A brother’s pride and joy


the-brothers-and-the-sea-smallCredit: Artist – Jenny Armitage

One day, a man’s TV broke.  It was a nice high def TV that he had for only 6 years.  The original TV was about $1,800.  It wasn’t a top-of-the-line TV but it was very good quality.  He called the local shop where he bought it, and also called the manufacturer, both of whom said it couldn’t be fixed.  The man was upset, really upset.  This was just one more thing that had gone wrong; one more thing in a line of things that overwhelmed him.  At the time he bought this nice TV, he had the money to do so.  He no longer had resources that afforded him the luxury of buying luxury items when he wanted them.  He borrowed some money from a very good friend to buy a new TV.  Not exactly what he would have bought under different circumstances just something relatively affordable that he could afford to pay back to his friend over time.  It may seem strange to feel you need, or are entitled, to own a television.  For this man, after living a comfortable life for many years, now faced with staring at a broken TV that he couldn’t afford to replace, was a constant reminder of his failures.

At the same time, in another place, a much younger man had a brother who was recently married.  This young man didn’t have much money to buy his brother and new sister-in-law a wedding present.  He was a bit distraught and for several months was trying to figure out a way to give the newlyweds (but especially his brother) something nice; something that they could use; something they didn’t have and couldn’t afford to buy, something he could afford.  That’s a tall order to fill.  But this younger man was patient.

The older man who had the broken TV, and the younger man worked at the same company.  The older man, having back trouble, asked the younger man to help him carry his new TV up the many stairs to his apartment.  The younger man, always eager to help anyone in need, was quick to say yes, that he would be happy to help.  When the younger man brought the TV up the 39 stairs to the older man’s apartment, the younger man asked what was wrong with the broken TV.  The older man showed the younger man how the TV picture was all messed up, and told the younger man the story of the TV being irreparable.  The “experts” said that the problem was the “T-Com” board (whatever that means), and the manufacturer didn’t even sell those boards anymore, hence why it couldn’t be fixed.  The younger man mentioned that he liked to tinker with electronics and asked that if it was OK with the older man, he’d like to take the broken TV, if for no other reason than to take it apart and see how it worked.  The older man was wondering how he was going to get rid of the old TV so he was pleased that the younger man wanted to take it.

About a month later, the younger man arrived at work one day and asked to speak to the older man.  The younger man wanted to tell him about the old TV.  Surprise cast a shadow on the older man’s face.  What was he talking about?  The younger man said that he had struggled with the old TV for a while.  But, after a few attempts on Ebay he was able to find the right T-Com board for the TV.   The younger man was a very curious and tenacious person.  He liked to learn about electronics.  The first T-Com board he bid on and got on Ebay, was the wrong one.  It took him a long time to find another possible fit.  So he bid on, and won the bid for, another T-Com board.  When the younger man had first installed the second T-Com board into the TV, the picture was blinking and flashing and wavy – not viewable at all.  But after powering it off and back on a few times, the old TV came back to life and was working perfectly.  It seemed similar to adding new hardware to a PC.  You need to give the PC time to recognize the new hardware and make the proper adjustments.  The younger man then told the older man that he had a brother who was recently married.  The younger man had fretted, and worried, and was very frustrated that he didn’t have a “proper” gift for his brother.  The younger man loved and respected his older brother very much; it would be source of pride and accomplishment if he could figure out how to give his older brother a wedding present.  After fixing the old high def TV, he sneaked into his brother’s house one Sunday when he knew his brother and sister-in-law would be out.  He setup the new/old TV in his brother’s home.  His brother did not have a TV and couldn’t afford to buy one.  The younger man wrapped the remote control to the TV in a box and gave it to his brother when the brother returned home.  The younger man was so proud, and happy.  When the brother opened the box he said “what’s this” and the younger man said “go inside and look”.   The brother did and to the brother’s surprise, in his house was, to him, a brand new big flat screen TV.  The brother stared in awe, not even knowing how to thank the younger man, let alone figure out how the younger man had pulled this off.

The younger man had, against all odds, repaired the old TV given to him by the older man.  The younger man was so happy that he finally had a present for his brother.  And the younger man’s brother was happy that he received a gift that he wouldn’t have been able to afford on his own.  The brother had no idea how the younger man accomplished this.  The two brothers loved each other very much.  It was important for the younger man to have something of value to give to his somewhat older, married brother as a wedding present.

As for the older man,  at the time, buying a new TV seemed insurmountable and he was angry at the TV and the manufacturer; he was mad at himself and the world.  The older man had limited resources, but he did have a job and a way to pay back the price of the new TV he bought (thanks to a very generous friend).

But the older man was happy, too.  When the older man found out what had happened to his old TV – that is was miraculously fixed, and that it ended up in the possession of someone who could not afford such a nice TV, and given to him by a young man who wanted nothing more than to get his brother something for a wedding present, the older man’s anger over his TV situation seemed so small.  He let the anger go.  And he thanked the younger man for letting him know what had happened to his old TV.

The older man realized that sometimes, things do happen for a reason.  While the older man no longer had the resources to buy luxury items, he certainly had more options than the younger man, or the younger man’s brother.  So in perspective, the older man felt blessed.  He realized his petty wanting of material goods was all just so stupid.

The older man was me.

