I Thought I Was Done

I thought I was done writing about race relations and protests against our National Anthem, at least for a while, but this past month I’ve seen and read so much misleading information, on those hot button topics; therefore, I’d like to set the record straight. We keep hearing over and over how America is divided: politically divided and racially divided. I agree that currently our nation is somewhat politically polarized; however, it’s always been that way especially during general elections. If that were not the case then every candidate would receive 100% of the vote – 100% of the time. I adamantly disagree though with those who spout that this country is racially divided. I think many times the word divided falsely implies an equal split, or in this case it fosters a message of Blacks versus Whites. I think in actuality there’s only a small percentage of Black citizens who truly believe they’re purposely being oppressed by Whites due to the color of their skin…although they seem to have the loudest voices.

A select few from the Black community, a select few from the White community (yearning to be politically correct I assume), and the majority of mainstream media are responsible for creating this mirage of racial divide we’re experiencing today. It certainly doesn’t help race relations when renowned talk show host, Tavis Smiley, tells his national audience, “There’s no doubt about the fact that America owes Black folk a debt that it can never repay. Period. Point blank. No debate with me about that.”

Well, I guess that’s that. Case closed. There’s nothing else to say on the subject. Not! Smiley made his “non-debatable” statement (Sept. 12th, 2016) while interviewing “Reparations” website founder, Natasha Marin, who was there promoting her Facebook group which is intended to explore “white privilege” and provides aid to minorities in need. “Reparations” is similar to the GoFundMe website and encourages people to donate either their time, talents, or money to others in need. Marin’s website allows White people to give, but only minorities can receive.

Similar to Tavis Smiley, Deion Sanders recently took advantage of his profession, as a television sports analyst, to speak out on race relations. The National Football League (NFL) Hall of Famer used his air time last week as a bully pulpit to voice his support of Collin Kaepernick’s decision to bring attention to “Black oppression” in the United States. The mediocre quarterback protests his country by not standing during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Sanders proposed that the increase in sales of the player’s jerseys was proof that many fans must agree with his stance. Either “Prime Time” doesn’t realize why so many of the jerseys have been sold, or he’s intentionally omitting some pertinent information to make his claim appear more plausible. I presume the increase in sales of Kaepernick jerseys are in large part due to them being used for patriotic ceremonial burnings and other anti-protest protests. I know of at least one sports bar that’s using the jersey as a welcome mat.

When a select few from the White community hop on the political correctness train then the rest of us are prompted to get on board as well. When both Blacks and Whites promote the manufactured mirage then their way of thinking appears more credible to the public. I was disappointed to see our local sports columnist, Dan Bickley, lobby for the conductor’s position. The White reporter called out White former athletes and coaches, who opposed Kaepernick’s actions, in his weekly column for The Arizona Republic (Sept. 24th, 2016). Bickley begins his article by telling his readers that much of the criticism surrounding Collin Kaepernick is “steeped in ignorance.” He condemns Trent Dilfer, former quarterback and current ESPN analyst, for saying, “A backup quarterback should know his place and shut his mouth.” He criticizes Hall of Fame player and coach, Mike Ditka, for stating, “Anybody who disrespects this country and the flag, if they don’t like our flag, then get the hell out.” Bickley said Mike Ditka’s advice “sounded like what you might expect from someone who is old, wealthy and out of touch.”

The columnist placed legendary baseball manager, Tony La Russa, in the same category as Ditka. He took the current Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer to task for saying, “If you play for the Diamondbacks, you are representing a team, a culture and a brand.” La Russa noted that if any of his players wanted to protest the National Anthem they could do so simply by remaining in the clubhouse until the song was finished. Well, call me an old, ignorant, out of touch White guy because I totally agree. I found a couple lines from Dan Bickley’s column to be a bit humorous and quite ironic. The sportswriter seems troubled as he declares, “Sports are supposed to heal, not divide. They are not supposed to play out along racial lines.” Does he not understand Kaepernick is to blame for the division (at least any division in the NFL)?

It’s bad enough when people are allowed to use their words (and get paid) to cause division and to alienate others, but I think it’s worse when those same type of people attempt to silence any opposing view. For instance, last month (Sept. 13th, 2016) Lil Wayne, while appearing on the TV show Undisputed, was asked what he thought about the heavily publicized National Anthem protests. The famous Black entrepreneur and Hip Hop recording artist hesitantly answered, “I don’t want to be bashed, because I don’t want to seem like I’m on the wrong side.” It’s unfortunate when a select few can make the rest of us feel as though we’re being prodded to choose the “right side” when expressing our opinions.

Lil Wayne went on to say, “I have never…never is a strong word. I have never, never dealt with racism, and I’m glad I didn’t have to. I don’t know if it’s because of my blessings, but it is my reality.” “Weezy” then mentioned his fan base is predominantly White, and his younger generations of fans thinks racism is “not cool.” The Hip Hop artist also told of a time when a White cop saved his life. Lil Wayne did not get his wish because he was bashed by some in the Black community, for taking the “wrong side,” immediately after his appearance on Undisputed.

