Superman talks about Racism

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values, and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes.”
Ayn Rand

I have largely stayed away from the topic of race on my blog. I was inspired to take some notes when the whole Rosanne thing happened and I read some powerful, well thought-out posts on the subject. I felt the heat of the topic on my keyboard and I chose to let it simmer a bit. But now I am ready. I intend to discuss this volatile subject in a frank and honest manner without the intention of offending. I shouldn’t offend after all, because I do not consider myself a racist.

Despite the fact that I once called a man a Nigger. A moment that I have tried to distance myself from ever since.

I was in basic training in Fort Knox, KY for basic training in 1985. Of a 50 man platoon, I was just one of 8 “white” men. The rest was entirely African-American. As a naive Northerner, unaware of the remaining and prevalent racial tensions in the South, I had absolutely no issue with the numbers and expected no issues. I think it’s safe to say that I liked everyone. But the same can’t be said for all and the white guys were mercilessly made fun of and called names. Not by all but by enough. Some of it was pretty hateful. There were some physical altercations. I still managed to get along with most of my platoon. That included Spanky, my black bunkmate. We got along really well, joked about the black/white thing and even hung out while on leave.

We were on a merit system and were awarded points and given demerits for things such as bed-making skills, uniform, conduct and the state of your locker. I was slightly ahead of Spanky in points and for some unknown reason, I didn’t see it but another party did,  he trashed my locker immediately before an inspection. Presumably to gain points over me. Without time to fix it, the inspection occurred and I was given several demerits. I was fuming. Once the coast was clear we went at it. In the heat of anger, I blurted out “You F%@ing N@##%+”. The room got quiet, he stared at me in disbelief and I immediately dropped my shoulders, apologized and told him that “I was not that guy.” He never forgave me, and I have never forgiven myself. That wasn’t who I was, I had wanted to hurt him so badly that I went at him in the worst way. I still feel bad to this day…and I am still not that guy.

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I was raised in a town that could best be described as lower-middle class. Most of us were actually poor, myself included. We didn’t know it so we didn’t care. I was raised in a very nice family that was no better about containing “folksy” ethnic jokes than anyone else. My father and grandfather made the occasional joke about blacks but they weren’t cruel. One that stands out was about my Dad’s black co-worker “Smitty”. I knew Smitty and I liked him a lot. As the story goes, one day the lights went out at work and someone yelled out “Hey Smitty, smile so we can see!” Smitty laughed along with everyone else. It wasn’t any crueler than the other slurs of my time i.e., Polacks being dumb, Irish being drunks, Asians being good at math or Jews being cheap. It was just stereotyping, all of which of course had some basis but were never all-inclusive. None of this struck me as anything more than fodder and created no lasting prejudices in me. When I met my first black kid in school, for some reason there weren’t many African-Americans in my town, I was one of the first to say hi to him. He was a great kid who would later famously joke in Gym class when no-one would pass him the basketball “what am I, Black!” We all laughed our asses off. Everyone liked him after that. Why? Because he could make…and take… a joke.

When I moved out of my childhood town I entered a much more diverse world. While working and going to school I met, and often partied with, people from all backgrounds. I had friends who ranged from Rastafarian to Muslim and everything in between. If I ever saw a difference in them, it was cultural. That only inspired cultural curiosity and a desire to get to know them better. My friends were clearly the same way because I don’t remember anyone pulling me away from the others because we were “better” than anyone.

The more I think about it, the more I know how oblivious I was to racism. My good friend in my Sophomore year Jon Silverman once said something that I will never forget. We were hanging out and he asked me if it bothered me that he was Jewish. I looked at him funny and said, “that wasn’t on your application to be my friend.” We laughed and then he told me that he had lost friends over that. I could not then, and still cannot, wrap my head around that. We’re still friends today.

As an adult, I now know that Racism has been a hot-button issue in this country for a long time, my minimal exposure to it notwithstanding.  With the exception of my unfortunate incident in the military, I didn’t give it much room to breathe in my little corner of the world. I made amends by vowing to never stoop so low again. Yet racism permeates almost every aspect of our society and a real dialogue on this issue seems completely inescapable. Hate crimes based on skin color, religion, and country of origin are on the rise. Most people reject it as much as I, some have embraced it and have run with the ball, yet still, others rely on it to play identity politics and recruit votes. As a society, we have simply not progressed, possibly have even regressed to the days of the Watts riots and the Boston Busing crisis, in this area and I fear for our future.