Epilogue:

It can be argued that nobody “needs” a television.  And I’ve heard many in the media (OK, right-wing TV and talk radio)  talk about poor people on government assistance who somehow have a flat screen TV.  Well, the bottom line, to me, is that first, you can’t buy anything other than a flat screen TV anymore.  And by flat screen I mean high-definition TV – that’s all there is.  All new TVs are high-definition flat screen, whether it’s cheap or expensive.  Have you seen a “picture tube” television in a store lately.  I doubt it.  Secondly, television is what most people use as their connection to the outside world.  Something as simple as the news, or the weather – you get that from your TV.  Even if you don’t have cable TV, you can still use a high-definition TV (known in the pedestrian world as a “flat screen”) with rabbit ears just like in the old days.  Television also provides basic entertainment regardless of whether you are rich or poor.  You can even have a TV without actual broadcast or cable stations – just a TV with a VCR or DVD player, and use that as your entertainment.

So television is an important part of people’s lives and of the American culture.  Not having one because you can’t afford one makes you feel like a failure as a human being.  Society has taught us that we are.

But, having said all of that, it’s not what this story is about.  This story is about counting your blessings.  It’s about realizing what you have, even when you might not realize you have it.  And it’s about the fact that no matter how badly you might feel or how much self-hatred you may feel over something big, or something small, there is always somebody out there with a story that is more significant than yours.  But mostly, it’s about the love between two brothers.  Brothers who don’t count their blessings in dollars, but rather in sense.  I don’t believe in something called god.  But I do believe that these two brothers have very good parents who taught them well.  I have been reminded, through this experience, about what’s important.  I hope you do, too.  I am happy that through a series of rather strange events, my old TV made its way to a happy couple, just married and starting their life together.  I picture them sitting in front of the big high-def TV at night, snuggled up, watching a movie together, enjoying each others’ company, and always thinking how cool it is that someone in their family gave them this beautiful TV.

On one final note:  I thought for a moment that I should have bought the TV back from the young man so he could buy his brother something new.  Then I realized that all the tinkering and trying, the sense of accomplishment and the laser focus on a single purpose, the joy of giving a gift that came from the heart – all of that would not have happened if I bought the TV back.  I would have robbed the younger man of his pride and of is joy.  It all worked out just as it should have.

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Gym Class Heroes


Bennett Junior High School, 1976

I stood there alone staring at the slats of the huge hardwood floor.  I was aware of the others in the room but I was trying desperately to be invisible.

I knew that there were two groups of people staring at me.  It was dead quiet, except for the far-off sounds of other kids doing whatever kids do in the quad of a junior high school.

As I stood in the gymnasium, a hulking brick building that made up one side of the quad, I wished I was out there.  I wouldn’t feel any more welcomed or part of something out there than I did right here, but at least I wouldn’t be trying desperately not to cry and end up making this situation far worse than it already was.   In my mind I was pleading with some unknown force to save me.  I don’t know who because I knew nobody would help me.  I tried to believe in a god who, even if I believed existed, had betrayed me over and over again, so my hopes weren’t high.

The two groups of boys in their regulation blue gym shorts and white T-Shirts started to stir and mumble.  The gym teacher, Mr. Freeman, was a big, tall, hearty, white-haired man.  He had two personalities – gruff or laughing.  Most of the time he was gruff – all business, but when he laughed, he did so with his whole body.  He had capped teeth and a smoker’s laugh, which, at the time, I thought odd for a gym teacher.  But this was in the 1970’s.  You could still smoke inside parts of hospitals. On this day, like most, he was in a gruff mood.

I wasn’t afraid of Mr. Freeman.  He always treated me with respect, although I have no idea why.  In fact, most teachers treated me with a great deal of respect.  I was never really afraid of adults that I wasn’t related to.  In fact, I felt more comfortable with adults than with kids my own age; or any age.  I related more to adults.  Most of the time I felt like an adult trapped in a kid’s body.

In those last moments of studying knots in the wood grain of the hardwood floor. I heard Mr. Freeman clear his throat, and then I heard him say, “Do you ‘captains” have any clue what you are doing’?.  The two teams of boys who had been picked by the aforementioned captains, and the captains themselves, shifted uncomfortably.  I don’t recall how the two team captains were selected.  I don’t recall getting a vote.  But two had been chosen and the age-old, archaic ceremony of picking whom each wanted on their basketball team for this gym period, went on as they always do. The pecking order was well established.  The athletic kids and buddies of the captains were picked first. Then that middle group, who were not so popular but in some way acceptable in the school’s hierarchy, was selected for a team.  And then, in the final, gut-wrenching moments, as the “remainders” were scoffed at, and as the captains begrudgingly pointed and waved over a few to his respective team, the remainders weren’t staring at the captains or at the floor anymore.

We were staring at each other.  We were pleading with each other.  We were imploring someone in this group of misfits to honorably accept being the last one picked.  We had sympathy and empathy for each other.  It was also an intellectual fight to the death. We were terrified.

I was one of those remainders.  And on this day it turned out that there were an uneven number of boys.  So when the picking got slim, the remainders all knew that someone would be the final one standing with no hope of having an obvious home among the two teams of boys.

That’s where I stood in that moment – fixated on the hardwood floor, when I heard Mr. Freeman clear his throat and ask the team captains if they knew what they were doing.

I didn’t know what Mr. Freeman meant and I don’t think the captains did either.  As Mr. Freeman waited those few seconds after his question, I don’t think he really expected an answer.  And I stood there, trying desperately to block out who I was, and where I was, and what was going on around me.  I fought desperately to hold back tears.  I ran through different scenarios in my head at lightning speed as to how I could flee, and hide.  I accepted my fate, once again, and the humiliation and abject terror on not being wanted by anyone.  I tried to make my eyes and my soul as dead as possible, hoping that nobody would see the fear.