And there it is. With all the nonsense making the headlines lately it usually comes down to taking sides (or so we’re being told). Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one not buying what the media is selling. The recent police shootings of Black men are being chalked up to blatant racism, or at the very least an unconscious racial bias, but I think the majority of police shootings are justifiable and have absolutely nothing to do with race. The fact is nearly every shooting has involved resistance to authority. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but I find his position of promoting law and order, and his fondness for America’s law enforcement, refreshing.

I’m reminded of a quote I just heard while watching a Blue Bloods rerun. Police Commissioner Reagan, played brilliantly by Tom Selleck, is reminding his police officer son that he cannot hesitate while on the job. The concerned father then says, “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.” I think part of being a good cop is being able to make the spontaneous, tough decisions that allows an officer to go home to his loved ones at the end of the day. The clever quote is sound advice for the person being questioned as well. If we’re honest with ourselves – I mean truly honest – we’d be forced to admit that the number of shootings of Black men by White police officers are minute in comparison to the number of interactions our law enforcement agencies have with the public day in and day out. However, you’ll never hear that coming from the mouths of our trusted journalists.

The media needs us to be polarized. If there’s no conflict – no side to take – no David vs. Goliath – then there is no story. The media depends upon conflicts of interest, division amongst people, and stories about conquering giants (even if sometimes they’re fabricated) to stay in business. I imagine we’ll continue hearing about Black oppression as long as someone somewhere believes it to be true, and the media continues to provoke the illusion. I for one am not convinced Black oppression exists. Some racism still exists, and it goes both ways, but I find it difficult to believe that a Black man could be elected (twice) as President of the United States if Black oppression was real. Slavery is a thing of the past (rightfully so), and we now have laws securely in place to assure equality amongst all legal citizens regardless of their race. There, now I’m done.

A Not So Holly Jolly Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting colder. My afternoons of sweating profusely, in the Arizona desert, have somewhat dissipated, and taking an evening dip in the swimming pool is no longer a sensible option. Starbucks is now serving up their popular Pumpkin Spice lattes, and department stores everywhere have swapped out their summer merchandise for shared shelf space between Halloween and “the other holiday.” I am a bit surprised I haven’t had any eggnog sightings as of yet. (Pumpkin eggnog does not count.)

However, last week I did see, for the first time this year, a Christmas commercial on TV. It just so happens I purchased my first Christmas present around that time as well. In barely over a month (Nov. 1st) I’ll be listening exclusively to the illustrious sounds of the season, at home and in my car, until midnight of December 25th. No wonder this is the time of year when I prematurely focus the majority of my attention on Christmas! Therefore, it’s time for another Christmas story, from yours truly, although this one is not nearly as cheery as my previous tales. The following story is about a not so holly jolly Christmas.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all was well. The year was 1998, and it had been a splendid holiday season leading up to the “big day.” The gifts were all wrapped, positioned neatly underneath the tree, and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. The list of Christmas Eve traditions, shared each year with my lovely wife’s extended family, had been completed: The Norwegian feast had been devoured (minus the lutefisk, of course – who wants to eat dried whitefish with a gelatinous texture?). Every song had been sung (some more than once) from the small, treasured hymnals used only on December 24th since probably the early 1900’s. The ice cream cake had been savored (one thin slice per person).

The only thing left to do this Christmas Eve, before trying to get some shut-eye, was to attend a candlelight church service with my side of the family. Almost immediately after cramming into a pew with my loved ones, I realized all was not well. As I was jubilantly singing “Joy to the World,” with the rest of the congregation, the joy inside of me was rapidly diminishing. I was overcome by maddening chills. Not only was Jack Frost nipping at my nose, but the icy villain was mauling my entire body. I’d never experienced anything like that before (nor have I since). As soon as I got home I took some Alka-Seltzer Plus (my usual cure-all) and burrowed into bed without even considering taking off my winter coat.

Christmas morning I awoke, and instantly I knew I was in trouble. I was still frigid, and now adding to my misery was a pounding headache – rhythmically pulsating as if keeping time with “The Little Drummer Boy.” (So much for the Alka-Seltzer Plus.) I was painfully aware what this meant, but I certainly wasn’t going down without a fight. I could not bear the thought of “missing” Christmas, so I brushed my teeth, fixed my hair, and tried to act normal (normal for me, anyway). I knew trying to disguise the fact that I felt much worse than the night before was selfish of me, but admittedly the well-being of others wasn’t my greatest concern at the time. Partaking in the day’s festivities was.

It really didn’t matter what my plan was because the missus was not fooled. She has an uncanny way of immediately detecting when a person is sick simply by looking at their eyes. My wife was not about to let me contaminate the rest of the family especially on such a glorious day. However, she did allow me to wander out into the living room to check out the goodies St. Nick had left for us underneath the Christmas tree. What to my wondering eyes should appear, but a Scooby-Doo cookie jar for the missus, a Super Nintendo for our son, and plenty of sports memorabilia for me. Santa did good. He always does.

