. Should I use that old cliché that says, “I have a number of black friends,” or some other baloney like that? No, my friends are of almost all colors. I’m not so certain that any of my friends are true Native Americans although my companion maintains that there is some Cherokee blood in her family tree. As a consequence, I won’t apologize to anyone for what I’m about to put down on paper.

For seventeen years I toiled in the vineyards of higher education at Northeastern University in Boston. The school bordered on what was considered at one time to be home to “the blacks.” It was called Roxbury and that’s exactly how a lot of people referred to it. A friend of mine, Reuben Margolin, was attacked one day by four black youths from one of the projects. While Reuby didn’t look like much, the mistake these young men made was in not recognizing that (a) he’d been a Golden Gloves champion, (b) he’d grown up in a rather tough section of New York and was also a street fighter, and (c) that he wouldn’t take shit from anyone, especially four teenage punks who thought they had a chance. He left them all on the ground without suffering any injury to himself…and he was 54 at the time. It was that kind of neighborhood. On another occasion, I watched with a couple of colleagues as a pair of men threw another off the roof of a four-story apartment building. On yet another occasion, I was denied entrance to the “Afro-American Institute” building because of my skin color. I tell you these things because to me, racism is a two-way street.  However, the very second that one cites something that cries black racism, you become labeled as a ‘hater’ or a ‘racist’ or worse; it is just so much bullshit.

When I left Northeastern, things had improved to some degree. Today, the ‘black community’ or what is left of it in Roxbury…gentrification, you know…works closely with faculty and administrators at Northeastern to make community relations as pleasant as possible. There are still pockets of trouble but the real trouble has moved further away and is now more concentrated in another area of Boston known as Mattapan.

My career following Northeastern was spent in what I called a “Lilly-white community with a bunch of white bread kids and colleagues.” That too is a nasty thing to say but the truth of the matter is that there sure weren’t many black students when I arrived. The college later hired a minority student coordinator and Eddie did a wonderful job with the young men and women who sought her guidance. Funny story about that is that I was with her one day when several freshmen came in asking where they could get a good haircut. Stupid me says, “Oh, there’s a great barber right in town.” Eddie or Edwina as most people knew her, gave me a dirty look and told the kids where they should go in Boston. After they left, I expressed further ignorance by asking, “Why not the barber in town?” She then told me that the hair of black people and the hair of white people required different treatment, a fact I have retained to this day…it was humbling to say the least.

“Where is this all going?” you might ask. Welllll, it’s going straight to the University of Missouri and a bunch of stupid white folk, stupid black folk, and stupid folk in general. Let us take it from the very top: It would appear that President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, along with the director of Greek life on campus were walking around with their eyes shut and their ears plugged long before black and white students on campus called for the resignations of all three. Racial epithets and incidents and those relating to anyone of certain religious beliefs don’t occur overnight and turn the institution into a disgruntled campus. One event is too many, but when that single event occurs, it demands that a course of action be instituted and incorporate the education of the entire institution, e.g., the University of Missouri System; not just a main or adjunct campus but the entire system. Whether a residence hall director or monitor, someone in the dean of students office or wherever decided it wasn’t important enough to bring to the attention of the university leadership or whether that leadership pretended it wasn’t all that important is immaterial, I neither know nor care. At some point, somewhere on that campus, something happened and nothing was done to nip it in the bud. As a consequence, a wound, real or imagined, began to fester, ultimately exploding at a homecoming parade, with that particular event being handled clumsily by the president of the university.

If part of the blame for the explosion of problems at the University of Missouri lies with the administration, there is also an element of stupidity among some of the black students. Saying that “…the University remained silent after Mike Brown was killed,” is about as dumb as dumb can be. What the hell did Michael Brown have to do with the University of Missouri in the first place? The fact that this thug was killed in the same state as the University makes no sense. Why should the University administration have had anything to say about the death of Mike Brown? UM is not an all-black school like a Harris-Stowe or Lincoln University or any number of other all-black institutions. Black students make up seven percent of the student population at the University of Missouri, yet they are the ones who screamed the loudest for the ouster of the president and the chancellor. Terribly sorry, chaps, but you get no sympathy from me on that one.