Then, I heard Mr. Freeman’s voice again.  “If I were you, I would have picked Steven first, and do you know why?”

Silence.

What the hell was he talking about?  I lifted my eyes from the floor, up toward him and he was looking back and forth between the two team captains.  Mr. Freeman continued:

“Before we picked the captains and picked the teams, what did we do?  We practiced shooting baskets, dribbling the ball, passing the ball, just a little warm-up, right?  Well, did any of you notice that Steven here has one of the best senses of rhythm and timing I’ve seen in a long time?  Did you watch him run down the court while dribbling the ball in front of him, or at his side?  Did any of you, and especially you team captains, take an honest look at the field of players, or had you already decided which of your buddies you wanted on your team.  Timing and rhythm is an essential part of being a good basketball player and if I were you, I would want him on my team.  He should not be standing there because nobody picked him.”

No. No. No. Oh God. No.  Please don’t look at me.  What was he talking about?  Was that true?  I don’t know what he’s talking about.  I’m not good at sports.  I’m not good at anything.  Why is everyone looking at me? I don’t have anything special about me, or anything someone should take notice of.  Nobody has ever said anything like that before.  I’m just the overweight, non-athletic 12-year-old, trying to get through the 7th grade without anybody seeing me.  I don’t know what he’s talking about.  PLEASE don’t involve me.

I looked back and forth between the two team captains, yeah, two “fellow seventh graders”, and I implored them silently not to believe Mr. Freeman and without words, gave them permission to continue looking down on me.  I was nothing.  Nothing to see here.  Go about your business.  I can handle the humiliation.  I’m used to it.  I’m comfortable here.  Let’s just forget all of this and go about our business, separately.

While my eyes shifted back and forth between the captains, and occasionally back down to study the grain in the hardwood floor, there was mumbling, and whispers that I couldn’t make out.  And Mr. Freeman may have said more things but I had tuned him out, too.  And then my internal turmoil was interrupted by Mr. Freeman nudging me from behind, gently, not forcefully.  It was more like an encouragement.  I came out of my haze and the two team captains were saying “I’ll take him” and the other one said “No you had the last pick, I’ll take him”. And they went back and forth a few times until Mr. Freeman nudged me far enough along and he decided which team I would play on.

I don’t remember a single thing that happened after that.  I don’t remember whose team I was on.  I don’t remember a single name of any of the kids that were there.  But as I sit here 35 years later, I still remember the smile on Mr. Freeman’s face when I stood with my “team”.  He looked at me.  And I looked at him.  We never spoke about it.  Not during that day in gym, or ever again.  And from that day on, I do remember that every day in gym class when it was “basketball” day, I wasn’t picked last anymore.

Some kids were afraid of Mr. Freeman, many simply didn’t like him.  He had some measure of silent joy in being able to intimidate kids.  He was loud and unrelenting.

I wasn’t one of those kids.  I understood him.  What I didn’t realize is that he understood me.  Because of that day 35 years ago, and for every day since that I am reminded of him and what he did for me, he is my hero.

The Birthers – most not born in the U.S.


Who knows where all the Birthers were born.  Does it matter?  We’ll just make shit up.  It seems to work for them.

If case you don’t know what a Birther is (meaning you live under a rock and don’t partipate in society),  a Birther is someone who believes Barack Obama was not born in the United States (yes, Hawaii is a state) and therefore, has no legal right to be President.

If during George W. Bush’s Presidency, you know, those god-awful years between 2001 and 2008 when the world hated us and still does, someone had told me W. wasn’t born in this country and therefore was not legally the President, would I have believed them? You bet your ass I would.

I despised Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Rove, the whole ugly bunch.  I would have looked for any reason to start a movement to get rid of any one of them.  So in some ways I understand why the radical right wing conservative movement in this country is perpetuating the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., is not a U.S. Citizen, and therefore, not legally the President of the United States.  It is brilliantly simply.  If you are not a natural U.S. citizen, you can’t be President.

Let’s not get too confused about this, however.  The Obama Birther movement was born out of extreme hatred which is based on extreme racism.  There is some scary kind of hatred involved in this.  The birther movement is a cover for racism.  Birthers hate Barack Obama and is blackness so much that they will scratch the bottom of any barrel to get rid of him.

I felt the same way about the Bush Administration; not the racism part, but the willingness to do anything necessary to get rid them.

However, if someone on the Democrat, or Liberal, or Progressive side of the map who I trusted or believed said to me “Hey, don’t be an idiot.  As much as we want to believe this stuff, it is simply not true”.  I would have had no choice to throw my hands in the air and give up the fight.  I would have tried other tactics but why spend so much time dealing in lies.

So why is it that few, if any, radical conservatives can’t utter the words “Hey folks, it’s just not true”.  From Limbaugh to Glenn Beck to the halls of Congress, these people and their “believers” can’t bring themselves to say “This is stupid and it’s not true”.  Even when they pretend to debunk the myth, they say things like “Barack Obama is a citizen” but won’t actually say the words “he was born in this country” leaving a sliver of room to back out and re-interpret what they said at a later date.

On the surface the Birther movement appears almost harmless because it is so ridiculous.  The following is what they want you to believe:  In 1961 Barack Obama was born in Kenya and secretly shipped on a cargo tanker (I guess) to Honolulu, Hawaii where someone who knew that he would run for and win the Presidency some day, planted a birth announcement in the Honolulu newspaper all so that in 2009, a forged birth certificate could be disproved by said newspaper announcement.   Hmm.  Sounds plausible to me; you?

