Thursday, October 25, 2018

The "African American" Experience?

Several  years ago I worked with a young, black teacher from a small town in northern state. As we have mutual acquaintences I won't say her name or where she's from. We never had an in depth conversation and truthfully I never found her an interesting enough person to engage on more than a superficial level.
           After working with her for the better part of a year however I thought her to be a tad condescending. She seemed to patronize when she spoke to me.  In all fairness, there are some teachers who feel the need to simplify things when they speak to their students and it carries over to everyday conversations. It sounds as if they're being patronizing, but it's not their intent, they just want to be comprehended and tend to speak slowly and in warm tones. As I had to work with this person and from time to time I had to attend the occasional meeting with her, I couldn't help but notice that whenever I spoke she had a snide comment. There were LITERALLY times when I wished I'd been born a woman so I  could have slapped the hell out of her. I loathed her, but as time went on I couldn't help but notice that whenever the other southern black people spoke she would seem to talk down to us in her replies as well.
          Black southerners tend to look down on blacks from Alabama. I think it has something to do with the fact that during the Jim Crow era blacks in Alabama took more grief than anyone else and seemed to be okay with it. In fact black people calling you a "Bama" is just a polite way of calling you a backward, rustic idiot.  It never dawned on me that blacks from the North and Midwest could see ALL black southerners that way, which leaves me to ask What IS the "black/African-American experience?"

               My grandfather in Louisiana couldn't vote until he was a middle aged man. In contrast black men in Chicago, New York and Boston COULD vote, but often felt as if they had nothing for which to vote.  Did they consider my grandfather and men like him, shucking and jiving Uncle Toms and Bamas who allowed themselves to be pushed around, or did they see them as men who stared down metaphorical (and in some cases literal) gun barrels when they left their homes?  Growing up black in these United States BEFORE I was born was NOT a pleasant experience, but can we compare being black in Chicago to being black in Mississippi? Was being black in Texas the same as being black in Los Angeles or was the black Georgian experience the SAME as the black New Yorker's experience? Racism existed (and to an extent still exists) in all those places, but is being told "we don't serve your kind" in Manhattan after not being able to hail a cab the same as having a mob in Tennessee threaten to lynch you because someone thinks you looked a white woman in the eye or perhaps forgot to tip your hat?

       Don't get me wrong, there are elements of the black experience that are/were universal.

- The sense of isolation one feels when one is the ONLY person of color in some places. There are friendly people of every race color and creed and some will speak to you, but there are times when you become invisible. Waiters and waitresses and other patrons of some restaurants seem to gaze right through you. Some don't want to antagonize us, some simply don't want to engage us, others simply figure if they ignore us long enough we'll go away. Ralph Waldo Emmerson captured that sense of isolation best in his novel "Invisible Man". There are some who don't consider us "American" as evident by those who clamored to believe the theory that a black man born in Hawaii HAD to have been born in a foreign country as they simply couldn't accept that a black American could possibly be the leader of their country.

- Not being admitted into certain places, be it a club, hotel, restaurant, college or neighborhood which gentlemen's agreements, policies and in some cases state laws and city ordinances excluded us. This isn't an entirely black experience. The Irish, Italians, Jews and every other minority has experienced this at some point and it leaves a mental scar even if you can walk away with a smile and pretend it doesn't bother you.
-The random criminal and other stereotypes. At the end of the civil war many who considered blacks the lowest rung on the societal ladder feared newly empowered blacks. The newly freed men and women would want the education denied them, ACTUAL jobs, equality in every way and MAYBE even some kind of retrobution for generations of mal treatment.  To that end laws were put into place to deny all of these things to blacks as a group. In some states there were literally laws to insure that unemployed black men would be in jail to provide a ready made labor supply for chain gangs.  Generations of selective prosecution have lead to many believing that blacks are more likely to simply BE criminals.  Black schools are constantly under funded and some resent their tax dollars going to fund "failing inner city schools".  "Inner city" has become the buzz phrase for "black" and anyone who attended an "inner city" school clearly must have received a sub par education.