The other stupid people in this situation are the Jewish students who complained that they had also been singled out for insults from others. Don’t they have a Hillel chapter? Where do they worship? Who is their rabbi? Did they complain to him and ask that he speak to either the president or chancellor? Or did they, like the members of the black community allow some insults to fester, turn gangrenous, and blow up when the other situation arose? We will never know.

Is the University of Missouri an unusual situation? No, not at all. I don’t believe there is a college or university campus in the country where there isn’t some form of racial or ethnic injustice being perpetrated or has been perpetrated. It’s what happens when it occurs that is important because what is done at the outset can set the tone for the institution for decades to come. Diversity is not just a word to which we should pay lip service; diversity means understanding that there are people out there who are different from you…different in the food they eat, the clothes they wear; the manner in which they worship, and a ton of other differences. However, they are Americans. You and I may not always agree with them and that’s fine; let’s have a discussion. But this is the 21st Century and everyone, all of us, should be above calling blacks the ‘n’ word or worse. We should be above posting swastikas anywhere; it’s a symbol of absolute terror to many members of the Jewish community, and if we can’t understand that, it’s our problem and our responsibility to learn why.

The University of Missouri turned a deaf ear and is now paying the price. They will continue to pay that price for years to come; in applications; in donations; in faculty disgruntlement, and in a number of other areas. How many other colleges and universities are in similar situations but have not yet faced that one back-breaking incident that will find them paying the same price as Missouri? It’s time to look inward, you collegiate geniuses, before all hell breaks loose and you suffer the consequences.

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The gym rat is an interesting species and comes in many forms.

While most would consider the gym rat a person who is constantly working out, this is a fallacy. I have been in gyms where, when one opens a locker – generally a bottom locker and one that actually opens without the use of a pry bar –  a genuine, a-number-one gym rat will jump out and slink away, finding some hole in a wall that has either been kicked in or punched out. These particular gym rats are not sociable, have little to say, but they will feast on athletic gear that has been left behind for any period of time…including sweat socks and old jock straps. You might wish to consider moving away from this nominally-named gym rat at a rapid pace or send it on its merry way with a good swing of your gym bag. Do not concern yourself that this particular species will fight fair if it decides to challenge your authority; it does not work out on either cardio nor with free weights. Its only form of protection lies in its mouth…a rather nasty set of incisors which can cause a surfeit of damage.

There are many more species of gym rats, some to be avoided at all costs, and others to be admired from afar…or up close and personal if you have no fear of being torn limb from limb by some crazed martial arts specialist who’s just been dying to try out her newly-acquired-skills on some unsuspecting fool. It’s also necessary that you understand that species of gym rats vary from facility to facility and name to name. For example, at some establishments it is possible to see a species of gym rat known as “Musculature-excessivitis.” The male of the species can usually be found around the free weights rack, admiring both the free weights and the image of himself in the mirrors that abound in this area. If you should espy one at a time when he is using these free weights, you will note that the weight is sufficient to cause each vein in the body to appear that it will soon burst through the skin and send a torrent of blood skyward. In all fairness, it should be noted that all well-muscled members of the species are not steroid users, merely men so in love with their own musculature that they are constantly attempting to improve the way they believe men or women will find them more attractive. The female of this species is exceptionally deceptive for their manner of dress differs markedly. It ranges from the floppy sweatshirts and pants to spandex that appears to have been spray-painted on the body. The former are generally friendly and will offer suggestions if asked. The latter are usually too busy admiring their own bodies to be concerned dealing with yours.

The species or category of gym rat that I have found to be most common in the several gyms I have attended are the “Preservationists.” These are what I might refer to as “my folk.” They or we, whichever floats your boat, are the middle-aged to seniors who attempting to preserve some form of dignity with whatever they have left on their decrepit frames. Most of us have suffered through some life-altering experience that has set us on a long-term plan to not suffer such an experience again in the near, middle, or even distant future. The exercise pattern is not complex by any manner of means. It is a combination of cardiovascular exercise, accomplished by use of a treadmill, elliptical machine, stair stepper, rowing machine, or some other sweat creating torture device, with either free weights – those dumbbell type ‘thingies’ – or machines that, when first viewed, scare the living daylights out of the prospective user. In total, the preservationist may spend as many as two hours in the confines of the gym, a minimum of one hour of which will be spent chatting with others of their type regarding various aches, pains, and lack of sleep. Preservationists are harmless. Their desire is to live a bit longer than others who do not exercise or, as in the case of some, live just to see another sunrise.