Chris Matthews on MSNBC the most trustworthy G. Gordon Liddy (ahem!) as a guest,  so that Matthews could show Liddy all of the facts and copies of the paperwork first hand proving Obama’s birth and citizenship.  Matthews hoped that the irrefutable evidence would convince Liddy to go back to the listeners of his radio show and say “OK guys, I know we want this to be true, but it simply isn’t; Enough is Enough”.  However, Liddy stared at the evidence in what can only be described as an Alzheimer Haze, twitching and mumbling something about wanting to see originals and some woman in Kenya and an affidavit about seeing Obama being born in Kenya and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  It would have been funny if it wasn’t one of the saddest things I’ve even seen on Television.  Search for the video on Google, it’s easy to find.  I do question Chris Matthew’s motives in bringing on one of the most famous liars in the world in an effort to reform him on conspiracies.  But I guess Matthews was trying to start with someone on the radio who had a following.  Liddy was probably the only conservative talk radio host who would accept an invitation from Mr. Matthews.

Some believe that the birther movement is harmless.  But if you undersand that the people involved in the movement are using it as a cover to hide (and not so well) their extreme racism and hatred of Black America then you won’t think it’s so harmless anymore.

It is time now for those of us who are adults with working brain stems to call our Senators and House Representatives demanding that they speak out on this issue and put the Birthers in their place.  Force your legislators to have a spine by speaking out against the fringe right wing.  I’m all for freedom on speech, but when you are inciting riotous and violent acts based on your speech or actions, i believe you forfeit some of those rights.  The Birthers are full of hatred and are trying to spread it around.  That’s just plain wrong.  Nobody should have the freedom to do that.

There are two trains of thought on debunking lies.  First is to never address is; therefore not giving the idea any traction.  You don’t dignify the accusation by responding to it.  The second method is to nip it in the bud.  You run the risk of drawing out the amount of attention the lie gets but you look strong in your defiance.

The Democrats, and in fact the White House itself, have chosen option one.  Ignore the accusation and you won’t give it any traction.  Let’s see.  How did that work our for John Kerry and the Swift Boaters?

Voices of my Father


As I watched the Inauguration of Barack Obama today, I deliberately chose not to blog.  I wanted today to be a time of observance and reflection.  As I watched the happenings and while I felt moved and occasionally welled up, there was something missing for me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  I have been emotional at other times during the Obama “movement” including Election Night itself.  And as President Obama began his speech today, I listened intently.  It was a strong, powerful, moving speech, filled with honesty and clarity of purpose.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in history when so many people gathered in Washington D.C. to see an inauguration.  Not in my lifetime anyway and perhaps not ever, not even for John F. Kennedy, my father’s political hero.  Of course, this is a television/internet era.  So not only were there record crowds on the National Mall, there are record TV audiences and record internet traffic on Live Coverage sites.  But for the first time ever, there were crowds around the world, around the Planet, to watch this truly unique, and world-changing event.  From Kenya to Israel to Japan, they all celebrated today.  Yet even knowing that, there was still something missing.

After President Obama’s speech, and after most of the early fanfare, and the departure of the ex-President by helicopter (what a wonderful sight – that made me cry), my phone rang.  I didn’t answer it because I decided I did not want to be interrupted today, no matter who it was.  If it was urgent, I would call back whoever it was.  I quickly looked and saw that it was my mother and let it go to voice mail.  I figured she was going to ask me some question or tell me some story, or whatever, I knew it wasn’t so important that I needed to stop what I was doing; what I wanted to do at that moment was watch these historical events unfold on television.  I was glad I had a high definition TV; it is truly a grand TV-watching experience,  But still there was someting missing.

After a brief while, I checked my voice mail.  It was my mother, of course, but the tone in her voice was different.  I could tell she was a bit choked up, a bit emotional.  For a brief moment I though “Uh, oh” what happened. 

Throughout the Obama campaign, and  throughout the election, my mother and I didn’t really agree.  She didn’t have the same passion for politics and change that had come to be part of my life.  I didn’t feel she understood how important all of this was to me   Barack Obama winning the Presidency will always be one of the highlights, if not THE highlight, of my life.  Similar to what JFK was to my father and her.

As I listened to her message, she told me in a quivering sort of voice, that she had just finished watching the Inauguration.  And as the words came out of her mouth, I was a bit astonished.  She said “I was thinking about your father, and how proud he would be; how happy he would be at what was happening today”.   My father died in 1984.  In the reality of our family, my father, his beliefs, his politics, his point of view, are rarely, if ever talked about.

So I thought for a moment and the tears came to my eyes.  The man who was so distant as a father, but taught me so much from afar, was with me today.  By not teaching his children about racism and bigotry, we didn’t know it existed.  As he helped ex-cons by giving them jobs when no one else would, and as he helped the first black family in our neighborhood get a mortgage when no local bank would give them one, we never knew.   He helped that same family renovate the electrical service in their own.  They paid him weekly, maybe $5.00 a week until they paid off what they owed.  My father told them to just pay what they could, when they could.  My father quietly did his part to try and end racism and bigotry in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, John and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  He did not boast or brag about what he did, he simply did it.  And this is what Barack Obama talked about today in his speech.   Obama said that America was ready to once again take the lead; in terms of diplomacy, inclusion, fairness, world peace, equality, and all of the tenets upon which this country was founded.  Indeed all Americans are created equal.