 

 


If we don’t soon realize that there is only one race…the human race, we are doomed and are not worthy of calling ourselves an advanced, compassionate nation.

tomorrow…a deeper look

Instant regret

I don’t know why I bother, I truly don’t.

I was on Facebook yesterday and Boston.com, along with every news and pseudo-news outlet ran a piece on the firing of Roseanne and the cancellation of her show. It certainly was the topic of the day.

Against my better judgment, I posted a comment about the firing. I strongly feel that the way bad behavior is handled is extremely uneven in this country and I felt compelled to voice that sentiment. So, without weighing in on the content of the remark or “tweet” in question I remarked that it is hypocritical to cancel the show but not to cancel or censure certain shows like The View, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel and Samantha Bee, who routinely say horrible things about Conservatives and our President in particular. My comment was very to the point and politely stated, my point is that it is handled differently depending on what side is being attacked.

You, as my reader may disagree with me but I’m pretty comfortable with my statement.

I was immediately attacked as a racist, a Nazi, a “Trumpite” and a “Snowflake”(If you can imagine that). It became immediately clear that of all of the vitriolic responses were as if they never actually read my comment. I never endorsed her comment, it was despicable. I never said that it’s ok to liken African Americans to Apes. I simply stated that it’s a different ball game when someone attacks a conservative.

I am proud of myself for not lowering myself to the level of the commenters. I didn’t devolve into name-calling or the exchange of insults. I implored my commenters to read my comment again and finally turned off notifications.

I’m disgusted with the whole thing and I’m even more upset with myself for not refraining. See, I forgot that we no longer live in a country where reasonable discourse and civil conversation are allowed, even encouraged. We now live in an age of butt-hurt, overly sensitive and overly opinionated people who never learned to open their ears and eyes before growing “keyboard balls” and calling anyone who doesn’t agree with them names.

I am so glad to be a part of the blogging community. The people I encounter here are rational, tolerant and capable of disagreeing without long-term consequences. You all are truly special.

As for Facebook? I think I may have made my last comment ever on that platform

38,325 days…a life truly lived. Cont’d

If you missed the first 2 installments of my tribute to my amazing Grandmother you can catch up here and here,

If having a normal childhood and maintaining friendships was possible to this point was challenging for my mother, it would prove to be a walk in the park after Mom’s recovery. This only suffered in comparison to when Mom started dating. When a young man “came-a-courtin” as my Grandfather so eloquently phrased it, he was subjected to a grilling that made the Spanish Inquisition look like a job interview. Marion wanted to know the entire family tree and required notarized copies of financials, in triplicate, before anyone would date her daughter. My grandfather thankfully balanced it out and usually managed to reassure the hapless young men that their testicles were safe…at least for the moment. Needless to say, Mom didn’t go on many dates, at least ones Marion knew about. It was just too much work for her and the poor guy. Of course, no man ever worried about his future reproductive viability than my Dad.

Mom was raised “middle middle-class” despite Marion’s attempts to present otherwise. Marion believed that if you carried yourself according to your aspirations then it would happen. Due to a lack of savings, Grandpa’s penchant for a new car every few years and a couple of failed business ventures they never graduated from that small but very nice, and homey, house North of Boston. Unfazed, Marion remained proper, well-dressed and impeccable of reputation.

I can only imagine her reaction when Mom brought home the handsome, hard-working boy from the “other side of the tracks” to meet the parents.

It wasn’t long before she found out that he wasn’t just from a poor family, but had come from a long line of poor families. When I say poor, I mean dirt floors and plastic on the windows poor. She did not approve of the pedigree at all. But Mom put her foot down, continued to date him and Marion would soon realize that her daughter was growing up despite her efforts to the contrary and that Billy Mac senior was not the type to be underestimated. He wasn’t going anywhere.

My dad may have been from the other side of town but he was by no means a typical resident. While raised in abject poverty, he was determined to break the cycle. He worked several jobs, earned and saved and most importantly treated my mother like a Princess. Marion eventually came to respect him. Mel really liked my Dad from day one, of course, he loved everyone. He would end up being the only one in his family to really make anything of himself, Marion either saw that or just had faith…as unlikely as that scenario is. In 1964, my dad on leave from Army training stateside at Fort Sam Houston, Texas they were married. In the wedding pictures, I can see a slight look of approval on Marion’s face.