Many gym rats are hybrids, the only thing classifying them for what they are being that they are consistent in their use of the gym. Six days a week, generally at the same time, you will find them exercising. For some, it’s a regimen for dropping pounds in order to fit into last year’s shirts and suits; for others, it’s wishing to fit into last year’s bathing suit or skirt. For almost all, it’s an attempt to look and feel better, both physically and mentally. From over 20 years of experience, I can say that on those days when I return from the gym, I feel energized, and I find that my mind is just a wee bit sharper than when I don’t exercise…wisecracks about my state of mind are always accepted!

Are there other pure, non-hybrid gym rats? Of course there are. To classify most of them, however, would be insulting. The “Look-at-me-look-at-me” and the spandex crowd are more pathetic than pure, and those who use the gym merely as a hangout for an hour or so are just comedic. I have been fortunate in my years as a preservationist. I have met men and women from all walks of life; from drug dealers to headmasters; from police officers to doctors; from prosecuting attorneys to those involve with homeland security; from teachers and nurses and everyday housewives just trying to stay in shape; all have been nice to me, and I’ve enjoyed my conversations with each and every one. The heterogeneity of a gym is remarkable, and I love every minute of my time spent there…rats and all!

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There was a time when I was color blind. It’s only taken me something over 80 years to learn that perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps I wasn’t color blind all those years after all. Black people seem to have a greater propensity to commit criminal acts than other races. Jeff, Beshama, Jimmy, Ernie, Joe, Sandra,and so many more black friends can feel free to call me out on this, but I’m sorry folks, check the Department of Justice figures. I don’t believe they have been skewed or fiddled with or offset in any way just to make the members of our black population look bad.

I watched the news recently as a disgruntled V. Lester Flanigan shot a white reporter and cameraman on a local television station. No, admittedly, I didn’t see the actual shooting; I just heard one gunshot. The camera was then dropped as V. Lester continued his rampage. Now, I don’t happen to be gay and I don’t happen to be black, but I do know what it’s like to be fired without cause and without recourse. Disgruntled? You bet your sweet patootie I was disgruntled. I guess knowing where the next university president was having his affair, with whom and on what day was just cause to him, but it certainly didn’t appear that way to me. What the hell, I’d known for a few years what he was doing. If I hadn’t told anyone before, what kind of a fool would I have been to tell others now. Therefore, yes, I was somewhat more than irritated when I was informed that my job was being abolished (can you say “bullcrap”?). However, I didn’t publish a manifesto and I didn’t go out and shoot people. I consider that my regard for human life is just a little higher than that.

On that same television newscast, another black man was fighting with police as they attempted to bring him into court for arraignment on a second murder charge.  When they read the charges against him, I wondered how one human being could do that to another. There are times when I wonder just how my black friends must feel when one after the other of their own race gets paraded before the television cameras for some heinous deed. Hopefully, they just let it bounce off in much the same way I do when I see a crime televised that has been committed by a white idiot. That’s what I consider all of these people to be, idiots. Nothing, nothing in this world with the exception of war, justifies the killing of one human being by another…nothing. Losing a job does not; racial slurs do not; nasty comments about one’s sexuality do not; a perceived insult is not a cause for killing. You want to kill someone? Kill yourself, but what others say and do, while somewhat painful, is no cause for ending their lives.

I’ve searched and searched and searched for accurate statistics regarding violent crime by race in the United States. One study claims that,  “… during the 2012/2013 period, blacks committed an average of 560,600 violent crimes against whites, whereas whites committed only 99,403 such crimes against blacks. This means blacks were the attackers in 84.9 percent of the violent crimes involving blacks and whites. Interestingly, we find that violent interracial crime involving blacks and Hispanics occurs in almost exactly the same proportions as black/white crime: Blacks are the attackers 82.5 percent of the time, while Hispanics are attackers only 17.5 percent of the time.