Those few short minutes of excitement were almost more than I could handle in my delirious state. I knew I had reached my limit of exhilaration for the day. I also knew it was time for my wife and son to leave. They headed off to my parents’ house, for a fun-filled day, while I settled down for a long winter’s nap. As the rest of the world celebrated our Savior’s birth, or Santa Claus, or both, I laid there in bed thinking of all that I would be deprived of on this blessed day.

There were no visions of sugar plums dancing in my head – just nightmarish thoughts of what I was missing out on a mere mile or so down the road. There’d be no customary Christmas “breakfast” (usually served around noon) for me this year. None of my father’s famous fried eggs. No bacon, no sausage, and no biscuits and gravy. Gone was the anticipation and the delight of watching loved ones opening their gifts that were thoughtfully selected just for them. Lost forever was the cherished time spent with family – typically even more precious on December 25th.

I spent the entire day in bed…and in a desolate daze. At one point I attempted to get out of my lowly condition by turning on the television, but even the holiday classics emanating from the screen could not cure my sadness. “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”? I don’t think so. Clement Clarke Moore’s ending line from his legendary holiday poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, did not ring true for me in 1998. That year was a not so holly jolly Christmas.


I remember it well. It was a long time ago, yet it’s one of those life altering moments a person never forgets. I was only a child, around 8 or 9 years old, when my world came crashing down around me. I could no longer keep my emotions buried deep down inside of me. I sat there motionless in my father’s La-Z-Boy Rocker Recliner, stunned by what had transpired over the past few weeks, as tears cascaded down my cheeks. I made no effort to conceal my tears as I gazed down the hallway at my mother who was conversing on our one and only rotary dial telephone. In fact, I was hoping my immense sorrow would not go unnoticed, so I could finally release some of the burden I’d secretly been carrying around with me ever since I made that awful decision…to give my teddy bear away.

I made the hasty decision to part ways with my stuffed animal soon after attending a Cub Scout meeting. (I was a Cub Scout for an entire two years during my youth.) My Pack leader announced we’d be taking part in a local toy drive. The Christmas season was fast approaching, and he thought collecting new and slightly used toys, for those less fortunate in our community, was the least we could do as a civic minded organization. My ears perked up when the gangly Cubmaster mentioned there’d be prizes awarded, to the top three toy collectors, on the evening of the upcoming annual pinewood derby competition. I don’t remember much more about the meeting after hearing the word prizes, but I do recall thinking what a glorious night that will be: taking first place in the pinewood derby and receiving one of three prizes just for gathering some toys.

When I got home I immediately ransacked my overflowing toy box and found a few items I could donate to help my…ahem…I mean…to help the…worthy cause. The next day I scoured the neighborhood (probably only three or four houses) for contributions. One weekend a few of us even went out with our Pack leader in hopes of finding more donations. The contest’s end was nearing, and I felt pretty good about the number of toys I had garnered, but was it enough? I rummaged through my toy box one last time, but I didn’t find anything. At least nothing else I could bear to part with or what would be acceptable as “slightly used.”

And then it happened. I spotted my blue and white teddy bear, in his usual spot, on top of my bed. I hadn’t even considered parting company with any of the assorted inanimate creatures arranged next to my pillow. But what a greedy little guy I was. All I kept thinking about were those darn prizes. It’s not even as if they were all that spectacular to begin with. I think the grand prize was maybe ten dollars. A nice sum at the time, for a young lad, but certainly not worth the guilt I’d soon be facing.

I began to rationalize how giving away my teddy wasn’t a big deal. Wasn’t I too old for such a thing anyway? I hadn’t even given my stuffed bear a name for Pete’s sake. What kind of an owner doesn’t give their teddy bear a name? Surely he’d be better off with someone else. Rationalization completed.

My mother noticed I had added my teddy bear to the modest pile of accumulated toys situated in the corner of my bedroom. She mildly suggested that I reconsider my decision to give away my teddy. A day or so later, seeing my stuffed animal still occupying the corner, my mother strongly recommended I heed her advice. She then made one last plea for me to reconsider my stance, as I was heading off to the big event, but my infantile mind had already been made up. My excitement that evening quickly waned as the names of the three prize winners were announced, and the realization of what just happened set in. I lost the pinewood derby, the toy drive contest, and my precious teddy bear in one fell swoop.

A few days passed, and I quickly got over not being victorious in the pinewood derby and toy drive competitions. I truly hadn’t given my teddy bear much thought with the hustle and bustle of the season’s festivities and with Christmas just around the corner. However, after the blessed 25th day of December had come and gone, and every child’s coveted winter break was coming to a close, I became fixated with the loss of my blue and white teddy bear. I could not believe what I had done. That’s why I couldn’t stop crying, and hoping my mother would notice my anguish, as I sat motionless in my father’s La-Z-Boy. (My father must not have been home at the time since I was sitting in his chair.)