She may not have had she known that I was in the picture as well, hidden neatly under the wedding dress.

Mom had to break the news to Marion that she was pregnant eventually, but if my understanding of the events is correct, no one really did the math after I was born. I was technically a “preemie.” In the summer of 1965, my very pregnant mother worried every day about my dad being sent overseas to Vietnam, His unit was notified in June that they would be called. Marion was doing everything in her power to keep mom away from all media. With regards to Vietnam, the news was all bad, She was unsuccessful and out of nervousness or panic, mom went into labor. When I entered the world, my dad was reassigned stateside where he would serve out the remainder of his enlistment. He visited us as often as he could.

Marion would become the backbone of her entire family until Dad came home. A role she was born to play.

to be continued

Fallen Idols

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I always thought that losing an icon was a terrible thing. I sadly remember that stretch in 2016 when several musicians and actors that dominated the formative years of my life started dropping like flies. FB was flooded with people my age imploring God and the Universe to stop taking our idols. Prince, David Bowie, William “Father Mulcahy” Christopher, Gene Wilder, John Glenn, Arnold Palmer, Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty, Muhammad Ali, the list is so terribly long and sad. But they all left a happy memory with me if not a reminder that life is fleeting and I am getting older. I always could reflect on their impact on my life and smile. It’s not the worst thing in life.

The worst thing is actually finding out that someone you looked up to is not the person you thought they were.

I had the pleasure of being great friends with a guy who was the son of a professional basketball player. A Boston Celtic, the replacement for the great Bill Russell, Mr. Hank aka “High Henry” Finkel. My friend had grown up in an affluent neighborhood North of Boston populated by many famous Bruins, Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics players and he knew all of them and their kids.

When I first met him, I was enamored by his childhood friends and I prodded him constantly for info on them. I am not a celebrity chaser at all, I just wanted to know more about some players that I grew up idolizing. In particular was a certain baseball player, an absolute legend from the 70’s and 80’s that my Dad and I practically bonded over when I was a kid. My friend told me, actually warned me first, that I wouldn’t like what he had to tell me. I insisted. He told me a harrowing tale of a guy who smiled for the cameras and the fans but mercilessly beat his wife and children on occasion…losing streaks in particular. I was crushed when I heard this, as an adult mind you, that an icon of my youth was a great ball player, but a very bad man. Not one for hindsight, I’m pretty sure that I wish I had never learned this.

We live in the information age, as the saying goes. I contend that in some cases there is such a thing as too much information. I stop short of wishing for ignorance but I can think of so many instances where “new information” or “old family secrets” have destroyed a person that at one time gave me a warm and fuzzy. From the late Uncle that you just learned cheated on your beloved Aunt, to the knowledge that a young President that used to reign over the empire of “Camelot” was actually a pill-popping whore-monger, the list is almost endless and equally sad.

The job of role-model is a barnacle on the hull of celebrity. To be fair, other than elected officials, it is unrealistic to expect actors, athletes, musicians, etc., to be anything more than human. They’re really just people like you and I. I fondly remember the scene in a Bronx Tale, where Sonny challenges young “C” on his idolization of Mickey Mantle. “Does he pay your rent? No, he’s just a regular guy. What’s he do for you?” The boy was disillusioned, but it was the day he realized an important truth. That Mickey Mantle was just a ballplayer.

But OJ Simpson was just a football player…and he almost divided the country in half. And cost me a friendship.

I used to go to the same Barber Shop every Tuesday in the 90’s. I had hair back then. I was good friends with the Barber. Every haircut consisted of small talk and I would always find myself drawn to his wedding picture on the mantle before me. The tall, thin white guy with the pretty African American Wife. I never thought twice about him being married to a black woman. Then the OJ trial happened, and you can only imagine that Barber Shops across the country buzzed about it for months. One day, as the trial was close to an end, my Barber and I became engaged in the conversation as well. I offered up, in my own informed opinion, that I thought OJ was guilty. The room got colder than my ex-wife’s side of the bed. My haircut was over and I was asked to leave. I resisted, asking my friend why he was acting this way, and he said “You know my situation! How can I interact with you now?” I was stunned. I asked him:

“By situation…do you mean that because your wife is black then you have to support OJ? That’s preposterous!”