So it came full circle for me.  I finally understood why I was emotional throughout Obama’s campaign, his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, his victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago on the night of November 4, 2008, and today when he put his hand on the Lincoln Bible where he swore to protect and defend America and uphold the Constitution.  It was the voice of my fahter.  Not his actual voice, in fact just the opposite.  It was his silence in not pointing out what racism was, or what bigotry was.  We werent’ told about it because he didn’t want us to even fathom the thought of it.  I grew up not knowing that some people thought there was a difference between white and black, jew and christian, rich and poor, gay or straight.  He didn’t want to teach us about racism for fear that we would participate in it.  Instead, he led through quiet example.  Never judging people based on the differences by which some found it so easy to judge.  

Dad, you did the right thing.  I didn’t learn about racism and bigotry until I was in my very late teens; I learned it from the world.  And it was a terrible thing to realize.  I must admit that I did judge people.  I judged the ones who wanted to deny others their  basic human rights.  Even today some still try to do it.  But not Barack , Dad,  He’s a different kind of guy.  When I look at him I don’t thnk “he’s black”.  I think, “he’s cool, he’s smart, he’s of my generation and he thinks like me, only smarter”.  You would really have liked him.  Thanks Dad.  I found my JFK. 

And so I blogged after all.

It’s time to get back to politics


Today is December 29, 2008, only 29 days until Barack Obama will take the oath of office and become the 44th President of the United States.  I just finished watching “60 Minutes” from last night.  I had it on my DVR which is set up to tape new episodes of “60 Minutes”.  I just forgot about it until I went through my list of things taped, but unwatched.

“60 Minutes” did a retrospective of Barack Obama’s rise to political power from the day before he announced his candidacy back in February of 2007.  I forgot how long ago that was.  “60 Minutes” told the whole story.  About his start in politics, issues of race, Reverend Wright, the Muslim smear attacks, the DNC, the night of his historic win, and everything in between.

I forgot about those agonizing days and months when I was keeping up with all things Obama.  I forgot my frustration over the lies and right-wing smear campaigns.  I forgot about election day and waiting hour by hour, watching the return come in.  I was watching MSNBC and this part I did not forget  There is some question as to who made the announcement on MSNBC.  But it was Keith Olbermann, another hero of mine, who said those fateful words “Barack Obama is projected to be the next President of the United States.”  I could hear the shaking in his voice.  I begin to sob.  I could not believe it was finally over.  If you want to see and hear it again, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1HSnnDfCks. It is so difficult for me to watch this piece of video and not have tears come to my eyes.  Have we forgotten already?

There were so many emotions going on that night.  I know how hard Keith worked on behalf of Obama.  He was the one clear, strong voice in the Media who never faltered from his mission.  Now, I know that journalists are supposed to remain neutral.  But much like Edward R. Murrow, one of the most famous and respected Journalists ever to grace the television screen, Olbermann stuck up for his own personal beliefs; sometimes crossing the line between Journalism and Opinion, just as Murrow did against Senator Joseph McCarthy and McCarthy’s witch hunt against communists.  Sometimes, wrong is wrong, and a journalist who knows the truth must simply speak it.

I believe that both Olbermann and Rachel Maddow had a profound influence in the 2008 Presidential Election.  And good for them.  It is a pleasure to see the year-end lists that every media outlet does for bests and worsts of 2008.  The pleasure stems from how long we have waited to chastise these people publicly.  People like Bush, Cheney, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Sarah Palin, and all of the other right-wing crazies whose time has come after 8 long years, to bury themselves back under the rock from which they came.  They fooled enough Americans for long enough to get eight years out of of George W. Bush, but no more.  We simply aren’t going to take it any more.

As I sit tonight looking forward and back, I find myself only wanting to look forward.  I don’t want to forget the past, I just want to put it where it belongs, in the past.  Barack Obama has worked hard at choosing an eclectic and amazingly smart group of people to join him in his cabinet.  I look forward to whatever Obama has (maybe up his sleeve) to offer us.  I believe it will happen quickly.  A lot of changes will take place early on so that Obama can set himself up to move forward and get this country back on its feet.

I hope for transparency but also understand that some things simply can not be transparent.  I believe that if Obama exposed all of the morally wrong and simply evil deeds of the Bush Administration, America might not believe we can get ourselves out of it and may loose hope.  Right now he needs America to be strong, to stand behind him, and be ready to offer their assistance and sacrifice anywhere the President asks for it.  The next few years will be amazing and I am glad I am here to witness all of it.

I’m happy that the President Elect is taking some time off with his family in Hawaii.  He was probably suffering from almost complete exhaustion.  When is the last time you think he might have gotten a good 8 hours of sleep to recharge over night.  I want my President rested, strong, and confident; with a clear head to make the right decisions.

What makes makes a good President?  Many things, but here’s how I see it.  There are things that Barack Obama has said and done that I don’t agree with.  But I trust him enough to lead us down the right path.  I don’t have to agree with everything he says or does, I just need to believe in him and trust him.

We will get there.  Wherever “there” is to you.  We’re not used to trusting our elected officials. It’s a new concept, or at least a lost,concept.  Barack Obama’s priorities are to bring back trust to America and bring back the respect America has around the world.  What will American Politics look like in four years?  Let’s hope we’ll be in the midst of a new era; an era where we can’t believe how far we’ve come because it seemed so out of reach back in 2008.

Obama Wins and it’s a new game in town


I know I should be a gracious winner.  As gracious and incsive as Barack Obama was in his victory speech and as gracious as John McCain tried to be in is concession speech.  I say “tried” because he still refused to stop the booing when he mentioned Obama’s win.   McCain couldn’t muster up the decency to tell the crowd that booing is not acceptable.