At last, my mother’s eyes locked onto mine, and instantly I felt a sense of some much needed solace. I was relieved, although only for a moment, until my newfound comfort swiftly transformed into a state of trepidation. After all, it was my mother who earnestly tried to convince me not to give away my one and only teddy, so why should she be sympathetic to my self-induced predicament after I (now regretfully) ignored her previous sound advice? I guess I was about to find out since my mother had hung up the telephone and was headed in my direction. To my surprise, she was sympathetic…and how!

After comforting me for a while my mother came up with a brilliant idea. She couldn’t bring back my teddy bear, but she could do the next best thing. My mother is a fine artist, so she drew (from memory) a life-size, near perfect replica of my teddy onto a large sheet of drawing paper. She then brought the picture to life when filling in the bear’s outline with a couple of colored pencils – precisely matching the light blue on the piece of paper before us to that of the real thing now somewhere in the arms of some lucky kid.

Over the next few days my mother did the same for the remaining stuffed clan arranged on my bed…just in case. She fashioned the likenesses of my light green bunny, small raccoon pillow, and my Ronald McDonald collectible onto other sheets of drawing paper, so I could add them to the teddy bear masterpiece she had created for me. What a mother! Her act of kindness eased much of the hurt her little boy was experiencing.

It’s no coincidence that today is National Teddy Bear Day. I really don’t think we need a specific day of the year designated to honor our teddies, but what the hey. Later this month (Sept. 19th) is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I suppose, all things considered, a day established to celebrate our teddy bears isn’t so strange after all. I do think about my blue and white teddy sometimes, and I wish he was still with me. If you’re fortunate enough to still have yours…please hug your teddy bear today.

Why I Write

I’ve written more than 100 blogs since acquiring my lifewithtruthandcommonsense.com blog site two and a half years ago. That’s well over 100,000 words I’ve put from pen to paper – then paper to laptop – typing one letter at a time – with only one finger…my right index finger to be exact. I’ve written on many subjects including the two no no’s: politics and religion. I’ve been an open book in regards to my thoughts on controversial issues, hot topics, and life in general. It hasn’t always been that easy either.

Someone once said, “writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” I watched an interview last year with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Don Henley, and he was discussing the art of writing with Charlie Rose, the show’s host. The famed musician and Eagles co-founder said, in essence, that having an epiphany or a great idea is easy, but translating them into written form is difficult. I can attest to that. Everything I’ve posted on my blog site has been a challenging labor of love. So then…why do I write?

I mainly write to prevent my head from exploding. I have difficulty ridding my mind of my multiple thoughts until they’re written down. I just can’t seem to completely move forward with my life knowing I’ve left some unwritten thoughts behind. I feel as though I’m incapable of retaining any new material unless I let some of the old stuff go. I guess I’m one of those who needs closure. I’ve heard that humans use only about 10% of their brains, so I’m sure there’s plenty more space available in my noggin, but I’m not willing to take a chance.

I also write to leave behind evidence that I once existed (in case anyone in the future is interested). I certainly wish I knew more about my heritage…more about my great grandparents…more about my grandparents…and even more about my still living parents. Some people are just more aloof than others and unwilling to share much of themselves, even with their family, and that’s okay. However, I don’t mind at all if people want to get to know the core of my being. In fact, I prefer my relatives know who I was and what I was about. I at least want future generations to have the option of knowing.

I write to remember, reflect, and reminisce about the good old days. So many memories are precious, and sometimes that’s all we’ve got. I put pen to paper because I enjoy the process. There’s nothing like penning my thoughts at 4:45am while sipping on a Starbucks coffee. To me, writing is akin to taking a seedling of a thought or an idea and nurturing it until it blossoms into a bouquet of words worth reading. I write because of the satisfaction I get when seeing the end result of my toil emanating from the computer screen.

I also write so my voice can be heard (even if I’m the only one listening). In case you’re unaware, I tend to have an opinion about everything. I read the Sunday newspaper and watch the local newscasts, and I’ve noticed journalists and reporters alike (whether intentionally or not) usually miss the real story. I write what I think, no holds barred, and what I think others really need to hear. I write because of my desire to be part of the discussion.

I write publically to examine, to explore, and to even sometimes entertain someone’s unorthodox behavior that has already been made public. For example, by now everyone and their mother knows about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the playing of our National Anthem. The reason given by the San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback, for his defiance, was that he wanted to call attention to what he perceives as failed race relations in this country. The disgruntled Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” I expect more patriotism and less oppression drivel from a biracial (raised by White parents) millionaire football player.