“Well, you believe he’s guilty because he’s black, don’t you?” How do you argue with that kind of logic? I paid for my haircut and I haven’t seen him since. I guess I’m a racist. My real takeaway is that many in the black community couldn’t accept that such a positive role model as OJ could be guilty of such a crime and their disappointment had morphed into anger and denial.

Facts:

I was disgusted when I heard that Bing Crosby beat his kids.
I was bothered when Eddie Murphy got busted with a tranny prostitute.
I was let down when I found out that our founding fathers owned slaves.
I was pissed when I learned Obama went to a church led by an America-hating minister.
I was disappointed when Mark Maguire and Barry Bonds did Steroids.
I was horrified when Michael Richards went on a racial tirade onstage.
I was shocked when Mel Gibson went off on an anti-Semitic public rant.
I was embarrassed when our president was caught on tape talking like a frat-boy about molesting women.
But at the end of the day, It’s just the new norm. People are not what they seem and they probably never were. The latest and perhaps most disappointing entry of late is Mr. Bill Cosby.

Bill Cosby is a unique story. He was a role model to millions of people regardless of skin pigmentation. He didn’t fall into being a role model, he set the framework. He kept it clean, he worked with children, created positive Television programming, spun wonderful yarns of his beloved wife Camile and his flawed but great kids. He did cable comedy and only swore once. He even defied stereotypes and created a hit TV show about a powerful, affluent power couple with a bunch of kids. His superpower was solving any major issue in 22 minutes once a week. A true icon, I admit I looked up to him.

Today, I just looked at him as he did the “perp-walk” from court after being convicted on all charges of sexual assault on a multitude of female victims. Yup, good ole Dr. Huxtable was dropping Mickey’s in their drinks and then slipping them his famous “Pudding Pop”. Another disgraced icon to contend with. A younger me may be disappointed or disillusioned, but this me is not. He’s just a man. A flawed man. A ruined man. My only disappointment is that I allowed myself to look up to him.

Nothing surprises me anymore. In this age of endless information and instant gratification, I can’t even control what I know about people. My real role models have always been the non-famous among us; the great teachers, hard-working parents, and broke philanthropists who volunteer their time and energy to bettering the world. Celebrity is a height that can only lead to a long fall and a painful landing. My advice, keep your feet planted firmly on the ground secure in the knowledge that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Labels are for boxes

Superman is about to delve into previously unchartered waters…Politics. I briefly touched on it in a piece I did about civil war, inspired by a wonderful post by Bojana about her experience in war-torn former Yugoslavia. It’s amazing by the way check it out. here https://bloggingwithbojana.com/2018/03/07/welcome-to-absurdistan/

I have largely stayed away from politics in my blogs. After 9 months and almost 200 posts I now feel that I have established myself as a reasonable, civil guy and I have a confession to make. I am a Conservative…of sorts and I voted for Donald Trump. I believed in enough of what he wanted to accomplish to give him my vote. Immigration reform, crime reform, smaller government, a balanced budget, a secure border and the future of the Supreme court matter a great deal to me. On those, he secured my vote. Let the unfollowing begin. Or let cooler heads prevail. If you read to the end, you will likely agree that I am not a typical Conservative at all. Here’s the kicker, I’m not looking for your approval I’m just going to stimulate some conversation here.

I know some beautiful, smart and compassionate people that voted for both Donald Trump and Hillary. I love them all and I don’t judge or hate. I am in the minority. Our country is hopelessly divided. We have always had an ideological divide, but it has become intensely personal. If you are on FB you will see nothing but Vitriol spewed on both sides of the spectrum and it is so unhealthy on so many levels. My generation taught me that there are certain subjects never to discuss, but I disagree. Religion, sexuality, and Politics can be discussed if we were also taught the art of rational, intelligent discourse. Repeat after me, “I disagree but I respect your opinion.” Instead, we close our ears and raise our voice. We rear back on our heels and defend, for fear of losing, when instead we should be chin on hands, listening to each other. Tragically, we care more about “our side” than we do about real change.

“My side” is traditional William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan conservatism. I revert to that point in history because if you use the word “Conservative” now you will likely invoke the iconic MAGA hat worn by the “Trump Supporter.” The very words ”Trump Supporter” are hissed by liberals in the same manner that the Pope may utter “Contraception”. The words have become synonymous with Racist, Xenophobe, Nazi, Fascist and Bully. That’s not me, I’m happy to report, but it is a reality that a lot of Trump era conservatives live up to it and it’s a shame. I am tolerant, empathetic, polite and educated enough to agree to disagree with someone without shouting them down, closing my ears when I should be listening, or ignoring or exaggerating “facts” in order to win one for my side.