But there is a part of me that needs to vent.  I just need to say:

So long Hannity and O’Reilly and the rest of the knuckleheads at Fox.  You make me sick and your team LOST.  You are irrelevant.

So long to Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sarah Palin.  Your talking points memos have no place in this world except maybe to line bird cages.  You are both irrelevant.

And to the blow hard, politically abusive Rush Limbaugh, your tactics didn’t work, your lies didn’t work, you are irrelevant.

To people like Mary Matalin, Mitt Romney, Rudy “9/11” Giuliani, and Tucker Bounds, it’s time for you to just SHUT UP and I would prefer also that you GO AWAY.  You are irrelevant.

And especially to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney whom I believe should rot in hell for the crimes they have committed against the American people and against the U.S. Constitution; you and your cronies are irrelevant.

All of the people mentioned above will pay the price.  Looking back, these people could not think of one nice thing to say about Barack Obama, who is, by any measure, an intelligent, thoughtful, inclusive man deserving of at minimum an inferred compliment.  But no, they just couldn’t bring yourselves to do it.  And so they will pay the price by being considered “out of the loop”, and “on the wrong track” and nobody will want to hear your opinion anymore.  Not even the new Republican Party that will emerge from the muck as something new and different; or perhaps old and familiar, back to their roots, so to speak.

The Presidential Election of 2008 was not just an election and was not just about politics.  The Obama campaign was a movement.  As defined by Random House a “movement” in this context means: “a diffusely organized or heterogeneous group of people or organizations tending toward or favoring a generalized common goal”.  That is exactly what President Elect Obama tied to do through his entire campaign.  And he stayed on topic for almost 2 years.  None of the people mentioned above in this post, and many, many people not mentioned in this post, ever recognized the difference between an election campaign and a movement.  They missed the boat and missed the historical significance of what happened on November 4th2008.  Americans stoop up to be counted and stood up to say “We’re not going to take it anymore”.  The Republican tactics of fear don’t work and were not appreciated by the electorate based on exit polls.  Every negative ad, every mangling of the truth, or outright lie convinced a few more Independents and Republicans to vote Democrat

I’m sure you saw the people around this country who gathered in predetermined locations to await and then celebrate the victory of Barack Obama.  But did you see the hoards of Americans who gathered spontaneously in town squares to do the same thing.  You probably caught this phenomenon on television but did you also notice people from countries all over the WORLD who gather to celebrate America’s huge step forward.  The American Dream is an experiment that has so far lasted 232 years.  And when times are tough, like they are now, Americans can unite for the greater good.  And Americans can think for themselves independently, they can analyze the conditions set before them, and they have the ability to think and look forward instead of backwards to what used to be.  I don’t care how it sounds but for the first time in my life I am truly proud to be American.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t proud before; it means I am MORE proud.

So when have Americans ever poured into the streets to celebrate and support the newly elected President of the United States.  For that matter when have Americans ever done this to celebrate anything, political or otherwise.  One on-air personality from a cable TV show said that it was possible that the first moon landing/walk may be the only other event in history that created this level of pride and exuberance.  I don’t know because I was too young to remember, but that sounds accurate to me.  And we’re talking about GOOD NEWS celebrations not bad news vigils.

The political torch is being passed to a new generation and a new philosophy.  I am at the cusp (the older side, unfortunately) of a generation who doesn’t see color, religion, sexual orientation, and more as divisive issues.  We doesn’t see differences, but rather similarities.

The right-wing cancer on the American phsyche is finally in remission.  Those of us with clearer, more mature heads have been waiting for this day since it all went wrong when Ronald Reagan took office in January of 1981.  Since that time we have been on a course, either stemming from the President himself or the Republican-controlled Congress, that grew progressively more extreme in its Evangelical values.  For whatever reason, a large group still believes in this philosophy; they believe in subscribing to culture wars.  They believe in “us versus them”.  They believe in exclusion over inclusion.  If you ever watched the critically acclaimed televisionshow called “Jericho” which was about the aftermath of a large scale terrorist attach on the United States, you would have seen the not-so-subtle overtones of what it is like under the Bush Administration or under Republican rule in general.  Americans pitted against Americans instead of Americans helping other Americans.  We are nothing if not generous with our time, money, and support of those in trouble or less fortunate than ourselves.  But the fundamental idea of America’s generosity was swept out when Reagan was swept into power in 1981.  I am overjoyed that America’s self-esteem and its zest for inclusion has returned with gusto.

As for Barack Obama I hear people, including myself, refer to him (before today) as “Senator Obama”, “Barack Obama”, or “Mr. Obama”, or just plain “Obama”.  He has earned the right to be called “President Elect” and/or “President”.  But for some reason, my admiration for him and the fact that he makes me feel included, makes we want to call him “Barack”.  Just plain Barack.  He is the only political figure in my life that I have ever wanted to meet and the only one with whom I ever wanted to sit down and have a chat.

In closing I want to say that I have only recently involved myself in politics.  Barack’s speech at the DNC in 2004 started it all for me and then I began my own personal grass roots movement through communicating with friends and family, acquaintances, and visitors to my Blog.  Prior to this election I voted in every election for President, Governor, and/or Senator.  However, this is the first time I truly “fell” for a candidate.  If it is possible to love somebody that you have never met, then that’s what happened to me.  Love comes in many forms.  In my case my love for Barack comes in the form of respect and admiration.  He makes me want to be a better person; a better American.

I look forward to the future of America and the World.  Maybe someday I’ll forgive myself for not being as gracious as I could have been.