The primary discussion seems to be whether or not the mediocre quarterback has the right to turn his back on the American flag (and this nation). Unfortunately, he does. In this country – the land of the free – a person even has the right, if so inclined, to set fire to the Stars and Stripes for crying out loud. I think an American athlete not standing with his teammates (and everyone else in the stadium) while “The Star-Spangled Banner” is being played is like not brushing your teeth before going to the dentist: It might not be the law, but it’s certainly expected.

The National Football League’s response to this matter was to immediately issue a statement which said, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.” I highly recommend the NFL adjust its laissez-faire attitude concerning the time-honored pregame ritual. The League OWNS its players. That may sound a bit harsh, but it’s absolutely true. Every NFL player must conform to a strictly imposed way of life, both on and off the field, or risk being fined, suspended, or even terminated from the League.

Players are not allowed to promote any charities (unless sanctioned by the League) while inside a National Football League stadium. They cannot alter their uniforms in any fashion whatsoever, and their conduct is heavily monitored throughout the entire game. The players don’t even have a say as to what brand of cleats are attached to their feet. Therefore, I would think adopting a new, more respectful policy, regarding what’s acceptable during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” isn’t too much to ask of the mighty NFL.

And there you have it. My mind has been cleared of the whole Colin Kaepernick situation. I now have some space in my noggin for another seedling of a thought.


In the year 2031, I most-likely will be in prison. Maybe sooner, or maybe a little later, but I just can’t imagine my life’s path detouring in any other direction. Of course, this prediction is only plausible if Lord willing I’m even still around in 2031. It’s not too difficult to see where this country is headed, and I can’t envision any type of escape from what I perceive as the inevitable. I’m not alluding to our deplorable political landscape although I suppose ultimately it will be our government’s justice system deciding my fate in the near future. The reason for my probable transitioning from a law-abiding citizen to a willing lawbreaker will undoubtedly be due to – in a word – technology. Rather, more explicitly, it will be my refusal to embrace some technology that will provoke a prison sentence by 2031.

Many things I disapprove of have become acceptable in today’s society, and that’s okay. However, there’s much speculation that some things I’m opposed to may eventually become mandatory, and that I cannot (will not) accept. One such thing on the horizon is the possibility of being forced to utilize driverless cars. It has been rumored that in the near future we might all be required to surrender our driving skills to “intelligent” sensory control systems. Supposedly, computers are better drivers than people.

The main reason commonly given, for enacting an autonomous vehicles only policy, is the anticipated reduction in collisions on our roadways. I’m sure we could reduce accidents, without banning physical drivers, by prohibiting cell phone use while driving, imposing stricter penalties on repeat offenders, and expanding photo enforcement nationwide. I’m not averse to those who are fond of the new technology, but I am against revoking a person’s choice in the process. I know I for one will not give up my right to manually control my own vehicle. I will continue tooling around town in my laguna blue Dodge Dart regardless of any new laws that may be imposed concerning self-driving cars.

Another thing which might land me in the slammer is in regards to dealing with our beloved government every April. I fill out my tax returns by hand, and I like it that way. That’s how I’ve done it for 34 years, but now the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suggests (almost demands) I file my returns online. Each year I have to call the IRS to request the most recent instructions booklet, and each year the government’s representative on the other end, not even attempting to conceal his disgust towards me, argues his case for why I should file via computer. Each year he loses. However, I’m painfully aware my preferred choice of filing will one day be taken away. The day I have no other option than to file my tax returns online is the day I no longer file tax returns. This will surely pose a problem for me, and it may very well be the reason I’ll likely be sporting state issued, black and white striped attire in 2031.

If neither my refusal to get on board with driverless cars, nor my intentional refraining from filing tax returns electronically, sends me to the big house then possibly the contempt I have for drones will. I despise the uprising of drone enthusiasts, and I think it’s sort of ridiculous for anyone to own one solely for personal use. The preceding sentence reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld when Jerry, during a family dinner conversation at Manya’s house, amusingly says, “I hate anyone that ever had a pony when they were growing up.” Of course, the elderly Manya immediately divulges that she had a pony as a young girl. Can you say awwwkwaaard? My apologies, if I too offended, but let me explain.

Drones have increasingly been showing up on countless Christmas lists, of the young and old alike the past couple of years, and this is quite bothersome to me concerning my privacy. I do not wish any harm on drone owners, but I don’t want their voyeuristic robots anywhere in the vicinity of my residence. The lion’s share of drones have both photo taking and live streaming capabilities. It is my understanding a drone can legally invade my home’s airspace, but it’s illegal if I see fit to capture it or shoot the hovering nuisance out of the sky. I don’t think I can play by those rules; hence, appointing myself as judge and jury in the matter could realistically result in me being fitted for an orange jumpsuit by the year 2031. I live in Arizona. It’s hot! I should be able to shed my clothing in my own backyard without having to worry about an uninvited drone joining the party. I will not give up my constitutional right to privacy.