I am saddened that I have to avoid the subject of politics altogether for fear of being attacked. I’m actually pretty liberal on social matters. I believe in love between two people regardless of gender; I believe in immigration if it is done legally. I believe in law and order but not martial law. I believe in concealed carry but see no reason for anyone to own an AR-15. Go ahead and try to force this square peg into a round hole, you can’t do it. Criticize me, I can handle it. Just do it constructively, don’t shout and pay attention when I speak. I deserve that courtesy.

Roughly 24% of Americans identify as Republicans, approximately 30% identify as Democrats. What is left is the Independent voter. I identify as an Independent, despite the federal govt’s alternate term of “undecided voter”. I share this political distinction with approximately half of the country and I would like to think that we are independent because of our insistence on thinking for ourselves. We reject party politics and hate labels. But labels are all we have now. Whether it is driven by the media, George Soros, Hollywood, a basic lack of education, short attention spans or the absolute lack of critical thinking but we are mired in labels.

Republican, Democrat, Progressive, Liberal, Tea-Party, and Right-winger. Labels, Labels, Labels. Despite the numbers I stated in the previous paragraph, I see 15% of the country at the very far right, 15% at the very far left and 70% right in the middle, forced to pick between two candidates that seem to satisfy enough of us. But the extremes have defined Republicans and Democrats and forced those willing, not me, to be forcefully compartmentalized. Those unfortunate voters are the true Republicans, the true Democrats, and the Independents. The 15% on each side quarrel over extreme ideology and the rest of us vote our conscience and our wallets, the order of those 2 is up to you.

At the end of the day, it is all bullshit. Neither party of our broken two-party system stand for what they used to, the lines are so blurred and the aisle dividing the houses of Congress is as wide as the ocean and it doesn’t matter because no one is reaching across it. Fulfilling campaign promises and getting reelected take precedent over real legislative accomplishment. There used to be moderates, who believed that there was a compromise to be made for the better of all. They’re either gone or too afraid to stand up for fear of reprisal. If you watched the SOTU you clearly saw that when the President had his applaud moments, entire sides of the rooms respectively stood or sat with their arms crossed. Some Democrats were so resistant to standing for anything the president said they sat even when families of murdered children were honored. It was disgusting, and it said it all. Fear of breaking labels, that’s all it is.

What is a typical Democrat and Republican after all? Where does being a Democrat end and a Progressive begin? Where does a Republican end a Tea-Party Conservative begin?
Democrats, commonly known now as “Liberals” have always considered themselves the party of the working man. They opposed corporate greed and the Industrial Military Complex, and strongly focused on social issues. Today, the Democrats have become the party of bloated government, high taxes, massive regulation, and throwing tremendous amounts of money at problems in hopes that they go away. The focus of some extreme modern democrats on trans-gender bathrooms, abortion, open borders, the suppression of speech that offends their beliefs and the eschewing of religion has earned many to the far-left the label of “Progressive”. A progressive believes in social engineering, “hug-it-out’s” for terrorists, legislating income redistribution and, generally speaking, dwell on utopian ideals. I find great hypocrisy in the Democrats of today. Example, how can you champion yourselves the party of equality, while at the same time propping up Muslims who routinely deny women the most basic of rights, subject underage girls to marriage and stone homosexuals to death?

Republicans were traditionally known as the party of “family values”, believed in a strong military, a market economy, personal accountability, and were strongly aligned with the Evangelical Christians. Republicans are no better than their Democrat peers in their obstructionism, failure to reach across the aisle and to adhere to their core principles. I contend, despite my own identification as a Conservative, that the Republicans have drifted farther off course than the Democrats. Today, the Republicans are completely off message. They are trying to solve the complex problem of immigration through massive arrests. They are as guilty of allowing jobs to flee this country as the Democrats. Their alliance with the extreme-right Evangelicals is shameful. Their refusal to stand up to their major campaign donors, the NRA and the Pharmaceutical industries and their lobbyists have left them ineffective and blatant hypocrites who are blocking even the discussion of real reform on major issues. Also prone to hypocrisy, they lost me when they cut benefits to Veterans while touting themselves as the supporters of the military.