“Some observers argue that what causes the overwhelming preponderance of black-on-white over white-on-black violence is “chance of encounter,” due to the fact that there are five times as many whites as blacks in the American population. However, there are only about 30 percent more Hispanics than blacks, yet black-on-Hispanic violence is almost as lopsided as black-on-white violence. This suggests blacks may be deliberately targeting both whites and Hispanics.”

This is all well and good except that the organization releasing this data is a conservative think tank, known for its right-wing thinking. I’m not saying that the data is wrong or right; what I am saying is that I’ve seen too many occasions when statistics have been twisted and skewed. Nonetheless, just looking at the raw data presents a frightening picture of black crime in the United States. And it’s as frightening to members of the black community as it is to other ethnic groups. Civil rights advocate, Van Jones, wrote in a 2005 article, ‘Are Blacks a Criminal Race?’ “African American youth represent 32% of all weapons arrests [and] were arrested for aggravated assault at a rate nearly three times that of whites. A 2012 study by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention revealed that in 2010 black youths committed six times more murders, three times more rapes, 10 times more robberies and three times more assaults than did their white counterparts.

Similar statistics were released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the “Uniform Crime Reports.” They determined, “In the year 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58% for homicide and 67% for robbery.” By contrast, the only categories where white youths surpassed blacks were in liquor law violations and driving under the influence.

I don’t know the people who make up these statistics. I know plenty of black people. They don’t fall into any categories in this statistical data. So where are all these black criminals? People like Al Sharpton and other ‘injustice collectors’ will find every reason in the book not to blame crime of any kind on blacks but on the white society in which they live. To me, that’s just plain wrong. Is there greater poverty among members of the black community in the United States? Yeah, possibly. The bigger question is why? Although he’s no longer the hero he once was, Bill Cosby has made some good points. Black fathers should be assuming more responsibility for the children they create. Black mothers should be saying, “No,” and meaning it when more sex is going to lead to more kids and they can’t afford to properly raise the ones they already have. I think there is an innate fear on the part of white people in this country to confront the social ills that affect the black community. Black gangs form because there is safety in numbers; well, screw that. Let’s cut down the numbers so that black kids won’t have to worry about walking down the streets in their own neighborhoods. If more police are required, let’s get them; if more prisons are required, let’s build them; if stricter enforcement of laws are necessary, let’s enforce them. At the same time, however, let us not paint every black person we see with the same damned brush that says, “You’re black, therefore, you’re a criminal to be feared;” that, too, is bullcrap. Let us eliminate the United Negro College Fund and make it the United American College Fund with just as much money going all ethnic groups. Let’s eliminate Black Entertainment Network and Miss Black America contests, and let’s begin to unite, integrate, and truly integrate all races into one giant community. I’m not proposing that we gather in the circle and sing Kumbaya; that’s nonsense. But whatever we’ve been trying so far sure hasn’t worked. The black community and the white community are still miles apart in this country. Let’s stop talking about why we can’t do something better and let’s start talking about how we can do something better. Please, before I die, I want to be color blind once more.

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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.

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“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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A gentleman with whom I am acquainted – well, I assume he’s a gentleman; never know these days – teaches philosophy at a local private school. For a number of years he was the headmaster of said school, but then he decided to get a real job – as I have been told on too many occasions to count by teaching faculty from here to hell and gone – and became an “educator.” Since I went neither through a liberal arts curriculum nor did I attend a Jesuit institution…the only two collegiate programs where philosophy seems to be a mandatory requirement…I was never exposed to philosophical thought. After several conversations with said gentleman, I began to realize just how sadly lacking my education has been. Were this to happen today, I could probably turn around and sue my undergraduate institution for not providing a compendious educational program, but to attempt this after having been absent the classroom for more – well more – than half a century, I would doubtless be throwing good money after bad. That is not philosophical thought; just common sense.