This past decade I’ve seen much that is wrong with our country’s infatuation with technology. I’ve witnessed cellphones (and the like) replace meaningful relationships. I’ve seen the blatant discrimination against those who would rather pay their baggage fees at the airport than beforehand online; The airlines charge more if paying in person. I’ve also noticed the obvious bias against traditional coupon clippers and people who prefer to pay with cash. Grocery stores have begun presenting their best deals to only those who are willing (and able) to download digital coupons, and some businesses are now offering consumers more if they pay with plastic instead of with cash. I recently experienced this type of injustice firsthand when putting air in my car’s tires at a local convenience store. Using a credit card would’ve given me 5 minutes worth of air whereas good ole American currency only afforded me 4 minutes for the same price.

We are continuously coaxed (strong-armed), many times by way of a small threat to our pocketbooks, into using debit or credit cards and managing all of our finances and business transactions online. Why go that route? The last I knew, one’s identity cannot be stolen or their life hacked into when using cash. For convenience? In my household we use the tried-and-true envelope system, so online banking would actually be a great inconvenience to us. Do we kowtow to every technological advancement simply because we want to appear as though we too are hip (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) and to avoid pompously being accused of “not being with it” or “still living in the horse and buggy days”?

To each his own I guess. I know it’s much easier to conform…to society…to the government…to the world. There just comes a time when enough is enough. For me, I can never accept commuting in driverless cars, submitting tax returns online, or drones invading my personal space. I may be in the world, but I am not of this world. My hope is I’ll be able to joyfully sing like Paul and Silas, knowing God holds the key, while locked behind prison doors in 2031.

In My World

In my world racism is non-existent. I understand in the real world there are bigots, and unfortunately racism will never be completely extinct. It’s a regrettable, unintended consequence of our God-given free will. The good news is I don’t think racism is running rampant in America as what is continuously being purported by the media and a select group of talk show hosts, celebrities, and even a few of our country’s representatives. I tend to agree with what President Barack Obama said recently, during his weekly radio address, concerning current race relations in the United States. Our nation’s Commander in Chief said, “I know that for many, it can feel like the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed and even widened. But the America I know…is just not as divided as some folks try to insist.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 63% of those asked think race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, but I personally have not witnessed any prejudice against minorities in all my 50 years residing on this earth. In my world racism did not exist in the small Iowa town I was born and raised in. There were only a handful of minorities living amongst Newton’s population of approximately 15,000. My initial exposure to a different race, that I can remember, was when I was in elementary school, and one day a foreign boy sheepishly entered the classroom. He had moved to town from either Peru or Panama (I know the name of his country started with a “P”), and he instantly became just another classmate. I can’t say as the Peruvian or Panamanian ever became my best friend, but we did get along swimmingly. Even though the new kid looked, dressed, and spoke a little differently, than everyone else, I certainly never considered him to be “less than.”

My next encounter with different nationalities was during high school. There were now a couple of handfuls of minorities in the same small town. Among them were Black siblings, and both were in my graduating class. I didn’t have much contact with either of them because although the male was into sports he didn’t play high school baseball (my forte), and his sibling was a girl. My senior year I enlisted the services of an Asian professional photographer to take my graduation pictures. The kind, soft-spoken, local business owner somehow managed to make even my mug presentable enough for the Class of 1984 yearbook. I never once felt an indifference toward my Black peers or Asian photographer, and I assume they felt the same about me.

In my world I believe the perception of a racially divided country was ignited in the summer of 2013, with the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now I’m sure the members of Black Lives Matter couldn’t care less what some White guy has to say in regards to their organization, but I highly value my thought-provoking input (pause here for chuckles); therefore, I cannot remain silent on the subject. I think the majority of those involved in the extremely loud and sometimes disruptive movement are misguided in their transparent us (Blacks) vs. them (Whites) mentality. Additionally, the organization’s obvious blatant disregard for others is quite evident with their numerous attempts at shutting down major infrastructure when protesting. Any sympathy one might have for the Black Lives Matter movement surely diminishes once they become a nuisance and risk the safety of others. It’s one thing to knowingly cause an upheaval, but putting officers’ lives even more at risk, with the uprising of extremist cop killers, is reprehensible.

I sincerely believe the recently exposed shootings of Black men by White police officers are almost entirely of a peace officer vs. alleged perpetrator nature rather than a race related issue. Sadly, each new reported case erroneously gets lumped together, by the Black Lives Matter movement and the media, with all the prior police involved deaths instead of rightfully being examined individually. In my world the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile aren’t related whatsoever. Martin was killed by a neighborhood watchman…not a cop (and not White). Brown had committed a robbery and assaulted the store’s clerk shortly before being fatally shot by police. Garner was placed in a chokehold (forbidden by the NYPD) while resisting arrest which resulted in his death.

Gray’s demise came at the hands of law enforcement while intentionally being negligently transported in a police van (driven by a Black officer). I don’t think the public has enough information yet on the Sterling or Castile shootings to adequately determine whether the officers involved were justified or not in taking such extreme measures. Some of the aforementioned situations, ultimately ending with a person being killed, seem defensible to me while some don’t, but all are tragic. There is one common denominator in almost all of the incidents mentioned: resistance to authority. I cannot help but think the majority of those who died would still be alive today if only they had fully cooperated when being questioned.