Instead of fixing the problems before them, the powers that be distract us by telling us what to hate and who to blame for it. Hence the labels. I for one am tired of it. I am a Conservative that was forced to vote for Donald Trump. It took every fiber of my body to do it, I almost skipped the vote altogether. I find that he cares about some things that matter to me while Hillary represents nothing I believe in. So I again voted against a candidate and not for one. I am not a Nazi, a Fascist, a Racist or a Sexist. But I stand to be labeled as one.

https://endsandbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/ a blogger I admire, posted recently about a reaction to Conservatives and their bad behavior, in particular, being called a “typical liberal.”
https://endsandbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/typical-liberal/
I commented on the post, not realizing that I was having a visceral reaction to the post. I do disagree with a lot of what was said, but I felt like I was being called out. That wasn’t the case and I gave a balanced response along the lines of what I have written here. At the end of the day, I wanted to convey that  I am not a “typical conservative”. Even if that was the case, why do I care?

Because we are living in a fractured, divided culture and we are all on edge. Half the country is yelling at the other half and nothing is being resolved. The big picture is that the division in our society, as manifested in our behavior towards each other is based on all of us feeling that we are not being heard, so we speak louder.

My mother always said, “when you are speaking you are not listening.” I would further extrapolate on that and say if you are shouting you aren’t helping. Step out of your comfort zone, step out of our compartmentalized belief system, question what you’re being fed by the media, embrace another’s opinion. They’re not wrong, they’re just different. No one is smarter and no one is dumber. At least it looks that way until we speak. The way I see it, if we reshape our ways of communicating, it’s possible our leaders will find their lost direction in our new one.

Labels are for envelopes, not for people. We’re better than that. One love, baby.

it’s not politics, it’s people

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Politics is the study of how governments and countries interact and function. But the word itself, perhaps lazily, has evolved into the study and discussion of current events as they pertain to society in general. I pride myself on my knowledge of Politics. I enjoy being a news junkie and a history buff. I like being up on current events, ready to whip out of my holster some nugget at a cocktail party. Given the choice between being informed or not, I like to know what’s going on despite the terrible toll it sometimes takes. But at the end of the day, I don’t know shit.

As an American, I enjoy a sense of security that a citizen of only a few countries ever have. We have never had our shores breached by an enemy, we have a strong military and a representative government in place to see that we (hopefully) never fall victim to civil war again. With the exception of the Great Depression, we have never known widespread hunger and poverty. Our standard of living, even at “poverty” levels consists of not just food, shelter and clothing but multiple televisions, a car, a cellphone, and internet connectivity. While we could do better, we could be worse off. Even in our darkest days, we seem to look to the future with optimism. The American Dream. And when we look at other countries, it is my opinion that we see things the same way.

Yet, there are people who have seen real civil war, experienced abject poverty, experienced true desperation and watched their once beloved country crumble before them. Only our immigrants from war-torn countries could relate to such an experience, I certainly can’t. Yet today I read a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Bojana of Bojana’s Coffee and Confessions to go that details the day to day struggles of the Bosnian Conflict. It is the third installment of a series and I have been anxiously awaiting its posting. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/133032654/posts/506  It is a must read for all.

In 1984, I was a year out of High School. I was pretty big into politics even then and I was intrigued by the Winter Olympic games being held in Sarajevo. A communist European country with a pro-western leader, tarnished by the persistent memory of an assassination that led to a world war had earned the opportunity to put on a great show for the world.

Less than 10 years later that beautiful country was ravaged by a civil war. The sight of the games now looks like this:

The world, for the most part, sat and watched it happen.

I remember sitting in my living room, like many, thinking to myself “ugh…ethnic cleansing, mass graves, concentration camps, old hatreds…it’s a civil war let them work it out”. And that’s just what most of the world did. The US, in particular, was still licking its wounds over the last civil conflict that we had no “National Interest” in but, in the name of humanity, got involved in. Americans  still had this image from Mogadishu etched in our brains.
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We stayed out of it. But people were suffering. We did get involved eventually as a UN mission. We ineffectively bombed where we could. It was a band-aid at best and we acted like we helped. But millions were robbed of their lives, many of them young people who lost their youth and possibly their belief in a just world. Besides mountains of bodies, lost youth is the second biggest casualty of war.