In all fairness however we can't say that all aspects of the black experience are "negative".  If you're a black American in a foreign country you MIGHT be treated as the random stereotype that has been exported via mass media, OR you may be treated simply as an American. There are many who LOVE Americans. 
      As I sit and write this piece in 2018 I'm three days removed from having cast an early ballot in an election, a privilege that many of all races would envy. I live in a country where even the poor have running water and electricity and in some cases cable television and three meals a day. 
     I have access to higher education and I know that my grandfather would be proud of me, my sibling and my cousins and nephews who were able to attain it. 

       What DOES being black in America mean? I'd say the black experience in America is like a finger print. No two are exactly alike. I can't judge a black man who grew up in south Florida anymore than a black woman from up Delaware can judge me.  The "experience" in my opinion has as many similarities as it has differences, and as time wears on those will change as all things should.  What's the "black/African American experience?"  How should I know?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Sweet Caroline

"CLEAR!" the attending physician said sternly notifying the nurses to back away from the patient before fibrillating  her. The paddles sent a surge of electricity through her body, restarting her heart.  She'd just given birth to a healthy, five pound baby boy and was about to go home when she suffered a heart attack.  A cardiologist would tell her before discharging her that being in her mid 30s and being overweight had made her pregnancy risky and informed her that the history of heart disease in her family had caught up with her. She was told that the baby boy she was leaving the hospital with would be the LAST child she'd ever had. Her heart wouldn't be strong enough for her to carry another child to term. She went home devastated.

             Our mother, let's call her Caroline would have to learn to live with the heart condition she just become aware of, but before she truly could a family friend, drugged and raped her and she would learn weeks later that she was pregnant. Her cardiologist informed her that her pregnancy was essentially a death sentence.  Her options were: a. have a rapist's baby and die in the process or b. medically terminate the child that grew inside her so that she could be a mother to her two existing children. She knew a kind of pain that hopefully most of us will NEVER know.  Like Meryl Streep in "Sophie's Choice" she would suffer and regret whatever decision she made for the rest of her days.
             Before we look any further into Caroline's situation and how it was resolved, a few other facts need to be presented. Caroline was at the time unemployed and poor.  She was receiving food stamps and was on Medicaid. She needed an abortion and it was life or death. When the word "abortion" is mentioned a great American debate rises like a tsunami.  The image of irresponsible, impoverished minority teens comes to mind and the religious argument of a person becoming a person the moment a spermatozoa meets an egg and cell division begins. One side of the political fence paints all who would get an abortion as either amoral, irresponsible or both and wanting to get a free, surgical "do over" from the  government and their tax dollars by "killing a baby." What's rarely mentioned in that argument are women like Caroline who are victims of rape, or worse women who are victims of incestuous rape who find themselves pregnant. High risk pregnancies are also never mentioned.
             Many anti-abortion activists would simply tell a rape victim that the child she would have would be a "blessing from God" or to simply give him or her up for adoption. What about cases like Caroline's They're never mentioned

             Getting back to Caroline, she's not only unfortunate enough to be a rape victim who has learned she's pregnant with her rapist's child and that she has a  heart condition that would kill her should she have the child, she is also a poor woman in Texas where the laws governing abortion are strict and "moral".  Because politicians who feel all abortion is murder dominate Texas politics, there is NO public funding for any form of abortion. Caroline must go to friends, family & special charities set up for women like her and literally BEG for her life. Texas state law REQUIRES that she get an expensive ultrasound, despite the fact that she already KNOWS that she is with child and also that she look at it.
           Caroline managed to get the money and the procedure that saved her life, and spent a week in bed recuperating physically and emotionally, though whether or not she'll ever do the latter is debatable. Is she a bad person? Should we have laws on the books that tell Caroline to sacrifice herself for her unborn child? Can a childless man like myself ever truly understand the ordeal through which she suffered and should I or any man have the right to put on our religious blinders which permit no shades of grey so that we can judge people like Caroline? If ALL abortion was illegal as some in this country want, Caroline would be dead now. Her two children would be motherless and what moral truth would we have preserved in her demise?