Much has been said lately, and YouTube videos have been made, about the need for parents to have “the talk” with their Black sons. No, not the talk. Parents are being encouraged to teach their children what to do if ever they’re pulled over by the police: stay in the car, turn off the engine, roll down the window, and keep your hands on the steering wheel. However, many in the Black community seem to think it’s unfair that they should be singled out and forced to bother with such a thing, and some are even irritated by the measly suggestion. In my world proper protocol when being pulled over by the authorities is not a Black or White issue. This White guy was taught to stay in the car, turn off the engine, roll down the window, and keep my hands on the steering wheel by both my father and my Driver’s Ed instructor. It’s just common sense.

Time and time again I’ve heard the tiresome argument, mainly from those most vocal in the Black community, how a White person especially a White man can’t fathom what it’s like to be Black. I suppose I can’t – not completely anyway. I certainly can relate though when it comes to being followed around by a store’s employee for apparently no other reason than due to one’s appearance. There’ve been many times throughout my life when I’ve sported long hair and earrings, and during those times I was treated differently (whether real or imagined) by others. I reckon my tattoos don’t suggest I’m a straight arrow either, but I am (for the most part). In addition, I’ve been pulled over by the police and left wondering why even after the officer drives away.

I don’t pretend to entirely grasp the plight of the Black man; however, I assuredly can empathize with anyone who has ever been treated unfairly due to the color of their skin. In the 90’s I was turned down for a small business loan mainly because I’m a White male. (Thank you affirmative action.) The media, especially The Arizona Republic, continuously insinuated that if a person was White and did not vote for Obama, during his initial bid for the presidency, then that individual must be a racist. As a White male I have often been made to feel as though I was a problem, an obstacle if you will, preventing minorities from achieving success. In my world the implementing of quota systems and the numerous “no Whites allowed” award shows tend to make me feel “less than.”

I have lived in Peoria, Arizona, for the last nine years, where the city’s population is well beyond 150,000. The Valley is much more diversified than the Midwest town I grew up in, and in my world racism is still non-existent. My lovely wife and I were at Desert Ridge Marketplace a mere three days after the nationally reported White cop shooting of a Black man, Philando Castile. We were enjoying FREE live music at the mall’s outdoor stage, amongst other ethnic groups, and it was obvious everyone was having a splendid time. I noticed the mix of people dancing to the funky sounds of the Thaddeus Rose Band in particular a Black gentleman near the stage who was partying like it was 1999. (Prince would’ve been proud.)

A couple of young White girls joined the older Black man on the concrete dance floor presumably to learn his choreographed dance moves. The man tried earnestly to teach his eager students (who by the way – in stereotypical fashion – had no rhythm) how to properly “bust a move,” but to no avail. It suddenly dawned on me that here we were, lost in the moment without a care in the world, while our televisions at home were reporting on broken race relations and a country deeply polarized. I leaned over to the missus and shared how difficult it was for me to comprehend all of the recent negativity in the news, concerning alleged racism, when in my world I just don’t see it.

I’m thankful to be part of the 32% listed in the Washington Post-ABC News poll, which includes President Obama, who think race relations in the U.S. are generally good. Obama, also during his radio address, eloquently proposed, “If we can open our hearts to try and see ourselves in one another, if we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right…then I’m confident that together, we will lead our country to a better day.” Well said, Mr. President. In the real world we can only hope that one day racism will become extinct.

Another Hall Of Fame

I recently got back home from a trip of a lifetime. My lovely wife surprised me, for my half century birthday, with a planned vacation – ALL ABOUT ME. I had expressed my desire to someday travel to a few cities including Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. Sound familiar? Anyway, I noticed the missus kept using the phrase bucket list whenever discussing our trip with other people. Her terminology sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Call it what you will – simple semantics, “you say tomato and I say tomahto,” or chalk it up to me being a dope, but eventually I felt compelled to make my thoughts on the subject known to her.

I tend to view a “bucket list” somewhat negatively. I see the popular trend as being just a list of stuff a person assumes will bring true happiness once completed, yet if everything on their list is not crossed off before their demise then tragically the person thinks their life came to an end without ever having known complete fulfillment. I do aspire to travel and experience different things, but I certainly don’t need new adventures to possess contentment. Regardless, “bucket list” or not, I had a wonderful time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but that was just a portion of our week-long vacation. My trip of a lifetime included another Hall of Fame (also found in Ohio).

The feeling I got when entering Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame was akin to how I felt when going through the doors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There was that familiar aura of greatness inside the hallowed walls of the National Football League (NFL) enshrinement. Only the elite, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the crème del a crème are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Their eminence is rewarded with a bronze bust of their likeness to forever be displayed in Canton. No good players, coaches, or special contributors to the game are allowed in the exclusive club: only exceptional individuals are welcomed.