Hero of the Week – 10/15/08


Peter Dezell, coach of Chicago’s “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” varsity football team, gave a 12 year old boy named Patrick Nicholson a chance.  Patrick was born with down syndrome.  Patrick’s older brother was on the football team and when Patrick would ride with his mom to pick up and drop off his brother, Patrick would wonder why he couldn’t be involved, too.

Coach Dezell gave Patrick an extra jersey one day and asked him to help him out as an assistant coach.  Patrick flourished as part of the team and two years later, he has come out of his quiet shell, has stopped running away and hiding behind trees when someone talked to him, and is now running a tight ship on the football field.  Patrick is very good at what he does.

The coach was up against some parents who said that Patrick would be a distraction.  The coach stood his ground.  For a man to stand up to scrutiny and to push back against public opinion for something he knows in his heart is right, Coach Peter Dezell is my hero.  And so is Patrick.

Special thanks to the CBS Evening News alerting me to this story.

Women, Hillary, Obama, and McCain


As an Obama supporter, I would have been extremely disappointed, even mad, if he did not get the nomination for Democratic Presidential Candidate.   There was a time when things looked bleak and I said to myself that I would vote for ANYBODY rather than Hillary Clinton.  So I understand what Hillary supporters are feeling.  I watched the Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting aftermath and the women who were so angry; they were yelling and screaming and crying.  Their emotions were overflowing and they felt betrayed by somebody.

In trying to keep this in perspective, I tried to put myself in their shoes.  How would I have felt if it were Obama who was “robbed”?  Who would I lash out at on my blog or elsewhere?

After much thought, I came to some conclusions.  Barack Obama himself was not the reason that Hillary Clinton did not win the nomination.  He did not decide how the Bylaw Committee would vote.  He did not say anything even remotely misogynistic about Hillary Clinton or any other woman.  He has no control over how the press decides to cover Hillary and her campaign.  Yet these fervent Hillary supporters, with all of their displaced anger, are willing to punish Barack Obama by not supporting him, or voting for him.  I understand that they may want to punish the Press, or even specific pundits or on-air journalists.  I understand that they may be enraged at publications like the New York Times, or the Washington Post, a specific Blog or Blogger.  But to punish Barack Obama and cause such polarization within the Democratic party because of things beyond the candidate’s control seems misguided.

The same would be true if roles were reversed.  I could not blame Hillary Clinton herself if Barack Obama did not win the nomination.  She would have had nothing to do with it, other than run her campaign as best she could.  She has no control over what the Press says, what bloggers say, or how people vote, etc.

I find it hard to believe that any voting Democrat would punish the other candidate and vote for John McCain.  If they did cast their vote for McCain, or refuse to vote at all, they would realistically only be punishing themselves.

We all know the differences between the platforms of Obama and Clinton are few and far between.  However, if you compare the collective platforms of Obama and Clinton as “Democrats”, to those of the Republicans and John McCain, you will see the polar opposites. 

McCain can bellow as loud as he wants that he is not a continuation of the Bush presidency.  But the basic tenets of McCain and the Republican agenda are the same as George W. Bush.  There may be some minor differences, but if McCain were to take office today, you would not notice a difference in our Foreign Policy, our Economy, our Health Care System, or anything else that makes a difference to each of us as Americans.  In fact, unless someone told us that McCain took over, we would never notice.

For Democrats, this election is NOT about Barack Obama, and I think Barack himself would agree.  This election is about us; each and every one of us as individuals.  It is our responsibility to get the word out about Barack Obama as our vehicle for the kind of change this country needs.  He is our vehicle to restore our place in the world as the best country in the world, to inspire us to be the best we can be, to solve huge problems like the Iraq War, ignoring Afghanistan, high gas prices, the economy in general, education, and health care.  It is our responsibility as Democrats to talk to Independents and Republicans and try to convince those on the fence that Obama is the right choice for this country.   There are those in the Republican base whose mind you will never change so don’t waste your time there.

I do not tend to stand on my soapbox and herald the Democratic Party.  I am not even registered as a Democrat; I am unaffiliated.  I wasn’t even “political” until Bush’s second term.  I was absolutely blown away, depressed, angry, sad, and bewildered that he was elected to a second term.  And I blame every person who cast his or her ballot for George W. Bush for the condition in which we find our country today.  That’s a lot of anger and baggage to carry around and I am trying to let it go.  But I feel if I don’t speak out, and speak out loud and early, that it might happen again.  I can’t imaging how I would feel on November 4th, or 5th depending, if McCain is elected as the 44th President of the United States.  We will pay for it in cash, tears, and blood.  The middle class will disappear, and we will never restore our place in the world as a beacon of hope.  The Iraq War will trudge onward and Al Queda in Afghanistan, where the real war should be, will continue to be ignored.

Now is the time, and I challenge each of your who truly wants the right kind of change in this country, to go out and do something about it.  Help restore the United States of America to its former glory.  I don’t want to sound corny or poetic, but it is time for America to rise like a phoenix to a place high enough that the rest of the world can see the light.

 

Christian Fundamentalists can go to hell


Since I am not a believer that God created the world in 6 real time days about 6000 years ago, and I don’t believe that dinosaurs and humans roamed this planet at the same time, I can tell Christian Fundamentalists to go to hell and it doesn’t mean anything to me because I don’t believe in Hell either.  Unless you want to count the daily life that some are forced to endure as a living hell, then yes I believe that.