         Caroline is a real person whose name I changed to protect her dignity and anonymity.  She is not the face of abortion many see when they pontificate about how immoral it is, but maybe she should be one of the people whom both sides of the debate should consider.


Friday, September 28, 2018

I Figure...(an updated "Modest Proposal")


Why is my hard earned money being dumped into schools that don't work? Secretary Devos says she'd get rid of public schools and I say she and president Trump are right! Let companies who want to open schools open 'em. As a country we're all about competition and that competition will make America even greater!
     The government running schools or anything else has a name, and that name is COMMUNISM! President Reagan proved that communism don't work when he won the cold war and defeated the Soviet Union all by himself.

        The "tax & spend" liberals like Nancy Pelosi want to waste more of my money on failing
schools. Hell, they even want all the schools to teach the same subjects so they can  do some kind of mind control. I don't want nobody in Washington D.C. tellin' me what MY kids ought to learn.
     Everybody knows that D.C. is controlled by Hollywood types who hate America, freedom and Jesus.  They're gonna want to teach that Muslims don't hate us, that men in dresses are "women", homos should get married and that the government should be able to take my guns away. You know the whole damn liberal agenda.

      I aint go to nobody's college and I turned out alright.  Hell, they don't do nothin' in college but read books anyway. Books are boring. If you aint talking about the Bible, aint nothing in books I need.  People who read books think they're better than everybody else anyway and all they know is what the liberal media and professors want them to know.  If they got rid of the liberal public school system I could teach my kids myself. Reading, writing and basic math are all they need to know. If they want to know history I'll tell 'em about the revolutionary war and how the whole country was behind George Washington fighting for freedom.
    I'll tell my kids how big government tried to over regulate small businessmen and brought us into a civil war that heroes like Robert E. Lee could have won if they had half the men the Union Army did.  The money
       I'm being forced to pay is being WASTED by people who took the bible out of school so they could tell my kids that sins against God are "normal" and we should "accept" and "tolerate" 'em. That money would do more good in my pocket. I could teach my kids useful stuff like fishing and things they can use in real life. You know, useful stuff like gapping your spark plugs or rebuilding a carburetor.  This country got to be great by kicking ass in wars not because a bunch of people read books and go to school. Aint nobody trying to keep everybody in school except them weak, socialist countries in Europe that need us to protect 'em and the Chinese.
     Hell if the Chinese were so great, they wouldn't be making all our shoes and phones and stuff. #MAGA

Monday, August 6, 2018

Ink out...

A friend of mine aspires to run his own small publishing company. Personally I aspire to be a published author of fiction.  Just imagine sitting across from Amy Tan, Stephen King, Arthur Golden & Khaled Hosseni and discussing plot twists and character development.  Seriously , How cool would that be? My pragmatic and bluntly honest friend (who shall remain nameless) told me that he thinks I'm a damn good writer. Let me preface this by saying that this guy does not hand out compliments. He says what he thinks and I've seen him make people cry.  The fact that I'm MUCH bigger than him wouldn't factor in as knowing this guy if he thought my work was garbage he'd most certainly tell me.
       He told me that while I might get published by someone other than a glorified vanity press in my lifetime several factors assure that it most certainly won't be the easiest thing. Here's his list and the explanations as to WHY:

RACISM: The publishing industry is NOT very kind to authors of color.  I'm sure someone just saw the word racism and immediately stood up and said "How DARE you" in that exaggerated way that people only seem to do in movies, but here's what I mean.
                   Feel free to substitute the words "Latino", "Asian" or "Native American" and I'm sure they may fit just as well.  I will NOT dispute that there ARE black authors and have been for centuries, but think about the kinds of things they're allowed to publish.  While film maker Oscar Micheaux did self publish a few novels. On the whole publishers back in the old days, just as today didn't have the highest opinions of black readers or authors. Publishers want black stories from black authors, meaning our protagonist must be black and the story has to be in some way about the black experience or some struggle we must overcome as black people. If it isn't a "black struggle" it has to be seen as a way of "humanizing" blacks to a liberal white readership who wish to know of our journey pushing cars up hill with ropes because society has decided that we are destined to endure hardships.
              What if you're an author of color and your protagonist isn't? Then chances are publishers aren't the least bit interested in you. Apparently The only people who CAN write believable characters of a given ethnic group must BELONG to the aforementioned group unless of course the author is white in WHICH case he's a sensitive artist who understands the struggle of society's outcasts. Someone not familiar with me reading this will more than likely say that I'm probably either a racist, a bad writer or just someone incapable of accepting that the things he writes might not POSSIBLY be WORTH either publishing or reading.  Fair enough. Those same people will then point out that Richard Wright and James Baldwin succeeded in being published. I'd then recommend "Black Boy", "Native Son", "The Fire Next Time" and "Go Tell it on the Mountain" to illustrate my point about black writers ONLY being allowed to tell "black" stories.
              My indignant critic would then bring up masterful writers like Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, & Toni Morrison among others to prove my ignorance and those amazing crafters of fiction bring me to my next point.

SEXISM: Publishing fiction in the late 20th century if you're a person of color seems a tad easier if you were born with a uterus.  Angry, black feminists are preparing to attack me on this one but my defense is as follows: Women are far smarter and rational than men are. Society (of which the publishing industry is part) would rather deal with women than men. A male dominated society at some point decided that certain work places needed to be more female than male due to the misconception that women are far less to be disagreeable.  Look at the workplace at the end of the civil rights movement and with the rise of Affirmative action programs. MANY work places when told to diversify i.e. hire more women AND minorities simply hired female minorities leaving men of color in the dust.
          E.g. The AMC Series "Mad Men" took place in a New York ad agency during the sixties. Some rival firm posted an ad saying that the firm around which the show centered was hiring people of color. In the next scene a very timid English man walks into an office filled with professionally dressed black men and women eager to enter the monochromatic setting and the first thing he did was tell the men to go home and simply interviewed women.  Black women are some of the most intelligent people on the planet and the publishing industry seemed to buy into the narrative that the black community is run entirely by matriarchs as all black men either abandon our children, get shot & killed committing crimes or simply are incarcerated and can't be there for our children; hence, the women must tell our stories. As a black man raised by his married mother and father I can't begin to tell you how offensive that stereotype is.
       I hear a mounting chorus of "There have been and still are black male authors! You have no idea what you're talking about!" I'll go on a limb here and say that if you've read a work by a black male author he's EITHER a politician about to run for president, an athlete, an entertainer or a convicted felon.  Books by rappers, athletes and ex cons will get printed because apparently publishers think the only thing in the black male wheelhouse are those skills. The last barrier to a man of color being published?

Homophobia: This one MAY surprise you a tad, as in this case the presumptions about gay men will GET a gay black man published before his heterosexual counterpart. I could see the blood pressure of readers rise as they read that and before I get accused of generalizing, the stereotype has long been that gay men are more creative than heterosexual men. Some are, but there are heterosexual men like Ralph Lauren who would respectfully disagree.
          Let me go on record in saying I have respect for the gay community ESPECIALLY the black gay community. The black community as a whole is pretty conservative religiously and amazingly homophobic. Black gay men have to deal with issues within their own families, churches and peer groups before dealing with the racism that many try to pretend doesn't exist in the gay community.  As a heterosexual man I can't pretend I know what that's like and can only go from what friends have told me, but from what I've seen if you're a black gay man with a story to tell in fiction, you'll have a better chance at it than I will.  Publishers have just started to see the struggle that gays have endured for thousands of years and want to give gays a voice. I have no issue with this as their stories warrant being told, but are publishers and the literary community treating gay men the same way they treated black intellectuals like Langston Hughes & James Baldwin (both of whom were gay) as brilliant novelties? I'd hate to imagine them suffering that indignation.

