Monthly Archives: June 2015

Seriously?

My lovely wife and I were in Palm Springs this past weekend, celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary, when she said, “there’s your next blog.” She even suggested its title. We had been conversing about current events, throughout our mini-vacation, and my wife noticed we inevitably would ask ourselves the same question at the end of many of our discussions. One morning after getting our caffeine fix, at a local independent coffee shop, the missus finally made her suggestions known to me. We were leaving the establishment when I pointed to the colorful sticker affixed to the door. It donned the colors of the rainbow and stated, “diversity is welcome here.” My wife and I both immediately said, “Seriously?”

We didn’t understand why the coffee shop would purposely solicit the homosexual community, to be their customers, seemingly above everyone else. I initially felt a little discriminated against, since we were mere heterosexuals, but then I remembered those cake decorating businesses that caters to everyone except homosexuals. I guess fair is fair. However, when I owned a business I was thankful for anyone who was willing to be my customer. Anyway, it has been well over a year since the last time I let my wife influence my writing, and actually name my blog, so I figured it was about time I’d honor her request and allow her to do it again.

Last week a massacre took place inside a Charleston, South Carolina church. A young, White gunman opened fire, during a Bible study, shooting 10 Black parishioners: killing 9 of them. Apparently, some people think the despicable attack was against Christianity since the act of violence happened in a church. Seriously? I think the senseless crime was obviously racially motivated. The shooter, Dylann Roof, allegedly shouted racial epithets, while committing the murders, and his Facebook page and a website contains racist rants and photos of him wearing white supremacy attire. If any offence was ever to be labeled a “hate crime” I would think this one would certainly qualify; however, I’m generally opposed to using that term because all intentional murder derives from hate.

Also tragic, but of course on a much smaller scale, is the way such horrific events are politicized after the fact. The gun control and mental health debates quickly surface, but they are usually forgotten once the victims are laid to rest. This time there is an added dimension, to the political arena, since there is now a crusade to remove all Confederate flags from the capitol grounds of several Southern states. I’ve never claimed to be a history buff, so I’m not exactly sure what their flag is suppose to convey. I do know the Confederate flag’s design looks pretty sweet on top of The General Lee: the ’69 Dodge Charger co-star of The Dukes of Hazzard. Regardless, I would have to agree that if the Confederate flag construes a message of hate, towards the Black community, then it most-certainly should’ve been retired at the time slavery was rightfully abolished.

However, I adamantly disagree with those who profess that the recent shooting has set this country back in terms of our race relations. The atrocious actions of one sick individual does not erase several years of racial progress. I also fervently disagree with Eleanor Clift’s assessment, in wake of the devastating aftermath, when referring to the Charleston congregation’s decision to forgive the murderer. The McLaughlin Group panelist said, “This congregation and the Black community there is being extraordinarily gracious in forgiving – I’m not sure if that were a White congregation and a Black shooter if the Whites would respond quite so graciously.” Seriously? I worship at a predominantly White church, and I’m quite sure if the roles were reversed the majority of the flock would react in precisely the same manner.

I don’t really understand racism. My high school graduating class, of around 300 students, consisted of two Blacks, one Indian, and the rest of us, who were many shades of White; therefore, I’m hardly an expert on race relations. To single out an entire race though, or a religion for that matter, as being “less than” seems asinine to me. I might not be able to fully comprehend the past oppression of Blacks, but I do know a thing or two about reverse racism. When I was attempting to open a music store in my small hometown, during the mid-nineties, I became aware of just how difficult it can be for a White man to start his own business in this country.

I had researched the music store industry, contacted plenty of distributors, and found an excellent location for my establishment. I then formed a business plan and presented it to the city’s Chamber of Commerce. They approved the plan and agreed a music store would make a nice addition to the downtown area. I went to the bank, with my outstanding credit history in tow, to request a loan for the startup costs. After a pleasant meeting with the bank lender my request was denied. The representative solemnly and reluctantly informed me that I would not have any problem receiving the funds if I was Black, or a woman, or better yet if I was a Black woman. Seriously?

Fortunately, a special person was in the financial position to be able to loan me the money (and at a much better interest rate). The aforementioned type of reverse racism will continue to exist as long as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and affirmative action continues to exist. Likewise, this great nation of ours will never entirely rid itself of racism until all Whites consider minorities as their equals and all Blacks are willing to stop reminding the younger generations of their ancestors’ past years of persecution. That will never happen. Seriously!