 

In America, we loosely throw names at our leaders such as Nazi, or Fascist, or Dictator but we have never experienced such a thing. We have never had in power a despot, a dictator, a Shah or Cleric, a General or Generalissimo, or a Fascist.
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We had a King once and kicked his ass to the curb. We cannot pretend to know what it is like to be killed or imprisoned for our beliefs, religion or ethnicity. We have never walked down streets with bullets ringing by as we step over bodies. And we have never been without the support of one, centralized government that is always supporting us.

Yet with foreign policy, we act out against leaders at the expense of the people. Extreme sanctions, bombing campaigns and other harsh means of punishing the bad leaders of bad countries don’t hurt the leaders, only the people they lead. In many of those cases, the people don’t even support the beliefs of their leaders. They just want what we want. To eat a warm meal, sleep in a warm bed, to walk the streets without fear, and a future for their children.

Behind the great big wall that we call politics, there are just people. Strong, brave, resilient people who refuse to give up their lives despite what is going on around them. As evidenced by this iconic photograph of a Bosnian woman walking down the street. According to the photographer, bullets were flying close nearby, yet she walked upright and proud. Going about her day.
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boycott

I have found that the less time I spend on Facebook the happier I am. With the exception of animal videos and inspirational memes, there is not much on there that interests me anymore.

I used to love FB. I reconnected with friends from High School, made new friends through pages dedicated to my illness, found a group of mountain bikers that became real, genuine friends and I really do enjoy just knowing what people are up to. It makes me feel close to them. But in our hopelessly divided world, all of that is outweighed by the negativity and outright hostility we are showing towards each other as we continue to shout in Caps, defend our positions and flatly refuse to accept the viewpoints of those who don’t think as we do. When a tragedy strikes, it is a thousand times worse.

I don’t know if it was school or at home but I know I was taught by someone that we don’t have to agree with each other. That it is ok, even encouraged to have a different view than another, but always respect their right to feel the way they do. It is a human, dare I say American ideal. As Americans we pride ourselves on the origin of our great nation; the escape from political and religious oppression, the notion of governing ourselves and creating a document that can be amended in the event that society evolves and something the drafters of that document never anticipated arises. We shout from the rooftops that you can do and say anything you want in this great land of ours because we are free! Respect and intelligent discourse will always prevail.

Not anymore.

We are no longer the land of the free and the brave. We are now the land of the loud and closedminded. We don’t listen when others speak, instead, we are merely planning our next sentence. How can you learn anything if you don’t listen to another voice? If someone disagrees with us we get angry and hurl insults at them instead of debating them intelligently and calmly. To make matters worse, we have the attention span of a gnat. Instead of researching things and formulating an informed viewpoint, we believe everything we hear and see online.

I love the saying everyone is “entitled to their opinion”. Sorry, you are not. An opinion is formulated and arrived at by study, life experience, intelligence, and wisdom. To say that global warming is real, for example, there are actual statistics on both sides of the issue that can be used to support your “opinion” and a proper debate could then ensure. To say that it is the fault of aliens dressed as Joan Cusack trying to kill penguins because they hate Tuxedos is just a stupid statement. And there are plenty of those.
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But even if you do postulate nonsense or common sense, the vitriol towards others, only strengthened by “keyboard balls” is making me sick. The hatred being spewed back and forth as tragedies strike and everyone digs in for battle armed with a sling full of arrows of “Idiot”, “moron”, “shithead” and “snowflake” to be shot at anyone who has the nerve to not think like them is sickening.

I don’t care who you voted for. I don’t care if you think guns shoot by themselves. I don’t care if you think the earth is flat. I don’t care that you think the president is responsible for an earthquake in Peru. Say something intelligent and be accepting of others or just put the keyboard down. Going on FB now just makes me sad and angry. There is some good content left but so much hatred.

I almost wish that grammatical and spelling errors, duck-faced selfies by women who are way too old to be doing them, vague posts fishing for sympathy or gratification and pictures of ugly feet on the beach were the only aggravating thing about FB. From now on, FB is something to scroll while I poop. A fitting finale for this post. Too bad I don’t have the poop emoji…

#what if…we turned our thoughts upside down?