In closing, my friend the aspiring publisher told me not to lose hope in spite of these obstacles as he pointed out that Herman Melville wrote one of the greatest novels ever written, it was barely published and wasn't appreciated until nearly before he died.  One never knows which book will be a hit and which won't. Who knows, I might wind up like Stieg Larsson and have someone publish my work to have it become an international best seller AFTER I die! One never knows. Do I write for fortune and fame? Hardly, if I did I would have given up long ago as I have neither of these things.  Someone once told me that Stephen King said that if he didn't write, he'd be in a clock tower somewhere with a rifle. Writers simply have to put words on a page, it's the essence of their being. On the off chance that this blog goes viral, and people at big publishing houses read it some would say I've shot my hopes of ever being in black and white in the foot. Well, as I'm not being currently offered any NEA grants, writing fellowships or book deals and literary agents aren't currently knocking on my door I can hardly cry over losing the notoriety which I don't have and can only hope that if any of the big publishing houses DO read this that they take that which I've said here with a grain of salt unless they're perfectly happy printing celebrity cook books and books containing celebrity selfies, purses and pets.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Trip

 When I was younger and believe it or not less jaded I had a great deal of trust for people. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't that naive person who accepted EVERYTHING people had ever told him as gospel, but I was FAR more inclined to take someone who seemed "nice" at their word.
   When I was young and stupid and in California, I found myself in a shop where I encountered a gorgeous Filipino woman whom I thought had to have been the most beautiful human being I'd EVER seen. We talked for a few minutes and simply clicked. She gave me her phone number and when I got back to Texas, we kept in touch and talked at least once a month.
             She kept asking me when I'd make it back to the west coast so she could show me HER city. I was reluctant, but she eventually convinced me to make the trip.  The plan was I'd fly in, she'd pick me up at the airport and I'd spend a week with her and her family. What could possibly go wrong? I got off a plane at the airport excited to see my friend again. I immediately called her at work and she told me to wait in the pick up area. I was on a cloud. A group of REALLY flirty, underage Australian girls kept me company as I waited for my ride and asked me to find them at their hotel to party with them. As I've never aspired to BE a statutory rapist or even be accused of being one I politely declined. I waited for my friend. After four hours I realized my friend wasn't coming, I called her house and no one answered. I took a cab to the address she'd given me and apparently surprised her family who had NO IDEA that I was coming. She wasn't there and according to her family she'd left earlier and was "staying with friends."
           Needless to say I couldn't stay with her family. I had a friend who lived in her city and called him.  I told him what had happened and within' 15 minutes he was there and picked me up. PROBLEM. He was NOT at his home. He and his wife were separated and going through a divorce and he was at his parents home and told me I was more than welcome to stay there. I'd met his parents once before. His father was a likable sort, his mother on the other hand was, let's just say unpleasant. He woke me up the next morning to join him for breakfast and his mother seemed to have a million questions for me, none of them were either friendly or what one would consider a normal inquiry.  It felt like a police interrogation. I was waiting for his dad to come in and say "Okay...we know you did it, just tell us who was in on it with ya and where you buried the body. You don't want my partner angry."