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Unpatriotic?

Let me be 100% politically incorrect and probably viewed as unpatriotic by many. This past Memorial Day I did not give the United States Armed Forces even one iota of a thought. That certainly wasn’t due to the media’s lack of trying. I quickly became desensitized to the numerous commercials, airing on television, and the print advertisements, found in the local newspaper, honoring those who have served in the United States Military. To me, Memorial Day is a time for enjoying some burgers on the grill and then gorging on several bowls of homemade ice-cream afterwards. It’s also the day I intentionally set aside each year to remember all of the people I’ve lost throughout my life.

Of course, I think of them many times during the year, but on Memorial Day I purposely attempt to envision their faces, one at a time, as I reflect on their unique personalities. I try to recall precisely what each individual meant to me while they were present on this earth. I fondly remember my grandma, two grandpas, two great-grandmothers, and a father-in-law. I think of my great-aunt, my great-uncle, some very special relatives, from my wife’s side of the family, a few acquaintances, and a friend. I believe only one of the aforementioned had ever served in the U.S. Military, but they all deserve to be remembered nonetheless.

The way in which those who have ever enlisted in the military are praised, in today’s society, is difficult to ignore when there’s multiple days, imprinted on every calendar, honoring those who have served their country. The annual designated days of celebration includes Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, Independence Day, and Memorial Day. Presidents Day and Flag Day were specifically designed to salute our past presidents and “Old Glory,” but somewhere along the way both days were erroneously converted into observances for our nation’s military. In recent years, even Thanksgiving Day has become somewhat distorted into a day that appears to be more about recognizing our armed forces than anything else. I’m referring to those publically aired messages, during the day’s football games, sent home from our military personnel overseas. We are bombarded with their greetings, to their families, which suggests Thanksgiving is at least partly about our U.S. Soldiers. Some holidays just aren’t about (nor should they be about) honoring our armed forces.

However, for anyone who does not think we have enough days throughout the year, for celebrating our military, the entire month of May is National Military Appreciation Month. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due although I do not believe all military personnel are heroes. There certainly are some, who are deserving of the “hero” title, but many are not (E.g. Bowe Bergdahl). Simply enlisting in the military, or becoming a police officer or a firefighter, for that matter, does not automatically make one a hero (contrary to popular belief). These people absolutely should be commended for their service to the rest of us. Undoubtedly, there are possible risks involved, with those chosen professions, but I would think the rewards would be even greater. Not many professions can offer an unfailing sense of pride, throughout the duration of one’s career, as does the previously mentioned occupations.

The word, hero, is greatly overused (and misused) these days when describing both organizations and individuals (E.g. Bruce…I mean Caitlyn Jenner). I think the adjective has become so diluted that its meaning has lost all significance. True heroes can be ordinary people who rise to the occasion to help their fellow man in need. Heroes can be those who rigorously fight hard to overcome adversity. Heroes can also be loving parents who’ll do whatever it takes to keep their family unit strong. Heroes surely are amongst us, but they’re not necessarily wearing uniforms. Remarkably, Jesus has less days of honor than the U.S. Military, stamped on our calendars, yet He is undeniably the greatest hero of them all.

I think the Fourth of July is the day to celebrate anyone who has ever served in our country’s armed forces. Independence Day is the foundation in which all other days of military observances are built upon. Every Fourth of July I proudly display the American flag, and I cannot help but discern an overwhelming sense of appreciation, more so than any other time of the year, for those who are willing to protect our freedom whenever called upon. I’ve also been known to listen to Stryper’s version of the “Battle Hymn Of The Republic,” on our nation’s birthday, and tearfully watch the pertinent Mel Gibson flick, The Patriot, in recognition of those who’ve ever served. Of course, I do devour grilled hamburgers, and homemade ice-cream, on Independence Day as well. So, am I unpatriotic? I don’t think so.


Integrity (My Father, Tom, And Pete)

My father has integrity. Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, not so much. What about Pete Rose? First things first. I think Tom Brady has a bright future in the political arena, if he so desires, since it appears as though he has perfected the nonchalant attitude, and vague memory, that many of today’s elected officials possess. The main player (pun intended) in the “Deflategate” scandal was more than willing to break National Football League (NFL) rules, and I’m not exactly sure why he thought he needed to cheat to be successful.