In the recent past, I was guilty of taking those already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for granted because it seemed as though each and every year several new inductees were being admitted. I thought surely by now there must be hundreds of bronzed busts occupying The Hall. All that is true. There are now 303 individuals (including the 2016 inductees) honored within Canton’s revered facility. However, there’ve been tens of thousands of people associated with professional football since the game’s inception; therefore, in actuality the number of those who’ve been selected is fairly scant.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame includes an informative, up-to-date timeline showing how today’s NFL as we know it came to be. I learned the first player chosen in the very first NFL Draft was that year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but the talented, most sought after player had absolutely no desire to play professional football. The Hall also boasts endless memorabilia and numerous interactive exhibits. I discovered I throw a football just like Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly (well, maybe not as far – or as tightly spiraled – but somewhat similar nonetheless). I grip the pigskin in the exact manner as the former Buffalo Bills’ legend probably because our hands are the same size.

I was caught a little off guard when I came across a modest display featuring the most perfect picture. The photo was taken at the first professional football game played after the events of 9/11. (The NFL postponed all games for a week out of respect for the lives lost during the attack on our nation.) The inspirational picture, capturing a burly football player bursting through the stadium’s smoke-filled tunnel while proudly waving a life-sized American flag, was both sobering and uplifting. The way the United States came together during that horrific time in history was a thing of beauty. I wish we could experience that type of unity as a nation again without requiring another tragedy of that magnitude to bring us all to our senses.

By far, my favorite part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was strolling by the rows of busts. They were arranged in chronological order by the year in which each member was inducted. I took my sweet time as I read each name and studied the inductee’s bronzed likeness before proceeding to the next bust. The first grouping of Hall of Famers I came upon, that I was genuinely interested in, were of a few players I had routinely heard of as a child. I certainly knew about Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, and Joe Namath, but I was a little too young at the time to recall ever watching them play. My father has been a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs’ fan, so I’m well aware their Hall of Fame quarterback, Len Dawson, massacred opposing defenses throughout the 60’s. Unfortunately, I can only remember rooting for the Chiefs’ subpar quarterbacks, Mike Livingston and Bill Kenney, during my initial years as a football fan during the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I eventually came across some standouts I could actually remember witnessing firsthand their superior play on the football field. My interest in the bronze busts escalated when spotting many of my favorite players from my youth: Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Terry Bradshaw, and Lynn Swann. I guess there was a time when one could be a fan of both the Cowboys and the Steelers. I also admired Hall of Fame running backs, Earl Campbell and O.J Simpson, around that time. Yes, O.J. Simpson. I even had (and still have) an O.J. doll…ahem…I mean an action figure complete with football uniform and jogging suit (knife not included). Sometimes our heroes fall – and sometimes they fall hard. I was a huge fan of Earl Campbell. I fancied the power running back not only because of his bruising-style of running but also because the Houston Oiler dipped Skoal tobacco (my beloved grandpa’s brand).

After a while I found myself amongst the gleaming heads of the more recent Hall of Fame inductees. Two of my favorite players from the 90’s were Deion Sanders and John Elway although I liked them for entirely different reasons. I was enamored with Sanders’ athleticism as an All-Pro cornerback and gifted return specialist. Watching “Prime Time” return a kick or an interception was anything but boring. The way Deion pursued the end zone with reckless abandon brought everyone to their feet and made opposing teams’ fans cringe. Many times the versatile athlete’s improvised returns would result in choreographed touchdown celebrations. I used to thoroughly enjoy Sanders’ showboating and his high-stepping into the end zone, but with age I’ve come to despise excessive celebrations of any kind on the football field.

John Elway, on the other hand, brought a controlled passion to the game. I can’t say as I cared too much for the lifelong Denver Bronco quarterback at the beginning of his career, but his obvious heart and vigor for the game converted me into one of his fans by the time he retired. (I felt the same way about Hall of Famers, Joe Montana and Brett Favre, and future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning, at the end of their storied careers. I admit to having a soft spot when it comes to most NFL quarterbacks’ last hurrah. Of course, Tom Brady is the exception.)

John Elway led his team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, during his final two years in the League, with sheer determination. I was reminded of his tenacity while watching footage of Super Bowl 32 inside the sacred walls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The highlights showed Elway willing his aged body to perform as though he was a robust rookie. The scrambling quarterback can be seen sacrificing said body, for the slightest extra yardage, in pursuit of a much needed first down. His tremendous effort led to a touchdown – and his 1st Super Bowl ring. The next year Elway was even better, winning Super Bowl 33 and being named the game’s MVP, as the gritty quarterback undeniably went out on top.

Spending a day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame was definitely a dream come true. I wonder what’s next on my “bucket list.” Boston? Washington, D.C.? Paris? Ireland? Perhaps another Hall of Fame?