              My friend and his wife had been separated for maybe two weeks and we were talking about his ending marriage. I figured all I could do was listen so I did. As I did I held my tongue because I remembered what his wife had told me about her then mother in law. "You don't know Stella." (not her real name) she said. : "She's being nice now, but she's a controlling, obnoxious old bitch who can't mind her own business. She's truly a horrible person. If you ever get to know her You'll truly see what I mean." At the time I dismissed it as a wife who disliked her mother in law.  Wife dislikes mother in law? Shocker right?  My second day at their home some guest came over, one of whom was a charming young woman who was  roughly a couple of years older than I was.  I flirted with her. It wasn't  some crude come on peppered with innuendo. I merely flirted with her, she politely declined and I figured you lose lose some. What I didn't KNOW was that my friend's mom wanted to hook him up with the young lady in question. He seemed disinterested but that didn't matter. I would later learn from the friend's ex wife that his mom was more than just a tad racist so the idea of a black guy she didn't know staying in her home...AND getting familiar with the daughter of a friend of hers was more than she could take. She wanted me out of their home. She'd gotten contact info out of me during her earlier interrogation and called ...MY MOM and gave her some bullshit story about them remodeling and things being hectic around the house and it "not being a good time."
         Luckily I had relatives who lived not far away and one of my cousins came to get me and I spent the rest of my week with them.  My friend's (now my former friend) mother told him something (to this day I still don't know what)  and the last time we spoke he acted as if I had pissed in his breakfast cereal.  Everything his wife had ever told me about his mother came flooding back. I believed that she was a good person, because I WANTED to believe it, just as I WANTED to believe that the beautiful girl who had invited me to spend a week with her and her family was a good person. I'd wasted a week of my life to learn that I was FAR too trusting and that someone whom I THOUGHT was a friend was a mama's boy who probably still has his mother micromanaging his life. His mother Stella?  I came to realize that her former daughter in law was right. She was a control freak who despised anyone or anything she couldn't control. While I would respect her, I didn't strike her as someone she could either manipulate or control. The ex wife also said something 10 minutes after I met his mother for the first time that tattooed itself unto my brain. She said: "Stella's an asshole." I'd never heard this woman swear and she didn't have a negative thing to say about anyone else she'd ever met, but called her mother in law an "asshole."
                 As I was boarding a plane back to Hobby airport in Houston, I realized that Stella was not only an asshole, but she was the kind of asshole whom proctologists discuss at at their conventions as they compare notes on anuses.  I spoke to the girl who invited me one last time after I returned home. She gave me a weak apology and I can only hope that karma repaid her in spades for lying to me.  My "friend" and I lost touch and I figure if two men who are supposed to be friends have an issue and one won't listen to the other, then he's not worth the energy that either man invested in the friendship in the first place. I wish him no ill will and only hope all these years later that he FINALLY stopped being his mother's marionette. As for Stella? She was either in her late 60s or early 70s when this happened. If she's still alive, I'll wager she's still being the world's most MASSIVE asshole to the poor nurses and home healthcare workers whom god is punishing by subjecting them to her.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Board of Education