However, Mr. Brady was less than willing to provide any viable answers or explanations, when questioned by investigators, as to why he used illegally deflated footballs during (at the very least) this year’s American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game. I say at least because when someone gets busted, doing something wrong, it’s usually not the first time the individual has committed that same violation. Most people who are caught speeding on a freeway, stealing from an establishment, or dealing drugs had most-likely been breaking the law, for who knows how long, prior to being nabbed. In the scope of all that is evil, in this world, breaking a League rule, by intentionally deflating a few footballs, barely seems worth mentioning, but any quarterback who would do so certainly lacks integrity.

A person who does not lack integrity is my father. Throughout my entire life that has been the adjective most commonly used by people when they’re describing him. The word, responsible, typically comes in a close second place. My father was the financial secretary, for over 35 years, for the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 997. His job was an elected position, so he was required to run for re-election, time and time again, during his career. Many people encouraged my father, even implored him, to move up through the union ranks, but my father was quite content remaining where he was because he epitomizes the definition of “a family man.” He’d rather be present at all four of his children’s school events, and attend every single ball game, than be forced into traveling in pursuit of climbing the company ladder.

My father was continuously re-elected to his position simply because he was outstanding at fulfilling his secretarial duties. It definitely was not because he was a seasoned politician. In fact, he was so far removed from that type of character that he would not even entertain the idea of conveying ambiguity for the sake of possibly receiving additional votes. I remember there were times when candidates, campaigning for other union positions, would ask my father if they could count on his vote. Sometimes those people asking for his endorsement, if victorious at the polls, would then secure a position of authority over my father.

Of course, the easy and safe thing would’ve been for my father to offer his support, regardless of what he actually intended to do in the voting booth, but that’s not what a man of integrity does. At times my father was faced with having to look his potential boss in the eye and tell the person they did not have his support. He would do so in a courteous manner, and there were no attempts at futile rhetoric nor any hemming and hawing during the process. I can hardly imagine how uncomfortable the conversation must’ve been, for both parties involved, but my father handled the situation with tremendous nobility. Tom Brady could learn a thing or two from my father.

Then there’s Pete Rose. I would not rank the former baseball player’s offence, in today’s professional sports’ world, at the top of the list. Yes, the 17 time All-Star (aka Charlie Hustle) bet on baseball games (forbidden by Major League Baseball). He also agreed to “permanent ineligibility from baseball” in 1989. However, it wasn’t until 1991, when the Baseball Hall of Fame committee voted to ban those on the “permanent ineligibility” list from ever entering Cooperstown. Pete’s gambling violations occurred when he was a player and a manager of the Cincinnati Reds. The former Rookie of the Year even gambled on his own ball club to win games. Win!

If Mr. Rose had waged bets against the Reds then assuredly I would have little sympathy for the two-time Gold Glove winner. I view Charlie Hustle’s misconduct as very minor in comparison to the deeds of numerous other professional athletes who are already enshrined or who’ll be heading there after their playing days are over (E.g. Tom Brady). I am normally a “black and white” sort of guy, but I’m not beyond showing a little mercy once in awhile. Pete Rose remains baseball’s all-time hits leader; therefore, I think he deserves a place in Cooperstown: integrity notwithstanding. In conclusion, my father…yay, Tom Brady…nay, and Pete Rose…okay.


Reunion Time

It’s that time of year again. This illustrious month is when beaches become crowded, cookouts are in full-swing, and gobs of clueless couples are saying their I dos. Please don’t misunderstand…I love being married, but the divorce rate continues to border on 50%, so half of those “happy couples” eventually aren’t going to be so happy. June is also the time for those dreaded high school class reunions. It’s not that I’m opposed to class reunions, but I figure whichever classmates I wanted to remain friends with, after graduation, I would already still be in contact with without needing an organized get together, every five years, to stay in touch.

For example, my high school sweetheart (aka lovely wife) was my best friend on my graduation day, so I’ve continued seeing her practically every day since. The fact that we’ve been married for almost 28 years now might have something to do with that. The rare exceptions are when she goes on a women’s retreat (I get it – no boys allowed!) and five years ago when the missus flew back to Iowa, to attend her class reunion without me. I gave her my blessing to go solo, but I preferred to stay at home rather than be susceptible to the uncertainty of a high school reunion.