I sold cars for a long time. I was very successful, a top performer every month.  My customers appreciated my honest, straightforward and knowledgeable approach. I actually had a customer tell me that I changed the car-buying experience for them, that I was the “anti-salesman.” I have never done a job that came more naturally to me than selling cars. It was almost gratifying. Some people treated me like a schmuck, which is tough for the alpha male that I am, but I’m not a schmuck and I handled them like I did everyone else. With courtesy and professionalism. One of my fellow salesmen nicknamed me “the magic man” because I kept turning the impossible customers into the possible. It’s not a Vulcan mind trick, it’s a matter of reading people and controlling your body language.

Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives. The income was very up and down, paying monthly bills could be challenging if you were living check to check. You have to be a strong saver. My wife hated the ups and downs, which eventually drove me to seek more “stable” employment. Loosely translated, she would rather have me make less money but know what the envelope contained as opposed to letting me earn more, which I was certainly capable of. I’ll never understand that mentality.

Another negative to car sales, and I won’t list them all, is controlling the green monster we all know as envy. Much of car sales is luck, sometimes you meet a guaranteed sale, sometimes you meet one that if you work hard enough it may happen, and sometimes you get a giant waste of your time. Having been one of the top dogs in the dealership I rarely had a bad month. I had the occasional dry spell and I would like to tell you that I weathered it well and remained positive. But I would be lying. There were times when I couldn’t catch a break. It almost always worked itself out but it feels like an eternity until it does.

I genuinely want people around me to succeed. I also feel bad for people, at least those that try but need help. I was always willing to share a sale or hand one off to someone who needed it more than I did. I was never greedy. I offered to help new or struggling employees to make them better. I genuinely was in tune with those around me. And some of them absolutely hated me, for no other reason than that I was good at what I did. To those that aren’t successful, a slump is frustrating and when someone around you is killing it, it’s easy to be jealous. Even wish for them to fail.

At my last job, before I became really ill, I took another position selling cars. I was not successful. The reasons aren’t important, there were people and forces that would make it impossible for me to succeed, but it had nothing to do with my personality or technique. I struggled badly, began to doubt myself and began to feel hostility towards those who were doing well. I didn’t want those around me to fail, but their success angered me. I was facing a side of me I didn’t want to and had to ask myself Am I a hypocrite? As the saying goes, I  needed to “check myself before I wrecked myself” and change my mindset. But I was alarmed.

Hence today’s “what if?”. What if we turned our thoughts around.?

If I had to decipher the energy I feel around me I would say it is overwhelmingly negative. Social media, the news, late-night talk shows, talk radio and Network news are flooded with hate, bias, and vitriol. We are hopelessly divided, all sides wishing for the others to fail. Each telling the other how wrong they are.

We wish failure on those who disagree with us. We treat them as enemies and engage them in a war. We are so very well versed in what we differ on. Yet we know little of what we share in common. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on what we agree on or have in common? Isn’t it better to stand in unity than to sit in protest? Isn’t the sharing of ideas the basis of growth, or has remaining silent and holding back because it is not “along party lines” the new protest?

We can want what we want without wishing bad things on others. Our success lies in the number of people we can unite, not alienate. Promotions should be awarded to the most qualified, games should be won by the team with the most heart, respect should be given to those worthy of it, and we should wish the best for each other. Things will inevitably go the way it should. If you can’t wish someone a nice day then wish them the day they deserve. And let Karma sort that shit out.

“Be kind to those that you meet, for each is fighting a hard battle.” I live by these words, I regret the times that I have waded into that pool of negativity. I will never again. I wish everyone well and I want everyone to succeed. The road to happiness is not paved with the broken dreams of my fellow man. As I try to live this way, I have an inner peace that is practically struggling to burst from my chest.

I wish you well, because you deserve it. This is who I am now, and this is what I do.

 

 

 

 

 

the new justice

built by men in overalls

we will be destroyed by men in suits

The vision of our founders

now a pay to play for

those who hold the cards.

Fix the system you say

Get out and vote

Your vote matters

it’s over before the first vote is cast

It’s an illusion, a farce

perpetrated upon us

To give us the illusion

that we have the final say

The system is broken

ruled by the dollar

Save the environment?

make it rain in Congress

a good idea?

only if it toes the line

Smiling Joe Candidate

just bargained away his campaign promise

who needs insurance after all?

“Trust me” he says

and gets get re-elected

isn’t that what matters?

 

The illusion of Democracy

is the Liberty we now cherish

https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/22/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-22nd-2018/