(Names in this piece have been changed not to "protect the innocent" but rather so petty people don't attempt to sue me for libel)

Ever sing the alphabet song as a kid as a way of learning your letters? For those whose first language isn't English, we Americans as children learned the alphabet by setting it to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" since we knew it already. At five I LOVED the alphabet song and found it fascinating that you could put letters together and make words. I loved reading in first and second grade. My father told me I was wasting money on school book fairs and mom would defend me and tell him to leave me alone. If I wanted a book mom would make sure I'd get it. Love ya mom.
                     Sadly 3rd grade would be the point where the alphabet betrayed me. The easiest way to make a seating chart for a room full of kids is guess what...the alphabet and unfortunately the alphabet seated me directly behind a kid named Phil (not his real name).  I LIKED school, but this would be the one year I can honestly say I wouldn't relive. Phil sat directly in front of me and one day he stood up in class and punched me in the face. I mentioned it to our teacher who might have been oblivious to the whole thing and her response wasn't "Phil go to the office!" or "Phil...hallway...NOW!" but rather " one likes a tattle tale."  Sometimes when we were working on assignments, Phil would turn around in his desk and simply glare at me.
                    This would be the part in this story where i tell you that Phil and I had some kind of history, like we had been friends and I broke his favorite toy or said something about his grandmother or something and he hated me from that point on. This WOULD be where that happened if it were in fact the case, but sadly it wouldn't be true. I had been indifferent towards Phil and simply regarded him as a kid in my class. I neither liked nor disliked him. I hadn't said ANYTHING to the guy and did nothing to antagonize him in any way.  For reasons I still don't know to this day he simply enjoyed hitting me. One rainy fall day, Phil simply stood up in front of my desk with his fist balled up. I ignored him as I always did, when without warning he flipped my desk sideways, straddled me as I was trapped in it then started punching me in the face without mercy. Our teacher who'd ignored Phil's treachery to that point finally moved in and yanked him off me. She told me to get up and then dragged us BOTH to the office.
                  I protested and asked why I was being dragged into the office and was told "WE DON'T FIGHT IN MY CLASS."  I tried to tell her that it wasn't a fight but rather Phil attacking me and she simply ignored me. The nurse gave me a huge icepack and and a Popsicle for some strange reason. Phil looked at her angrily and asked: "How come I don't get one?" He wanted to be rewarded for attacking me and surprisingly he was. Moments later we found ourselves sitting in the Vice Principal's office and she paddled both me AND Phil. I asked her why me and was given the simple one word answer "Fighting." I continued to assert my innocence. "Ma'am. I wasn't fighting him. I was sitting in my desk, when he flipped it over and started hitting me." My daring to speak offended her.  "Mr. Handy, you expect me to believe that he just started hitting you for NOTHING?"

"That's what happened." Phil just sat there brooding. When the Assistant Principal asked Phil why he hit me he growled "I just don't like him." The Assistant Principal told him he didn't have to like me, but was going to leave me alone. She then told both of us to say we're sorry, shake hands and go back to class. I looked at her and wondered how stupid she must have been and asked: "He hit me for NOTHING. Why do I have to say I'm sorry to HIM?" and was told

"Because I said so." To my credit I didn't apologize but rather extended my hand in defeat to give Phil the handshake I was being ordered to give when he reached back and punched me in the face again. The Assistant Principal immediately sent me and my ice pack back to class, paddled Phil again then sent him moment's later. When I returned to class we were working on something new called multiplication which the teacher REFUSED to explain to me and simply gave me a zero for being unable to do. For the rest of the school year, Phil would bully me and even had a couple of friends JOIN him in bullying me. Our ever supportive teacher simply told me that "no one likes a tattle tale" whenever I mentioned any of this to her.
In the fall when we made the transition from 3rd to 4th grade I learned two things I didn't want to know. The first was that alphabetically groups were to remain in tact and that Phil and I would be in the same 4th grade class and secondly, that we were going to be assigned to Mrs Blackmon's class. Mrs Blackmon, was short, loud and mean. All the kids were terrified of her. The way it worked back in those days you showed up at your 3rd grade class on the first day of 4th grade and your new teacher came to get you. When Mrs Blackmon came to get us the entire group's response was "oh no".  She let it be known that the only person who got a vote in her class...was her and that we would respect it and as we were already afraid of her we responded with a resounding "yes ma'am." One day 3 weeks into the school year, Phil stood up and walked over to my desk and stood before me with his fist at the ready. He started at me the way someone does when you owe them money when Mrs Blackmon said: "Sit down Phil." He ignored her. "Phil I said sit down." he continued to ignore her. what happened next would improve my school year and solve my Phil problem. Mrs Blackmon reached into her desk and pulled out an old worn, wooden paddle and said: "Let's go Phil."  She got another teacher as a witness and we could hear Phil being paddled in a nearby restroom. They re-entered class and Phil resumed standing in front of my desk even MORE angry. Mrs Blackmon told him to sit down again and he continued to ignore her. "This is the last time I'm going to tell you boy." she warned Phil. He ignored her again and was escorted back to the bathroom and was paddled again.  She sat Phil back painfully in his desk and told him that if he as much as looked at me for the rest of the school year that he would get more of the same.  He never bothered me again.
                 I can't help but notice that many of the discipline problems that exist now DIDN'T exist when corporal punishment was still in schools. Do I advocate physical abuse? No, but I witnessed two approaches being taken on Phil. Sitting and talking with him which had no effect whatsoever, the threat of physical consequences which proved to be effective. That's not to say that one practice is superior to the other. Some kids CAN be given a "time out" or  be "spoken to", others might benefit from someone attempting to give them a whack on the backside. For what it's worth, Phil never bothered anyone after that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Conservative or Liberal? Pass the Remote