I’m not exactly sure why I just said that since I’m so far removed from being an expert on the subject. I’ve only been to my wife’s 5-year reunion (she hasn’t missed a one), and I have never been to any of mine. That’s just a total of 1 out of a possible 11 reunions I’ve attended in my lifetime. If an elected official possessed a voting record similar to that of the number of times I’ve been present, at any high school class reunion, I’m pretty sure the representative’s anemic voting percentage would be deemed quite pitiful. The only (but major) difference is…I’m not being paid for my presence. I would venture to say I probably know more about politics than I do about class reunions.

However, I presume many people attend their reunions only when things are going well, but they choose to stay at home when their lives aren’t going as planned. I suppose I can’t really blame them for not wanting to discuss an impending divorce, wayward children, or lack of employment with their estranged peers. I imagine class reunions are indeed a boasting contest, so who would want to make an appearance, with those kind of credentials, when there’d be absolutely no chance of winning. I would like to think if I were a Pulitzer Prize recipient, or a famous celebrity, I would not attend my reunions just the same. I’m not sure why I compare high school class reunions to that of other unpleasant situations like visiting the dentist or undergoing a colonoscopy.

My aloof attitude towards reunions may have something to do with the numerous personalities I assuredly would be forced to endure at such a gathering. I purposely aim to spend my time around those whose company I truly enjoy, and I’m positive that would not be the case amid a sea of former classmates. I can barely fathom rekindling a friendship with my former best friend, during our sophomore year of high school, even though at one time we were inseparable. We were baseball teammates, partied together on the weekends, and enjoyed much of the same kind of music (Rush, Journey, and Styx). We had even formed a rock and roll band (mostly imaginary), but then my buddy fell hard and fast, to the lifestyle of a typical rock star, after discovering marijuana.

I experimented with the mind-altering drug twice, alongside him, before deciding that was not the path I wished to continue following. However, by that time my best friend had officially become “a pot-head,” and he issued me an ultimatum; He insisted I either continue smoking weed with him or else we could no longer be friends. Friendship over! My decision was not a difficult one at all. I was stubborn, even as a teen, so I wasn’t about to bow to any peer pressure. In addition, I certainly did not want to be labeled a pot-head like my friend. Once a person is placed into a specific category, by their peers, it’s nearly impossible to find a way out.

I think one of the perils of high school, at least during the early 80’s, is realistically depicted in the classic movie, The Breakfast Club. The film, released in 1985, accurately captures the unfortunate, yet seemingly acceptable, segregation amongst teenagers. The John Hughes masterpiece explores, with brutal honesty, the way our society tends to embrace categorizing individuals. The Breakfast Club focuses on five students, falling victim to five different classifications, simply trying to make it through high school. They are labeled the jock, the princess, the brain, the rebel, and the outcast.

I could expand that list (if I agreed with labeling human beings) to include cheerleaders, goody two-shoes, and the aforementioned pot-heads. Those types of teens could be found roaming the halls, at my high school, in addition to the ones featured in The Breakfast Club. I have to assume some kids were classified as “everyone else” because they did not fit too nicely into any one of the other groupings. I don’t remember there being any “goths” per se, at my high school (I don’t think they had been invented yet), so the outcasts were most-likely the farm kids: the students wearing those dark blue FFA (Future Farmers of America) jackets who literally smelled a bit like a farm. We lived in a small, blue-collar town, so the rich kids were oddities as well.

My wife and I probably fell into the everyone else category during our high school days. She was a pacesetter (not a cheerleader), and I was just a baseball player (not a jock). Neither of us were entirely immersed in any one classification, and we weren’t afraid to associate with classmates from several of the other categories. I guess we appreciated diversity even way back then. I’m not sure if the labels we were given, over 30 years ago, are still intact or not, but I reckon I’ll find out next week when I accompany my lovely wife to her class reunion. I decided to be a good husband, since I’ll be in town visiting family anyway, and prove to her former classmates that us high school sweethearts are still together. I know at least I’m not going to be remembered as a pot-head. It’s reunion time!