When I hear a 10 year old girl, shown on the evening news, say that there is no such thing as evolution or some “big bang asteroid theory” (which she says as she floats fake quotations signs in the air) I want to first slap her parents, then slap the minister or pastor of her church, and then slap the shit out of her.  If that makes me evil, or the devil, or whatever “they” want to call it, then so be it.  I didn’t say I was going to do it, it’s just what I think about.  Just slap ’em!  Even they can’t say it’s  sin to consider something.

How is it that creationists are so narrow minded in their beliefs that they can’t account for contradictions between creationism and evolution that can be proved in a third grade science project, and don’t care that they can’t. 

Hey, if you want to believe in God and that God created the heavens and the earth, I have absolutely no problem with that.  But don’t go around trying to debunk what scientists proved, or disproved, years ago just because your translation of the bible says something different.  Is blind faith in falsehoods going to get you through your daily life?  I guess so.  And there is no wonder why these are the same people who voted for George W. Bush, TWICE no less.  I assume they just wanted to carry on the tradition of standing firmly behind someone, or something, that is an absolute lie, but it is exactly what they wanted to hear.

Obama and Clinton differ on NAFTA and Health Care


If you compare Obama and Clinton on issues, it is true that they have the same basic platform, beliefs, and commitment.  I’m not one to go along with generally accepted truths blindly, but in this case, I do believe that Obama and Clinton really only differ on Free Trade and Health Care.

As for free trade, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) came into being when Bush One was in power.  I believe that Bill Clinton made some adjustments to it to try and make it better, but in reality he also used it as one of his first attempts in his Presidency to get some form of agreement from both sides of the aisle. 

Now, while Hillary supported NAFTA at the time, she has since said, “I have been critical of NAFTA for years.  I have said repeatedly that it did not realize its potential or its promises and we had to change it.”  I’m not sure what this really means.  It is a passive-aggressive statement, using the word “it” as if to separate herself from a distant idea.  So, she knew NAFTA wasn’t working, or wouldn’t work but she supported it then, but not now.  I’m so confused.  But one thing stands out for me.  It seems that Bill and Hillary didn’t think the whole NAFTA thing out too clearly.  Bill Clinton still defends NAFTA but says that if it is not considered successful, it is because the rules weren’t enforced, not because NAFTA was a bad deal.   The bottom line for me is that since NAFTA went into effect in January 1994, there has been major fighting between the countries involved (U.S., Canada, and Mexico), the unions involved, the industries involved, and the governments involved.  No matter how you slice it, NAFTA is controversial and has never been proved to be beneficial to anyone except big business in America who got richer off the deal.  I’m not too keen on a world leader who takes the approach of “let’s send it up the flagpole and see if it flies”.  This was not typical of Bill Clinton so I’m not sure what really happened back then.  As President, you need to be a lot more insightful than that.  You can’t just “try it” and see if it works.  You owe it to the American people to think about it, listen to your advisers, listen to the citizens of this country, and listen to your gut.  If you truly believe you are doing the right thing, then do it, and own it, successful or not.

As for health care, Hillary Clinton’s plan is similar to the plan in existence right now in Massachusetts.  Essentially, health care is MANDATORY, meaning you must get insurance.  My sister and her family live in Massachusetts and they have told me that this mandate is a financial hardship for them.  They are scraping by now and have the additional burden of figuring out how to pay for this mandatory insurance. 

So, if you can afford it, too bad, Clinton’s plan is that you must have health care.  In many circumstances, the problem is not “getting” health care but “affording” health care.  I don’t see the point in mandating that the citizens of America get health care if the money is coming out of their own pockets regardless of whether or not they will be able to feed their families after paying for health care.  Something just doesn’t make sense.  Hillary Clinton has said, in rebuttal, that she plans to provide tax credits to help defray the cost of health insurance.  As an average American, do you understand how a tax credit is going to help you afford to go to the doctor TODAY because you are sick but don’t have the money to pay the doctor?  Clinton also plans on enforcing, in some manner, her mandatory health insurance plan.  She has talked about “garinishing wages” or some other “enforcement mechanisms”.  What does that really mean.  I’ll be penalized by my government if I can’t afford to buy health care by them taking money forcefully from me?

I believe that Mrs. Clinton misrepresents the facts when she says that her plan is superior to Obama’s because he plan “covers everyone” and his does not.  Barack Obama’s plan is based on the fact that Americans don’t have insurance because they simply can’t afford it.  Many Americans get insurance through their employer, some who CAN afford it, buy it privately, and others may get it by being a member of an association (for example, the Small Business Association) where they can get more affordable insurance because they can be part of a group plan.  With this in mind, Obama is saying that for everyone else who WANTS insurance, he would like to make affordable insurance available (in an insurance plan similar to the one members of Congress enjoy today).  He does not plan to enforce mandatory insurance on anyone but rather offer affordable alternatives so that people who WANT insurance have affordable options.  His only talk of enforcement comes from his belief that children should have insurance and since children can’t speak for themselves, and are our most vulnerable citizens, he may come up with some plan to enforce parents to provide insurance for their children.  Most importantly, Barack Obama has said that his first priority is to bring costs down.  That’s a good priority to have when compared to enforcing health insurance for everyone.  We all know that health insurance companies are second only to oil companies in terms of monumental, undeserved profits.

I am not saying that what I have written is the absolute final word on this.  I have written this based on the research I have done and my interpretation of it.  There are so many misconceptions based on the words that the candidates use and how they are interpreted by the media and the public.  I think it is the responsibility of each of us to do our homework and make our own decisions.  This is just my humble opinion.

Thanks for stopping by.