All of the above having been said, I am going back to school! “So what?” you ask, to which I respond, “When you stop learning, formally or informally, you’re dead and just too ignorant to lie down.” It’s never too late to learn. There are several reasons I believe this, the first of which is that I would like to be able to discuss philosophy on a more intellectual level with my acquaintance. Another reason is that, as was said earlier, without philosophy, my education is lacking and incomplete. I plan to take the same approach with journalism at some point, sadly having been denied the opportunity to pursue any formal training in that area. There may well be other subjects available through the Internet, but right now I’m settling on those two. A third reason for doing this is that I find of late, television programming is (a) idiotic; (b) idiotic; (c) idiotic; or (d) all of the above. It is with a certain degree of guilt that I must also admit that my reading list has begun to lapse into the mystery/murder/thriller genre, and it would be nice to get away from that for a while.

I will not pontificate on what I have learned to date. To do so would be to prove the adage, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln appears to have a quote for every occasion; that is another of his great ones. Let me just say that now that school has adjourned for the summer, I will have a few months to study philosophy and perhaps be able to carry on a reasonably less pompous conversation with my acquaintance when he returns to school and to the gym next year. Oh, that’s right, I didn’t tell you; we met at a gym. You meet the most interesting people in some of the strangest of places. Think about it…talking philosophy in a gym; discussing labor law…in a gym; conversing about politics without coming to blows…in a gym; I have even managed to get my utility company to bill me electronically…by speaking to someone at the gym,  thus proving that nearly all things are possible given the proper environment.

One of the things that I find truly amazing about the Internet is the amount of course work in various field that I can study without having to enroll or pay money, that last being perhaps the primary reason I do not hold a terminal degree from Grand Canyon, Southern New Hampshire, or one of the many online programs that are available; well, that and the fact that I’m on a fixed income. However, I’m not certain I wish to take online courses that are going to tax me beyond my limited abilities. To gain the basics of understanding of a subject with which I have no familiarity may well be as far as I wish to go, but go I will because, in this case anyway, I know someone who is an authority on the subject…and I’m a brain picker!

Think about this for a moment: You have died and on your first whatever in Heaven; I will assume you have gone to Heaven and not any of those other places, but on your first night, you are given the opportunity to dine with five other people of your choosing…and…there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion following dinner. Yes, I know, if you’re dead you probably won’t eat, yadda, yadda, yadda…give me a break, will you please? Who would you choose? Remember Mitch Albom’s book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven? This isn’t like that. You pick five people; they may be people you have admired because of their contributions to the world…Mohandas Gandhi, Budda, or Confucius. It might be you’ve admired great warriors like Genghis Khan, Hannibal, or Alexander. I have to tell you that I would be very hard pressed to pick just five people with whom I’d like to exchange ideas. Recently, I watched – yes, back to television again, but this was Netflix or Amazon or one of those – a piece on Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Their fight for the rights of women might have put one of them at my table, but then I watched a piece on Jefferson and…well, you know what follows. Our world has been filled with those who could rightfully demand a place at your table or mine. What about our own ancestors; would they be a choice? If you have an interest in philosophy, would you have Epicurus, Aristotle, John Locke, or Plato at your table?

I can [and will…as always] offer a bit of advice on how to choose your dinner companions. Years ago, I taught a course in creative problem solving. The first step in what was known as the problem-solving wheel, was to identify all of the “messes” that required your attention. From that, your job was to identify the problem that first required your attention; which of the messes had to be cleaned up first before you could move on. In selecting that problem as the most important, I asked students and teams of students to answer one question when they felt they had identified the problem that they would attack. The question was, “Why?” If you can answer the question, why, five times in a row and receive a satisfactory answer each time, chances are you have the correct problem to attack. Perhaps that’s the question you should ask about your dinner partners. Why do you want Abraham Lincoln, for example? After you have given your complete answer, ask the question again and again and again, and one more time. If he stands the Five Why question, then he probably belongs at your table.

I leave you with this advice…use the Internet wisely; find out who attends your gym; and stay tuned for more about my foray into philosophy.

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