While you'll never see me marching in a "pride" parade, I think gay men and lesbians should NOT be legally mistreated simply because of their sexuality and believe that they should be able to walk down city streets without fear of violent, ignorant people attacking them. I believe they deserve the same rights as everyone else.
            Some would call me a liberal because of that, but given that I'm not exactly in a warm and fuzzy place with the transgendered community my "liberal" friends think I need to move into the 21st century. Will I ever be in that "warm fuzzy" place with "women" who identify as men and "men" who identify as women? I don't know. I won't say "no" but can't say yes...yet.

I DO NOT believe that The United States of America was founded on the principal of religious freedom. I believe that the British heard about how much gold the Spanish had found in Mexico and South America and came HERE in hopes of finding it.  I believe they gave land to a bunch of fundamentalist Christians partially to get rid of them and in part to have a presence in North America just incase gold was found, they could claim they had "settlers" here.  This country was NOT founded as some religious haven and I do NOT believe that religion and government should EVER intermingle.
            Some would say based on those statements that I'm an atheist and CLEARLY the "Godless liberal" that "Patriots" love to hate, but the fact that I pray every day and attend services every Sunday and even say prayers for those whom consider themselves my enemies should deflate that argument. I honestly believe that anyone who chooses to practice a religion or wishes to practice none at all should be able to do so. Thomas Jefferson felt we as  nation should NOT have a religious litmus test and in that I agree with him.

I believe anyone who isn't a criminal, is of sound mind and has no intention of harming others should be able to buy a weapon. Some would say that makes me a conservative, but because I have no issue with registering my weapon, getting a license for it or even going through extensive background checks for it, many of my very conservative friends would give the "You're either with us or again us." argument and would treat me as a pariah. Should I have the right to defend myself and my home or to go hunting if I choose? Yes. Should I be able to own more powerful weapons than law enforcement officials? Meh?

I love my flag and respect my nation's armed forces (thanks GI bill) and rise when my anthem is played or pledge is spoken some would say that's a pretty "conservative" point of view, BUT given that I'm not under the delusion that these United States have EVER been fair to indigenous people, Africans, Catholics, Jews, Asians or Muslims. At various points in this country's history, roughly until 1964 one could kill a person of color without fear of being prosecuted.  I was born five years AFTER this country decided to stop people from lynching black men to "teach them a lesson", "keep the others in line" or just for Sunday entertainment.
       I love my country, but I'm aware that the last of the Jim Crow laws that wouldn't allow my father to go to certain schools, hold certain jobs, live in certain places or even have a cup of coffee in others were on the books in many states until the year I graduated from highschool in the late 1980s. I and a white guy, whose background is identical to mine can commit the same crime, go through the SAME court system and even face the SAME judge and I would more than likely get a FAR harsher punishment.
      I get pissed when I see people stomping on, burning or disrespecting my flag, but I respect their right to do so.  Much like my religious views, my views on the flag and our nation as a whole are my own. I don't have the right to force these views on anyone, as respect their right to not only disagree with me but to essentially piss me off.

I won't say that we Americans as a nation  have gotten "combative". This nation was BUILT on combat. Americans are ALWAYS fighting among ourselves and will always be, but sadly we've gotten to a point where everyone wants to say "you're either with us or against us" and at the end of the day we can't afford to do that if we want to remain the "great" nation we perceived ourselves as being for most of our existence. So when asked  if I'm "liberal" or "conservative" my response will remain "Pass the remote."